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Chorus starts the merriment early with Christmas in July

One group is ready to voice merriement in the middle of summer.

The Grand Strand Harmony Chorus will celebrate “Christmas in July” with an open house to expand its membership and acquaint more of the public with barbershop performing, and preview its annual Christmas sing-out program.

Women of all ages, and girls younger than 18 with an adult sponsor, are invited at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Surfside United Methodist Church, 800 N. 13th Ave., Surfside Beach, at U.S. 17 Business.

Edye Papp of Surfside Beach, who coordinates membership and publicity for the singers, said besides having a mini-performance by the chorus and its quartet, Hallelujah, officials will not wait until October to introduce its annual eight-week Christmas program. This will mark the third year of the chorus doing sing-outs at local retirement homes, assisted living centers and churches.

Even individuals who might not want to join the chorus ranks at this time, but still want to sing barbershop are welcome to add their vocals for the yuletide endeavor, said Papp, who also sings bass in Hallelujah. She shared plans for the evening and the rest of the year.

Question | How long has the chorus been singing for the community?

Answer | It has been 15 years. I have been handling the membership and publicity since 2009, when we were going to fold, but then we built it back from four people. ... Four of us really wanted to continue, so we just kept right on going. Now we are up to almost 30 members.

Q. | What makes barbershop gel for an assembly of people?

A. | It’s the four-part a cappella harmony – the tenor, lead, baritone and bass.

Q. | What part presents the biggest challenge to sing?

A. | I guess, baritone, because ... the notes are just like fill-in parts through chords. We make chords that ring.

Q. | Besides brightening the day for your audiences, whether in a sing-out at a senior citizens’ residence or in a concert for the community, how does performing lift the vocalists’ spirits as well?

A. | Actually, nothing makes my day brighter than seeing people who really enjoy the music themselves: when we get someone who comes in when we go to the old-age homes, and they just light up, and they love to sing along with us, and when we’re out at regular performances. ... It gives you a real nice feeling, because it’s neat to have people come and they tell you they want you to sing more.

Q. | What’s the most popular selections in your repertoire?

A. | One of our songs is “Fun in Just One Lifetime.” Another one is “I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony).”

Q. | The latter: Is that the same number made famous in the Coca-Cola TV commercials in the 1970s?

A. | That’s the one.

Q. | What leads in your Christmas fare?

A. | “White Christmas,” “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and “Silent Night” – you know, the usual Christmas favorites. Also, “Christmas Is Meant for Children.”

Q. | What’s your standard warm-up for a practice or performance?

A. | We go through breathing exercises, and we have physical warm-ups. We have vocal exercises including “me, may, my, mo and moo.” Each part has their own notes they have to sing.

Q. | How many octaves are covered in the music?

A. | I guess it would be two.

Q. | The Christmas program, for which you have quite the lead-up in preparations, when do those formal rehearsals start for all the singers?

A. | Oct. 9. If they like what they hear Tuesday at the introduction, but don’t want to join the chorus, they can still participate.

Q. | What other outreach is in the works?

A. | In October, we’ll have a Fright Night, and we want to try to get younger people to come in to the chorus by going to schools and singing for them.

Q. | What extra fun does Hallelujah derive from the Singing Valentines you deliver every February?

A. | That’s our big fundraiser. ... The people are really, really exuberant about it. We sing everybody’s favorite love songs ... We’ve even had people who want us for anniversaries.

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