The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Sierra Gold Chorus
Reflections of Christmas - December 16, 2017
by Faythe Vollrath
The Sacramento region boasts an extremely active choral scene, with groups ranging from avant garde to Medieval, and essentially everything in between. The Sierra Gold Chorus adds their voices to the mix by bringing audiences delightful concerts in barbershop harmony. Based in Auburn, the Sierra Gold Chorus is a member of Sweet Adelines International, an organization that promotes women’s barbershop quartets and choruses.
When one hears “barbershop quartet” the immediate picture that comes to mind is probably four gentleman wearing striped suits and boater hats, crooning something from The Music Man. You won’t find any of that at Sierra Gold Chorus concerts — these women are energetic, fun to watch, and have much better fashion sense. The only thing one will find in company with that mental picture is the exceptional tight harmonies and that “barbershop” sound.
Even though barbershop singing appears to be relatively easy (find four friends in an ice cream parlor and start singing) anyone who has tried it knows barbershop takes practice, skill, and a good ear for harmony. In the close part-writing of the four-part harmony, a singer must be really confident to hold their own line and not get pulled into other parts. Blending is extremely important to this type of music, as it is all about a perfect sense of harmony across all of the parts, so everything must sound incredibly equal. This music is traditionally sung memorized (so imagine that tricky part-writing AND memorizing it), and the singers are expected to look animated and to act out the words a bit. No small feat for anyone. The Sierra Gold Chorus succeeded on all these accounts — they were fun and engaging to watch and drew the audience into their performance. Their harmonies were tight and in tune throughout the performance in perfect barbershop style. And yes, their music was memorized.
This year’s program, “Reflections of Christmas,” was a fun concert to attend for all ages. The concert included many recognizable Christmas favorites, such as “Christmas Time Is Coming,” “Still, Still, Still,” and “A Marshmallow World.” In the beginning of the concert, pieces were interspersed with narrator readings followed by cute monologues by various chorus members. These were clever and well rehearsed, and it was too bad that there were only a few inserted in the concert, as I would have enjoyed them continuing through the whole program. Speaking of programs, the Chorus had a very nice large, colored, printed program, but as you can see, it didn’t list the actual songs being sung in the concert, a feature which I would have appreciated. The chorus had excellent diction, so the audience could understand the words just fine, and probably nobody cared but me, who was trying to take notes.
Terrie Carrozzella is the director of Sierra Gold Chorus, and she is a delight to watch. Her animation and joy brings the best out of her singers, and encourages them to keep smiling. She has only been the director for two years, but you can tell she is pushing and taking this choir to new heights. One fun feature of the concert was the addition of the “Christmas Chorus,” 11 singers who were trying out the ensemble by joining for a few pieces in this program. What I particularly appreciated was the very young members in this chorus, as Sweet Adelines encourages all ages to come together for singing. Hopefully, many of these “Christmas Chorus” members will want to stay, as their added voices filled out the chorus nicely.
The Sierra Gold Chorus took full advantage of their intermission to spread some Christmas cheer and to raise more money for their organization. There were six very nice gift baskets with various themes available for raffle, with the drawing held at the beginning of the second half (I did not win). Also, there was free coffee and homemade Christmas cookies available at intermission. The cookies were already sorted in groups of three and wrapped up in bags, so the audience could just take the pre-selection back to their seats. It was an extremely nice and generous touch by the Chorus, and made one feel like they were attending a Christmas party instead of a concert.
Two additional groups were invited to perform in this concert, one of which was “With a Twist,” which opened the second half. They were an exceptional group with brilliant showmanship and musicality. Their rendition of “Feliz Navidad” was especially entertaining with a great beat. By far my favorite piece was “Jilted,” which was performed so well I believe my mouth hung open. Barb Vander Putten sang the plucking bass part, while the other voices wove over her line to create a sultry musical tapestry.
The Sierra Gold Chorus returned to the stage to sing a few more numbers from their regular repertoire, such as “One Fine Day” and “What a Wonderful World.” Sweet Adelines choruses participate in competitions, and this repertoire was from a recent competition. The chorus was always fun to watch, and you could tell the women all enjoyed themselves immensely.
The programming ended with everyone returning to the stage for an audience sing-a-long of “Let There be Peace on Earth.” After that, all the singers marched off the stage singing “Merry Christmas to You All” and cheerfully greeted their audience members. It was a delightful afternoon, and they make everything look so much fun I am tempted to join their Christmas Chorus… as long as I can still get a bag of those excellent cookies.
Dr. Faythe Vollrath, harpsichordist, is the artistic director of Capella Antiqua Choir and Baroque Orchestra. She has been singing in choirs since the age of five.