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Spirit of Harmony chorus celebrating 40 years

By Staff | Jul 13, 2020

The Spirit of Harmony Chorus was chartered in May 1980. The group celebrates 40 years in 2020. Photo submitted

Editor’s note: The Spirit of Harmony Chorus, based in Spirit Lake, is celebrating its 40th year as a chartered chorus of Sweet Adelines International this year. The group was planning a celebration to go along with its annual fall show, but with COVID-19 that, of course, is not going to happen. This story is shared in place of the celebration.

The Spirit of Harmony Chorus, which has grown from a chorus of new-to-barbershop singers to a chorus who has competed internationally four times, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Spirit of Harmony began meeting at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spirit Lake in October 1979 with 31 women present. The group was chartered with the Sweet Adelines International organization in May 1980 under the direction of Ken VanderSloot. Their first regional competition was in March 1981 in Iowa City. The next year they competed in Ames and won the Most Improved Chorus award winning 8th place. Judy Weipert was their director from 1982 to 1984. In 1984 Jane Ford served as director until 1999. Judy again took over the director spot in 1999 and still is the director of Spirit of Harmony Chorus.

The chorus never looked back and continued to grow in strength and ability, all while building lasting friendships and just having a great time singing a cappella music with each other. From 1988 to 2019 Spirit of Harmony has won First Place Small Chorus 25 times; Second Place Overall Chorus 6 times; Third Place Overall Chorus 8 times; Most Improved Chorus 3 times with a total of 49 winning medals at the regional level.

Harmony Classic is an international competition for small and medium size choruses. The small choruses have 30 members or less and medium choruses, 31 to 59 members. To be chosen to compete at the international Harmony Classic, a chorus must have one of the 5th highest scores in the world, in their division, from their regional competition. The top five choruses in each division are invited to attend the Harmony Classic. With hundreds of choruses in those 2 divisions around the world, to place in the top 5 is quite an accomplishment. Spirit of Harmony, from the small chorus division, has competed at the international Harmony Classic four times. They placed 5th in Greenville, SC in 2007; 4th in San Antonio, TX in 2009; 3rd in Houston, TX in 2011 and 5th in Baltimore, MD in 2014. In 2019 Spirit of Harmony qualified with their highest score ever and was invited to the International Competition in Louisville, KY this October, but the competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus. They hope to be able to compete in St. Louis, MO in 2021.

The Spirit of Harmony Chorus poses for a group photo in May 1981. Photo submitted

tPresently the chorus has 33 members. Along with competing, they also enjoy entertaining a variety of groups. They have consistently sung at The Okoboji Summer Theatre prior to theatre performances, performed at the Clay County Fair and at various town celebrations, reunions, business gatherings and many other places. They love to entertain their audiences! Members come from Arnolds Park, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Lake Park, Milford, Spirit Lake, Spencer, Battle Creek, Wallingford and Lakefield and Marshall, MN.

In a normal year the chorus meets on Monday nights at 7:00 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Spirit Lake. Any woman who enjoys singing has been invited to join them at a rehearsal to join in the fun and learning. However, during this time of COVID-19 their rehearsals have taken a different turn. “Rehearsals” are still on Mondays at 7:00, but right now are in the form of ZOOM. This has been a time for members to greet each other, participate in physical and vocal warmups, or perhaps play a musical game. They sing through their current repertoire along with new music by using chorus recordings and learning tracks. They do an old fashioned roll call, (remember grade school?), but this is different. We share something a little different each week. One week may be our favorite piece of jewelry, the next might be the top 40 song the year we graduated. They get to know a little something about members they wouldn’t necessarily learn while on the risers. They would love to have you join them at a ZOOM rehearsal. To join the chorus at a rehearsal, just email our ZOOM coordinator at “mailto:lrubis@q.com”>lrubis@q.com and she will get the ZOOM login information to you. For more information about Spirit of Harmony Chorus, they invite you to visit their website: spiritofharmonychorus.org., or you can also check out their Facebook page.

They are looking forward to the time when they will be back at Immanuel Lutheran Church, on the risers in their regular spot, listening for the pitch from the pitch pipe and watching their director to start them singing again ALL together.