A Celebration of Champions: Channelaire and the Masters of Harmony
Rick Veder, Jul 3, 2006
Shout it from the rooftops and let there be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that on Sunday, September 17, 2006, the town of Thousand Oaks, California, will be the “hottest” of all places to be. Yes, folks, that’s right! Some of the best four-part a cappella harmony in the world will be in the air that day. You won’t want to miss it when the six-time Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champion Masters of Harmony hits the road northward as guests of the 2005 Sweet Adelines Sequoia Pacifica Region 11 Champion and 10th place International finalist Channelaire Chorus of Camarillo, California. In a show billed as a “Celebration of Champions,” the music will be non-stop, with a finale that is guaranteed to send everyone back home in awe!
What about the Channelaire Chorus?
For over 40 years, the award-winning Channelaire Chorus (also known simply as “Channelaire”) has been sharing their love of song with music lovers all over the world and has been very successful in competitions at the regional and international levels of the Sweet Adelines organization. Since 1962, Channelaire has won several regional championships, most recently in 2003 and 2005. As the 2003 champion, they qualified to compete at the international level in Indianapolis in 2004, where they took tenth place honors out of some of the best Sweet Adelines choruses from all over the world. And as the current Region 11 champion, they intend to give it their all once again in Las Vegas, Nevada, this coming October, where they hope to improve on their previous scores and move even closer to the coveted title of International Champion.
Similar to many other Sweet Adelines groups from around the world, Channelaire is made up of over 115 women of all ages who, when they aren’t singing, work as nurses, teachers, accountants, managers, administrative assistants, engineers, housewives and just about any other career you can think of. Channelaire’s Mission Statement is not unlike that of the Masters of Harmony, where chorus members are encouraged to “pursue musical excellence while advancing the uniquely American art form of barbershop harmony in the community through education and performance.” Their repertoire includes selections from several musical categories, including American standards, jazz, folk, patriotic, inspirational and show tunes. And just as the Masters of Harmony do in order to pursue their own level of musical excellence, Channelaire frequently solicits help from the many highly respected vocal production and choreography coaches available to them from both the women’s and the men’s barbershop organizations, including one of the Masters’ most loved Canadians, choreographer Erin Howden.
Members of the Masters of Harmony consider themselves very fortunate, as each week they benefit from the expert teachings of one of the most sought-after coaches in the Society – music director Mark Hale. Similarly, the Channelaire chorus is led by two co-directors, who themselves are in big demand as coaches. Both Bobbette Gantz and Judy Ashmore hold the prestigious Sweet Adelines title of Master Director, are certified sound judges, and are on the International teaching staff. No wonder this group is a “Rising Star” in the Sweet Adelines world!
So why haven’t the Masters and Channelaire done a show together before?
That’s a good question, and one that no one seemed to have the answer to, including leaders of both choruses. Several Masters of Harmony members have ties to the Channelaire Chorus, and have wanted to do a show together for quite some time. Bob Cathaway’s wife, Jeanne; Ed Sweatt’s wife, Valerie; and this writer’s wife, Debi, all sing with the chorus. Also, Channelaire co-director Bobbette Gantz just happens to be related to the Masters’ own front row “star,” Graham Pence. Graham’s grandmother is Bobbette’s mom’s sister, making Graham and Bobbette first cousins once removed (thanks to Bob Cathaway for the lesson in family relationships).
In order to make this show a reality, I spoke with Masters of Harmony President Ken Custer earlier this year to find out what it would take to get such a show in the works. Ken was all for it and offered to help get the ball rolling. The idea of a show featuring both choruses had also been on the mind of Channelaire director Bobbette Gantz. So as the proverbial saying goes, our people talked to their people, and the musical wheels of progress were finally turning. And now, this event is well on its way to becoming one of the biggest “happenings” in barbershop history.
Are these guys excited or what?
The curtain will rise at precisely 2:30 p.m. at the 1,800-seat Fred Kavli Theatre of the Performing Arts, part of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Countrywide Performing Arts Center. Also joining Channelaire and the Masters on the show will be the Glenn Miller Young Americans All-Star Jazz Band from Calabasas, California, and the 2006 Sweet Adelines Region 11 Quartet Champion Shimmer! Finally, to put a fitting end to this “Celebration of Champions,” the Masters and Channelaire choruses will combine their 230+ voices for a finale performance that won’t soon be forgotten.
Needless to say, the Masters of Harmony are excited about performing at this event. But what are the members of Channelaire saying about this upcoming extravaganza? I had an opportunity to talk with Channelaire Show Coordinator Tammy Ragsdale, and she had this to say: “In talking with Channelaire co-directors Bobbette Gantz and Judy Ashmore, they are both thrilled and excited to be doing this show with the Masters of Harmony. To share the stage with champions of this caliber is something that many Sweet Adelines only dream of. This is something we’ve all wanted for a very long time, and a great time is sure to be had by all, especially our audience.” Tammy goes on to say: “As show coordinator, this is unbelievably exciting. It’s not easy to put on a show that excites EVERYONE involved. I’ve got to tell you . . . THIS SHOW HAS DONE IT! I’ve had members who’ve sung in Sweet Adelines for over 20 years tell me that they are so excited about this show, they can hardly wait for September. And other members have told me that they have already needed to tell friends to take a deep breath and be patient . . . that tickets don’t go on sale until July. There are days when I can picture the entire show and just know that it’s going to be the biggest thing I have ever had the pleasure of participating in.”
Finally, about singing with the combined Channelaire and Masters choruses, Tammy relates: “Personally, I LOVE BARBERSHOP! But I’ve always loved singing in mixed choirs too. Since joining Sweet Adelines, I’ve missed that on occasion. I suspect that singing with the Masters of Harmony will be the cure for what I’ve been missing and will last a good, long time!”
So there you have it!
Soon after the curtain drops on this “Celebration of Champions,” Channelaire will be heading off to “Go for the Gold” at their International Convention in Las Vegas. The Masters want to wish all of the members of Channelaire the best of luck, and know that this show will be sending them on their way in the best way possible.
So, everyone, get out your calendars and set aside September 17th as a day for excitement, fun and harmony. And get ready for the Channelaire Chorus and the Masters of Harmony to “knock your socks off.” It’s a show you won’t want to miss – and that’s GUARANTEED!
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