Not Your Mama's Barbershop Chorus

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You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” That’s how I feel about participating in the Rich-Tone Chorus. I think of my life in chapters—pre-Rich-Tones and everything that has happened since I joined the chorus.

Back in the ’90s, all of my closest friends had moved away. Looking to fill the void, I dropped in on a Rich-Tones rehearsal, thinking I’d meet some ladies and hear some good four-part harmony. I had no idea that they had just won their first Sweet Adelines International championship. The sounds and the energy in that rehearsal hall were indescribable. The ladies laughed, they sang, they danced—they were having a great time. Immediately, it was evident that this wasn’t your mama’s barbershop chorus.

In every way, the Rich-Tones reflect diversity with a capital D. Led by Master Director Dale Syverson, a 35-year Richardson resident, the chorus is comprised of more than 100 women in their teens to their 70s—doctors, teachers, homemakers, students, business professionals and others. Competitors at heart, the group’s drive to achieve new heights contributes to the advancement of the barbershop art throughout the worldwide organization.

We bring skill and originality to all kinds of music, from beloved standards and Broadway favorites to rocking renditions of hits from Queen, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson. In our annual August shows at the Eisemann Center, we’ve performed with Broadway legend Maureen McGovern and Street Corner Symphony, the popular a cappella group from NBC’s The Sing-Off. You just never know what’s around the corner for this chorus.

The electricity sparked when we take the stage is intense, especially in competitions, where we’ve performed for audiences of more than 10,000. When the announcer says, “Representing Richardson, Texas … ,” the cheers and applause erupt even before our name is announced. For competition, the Rich-Tones have traveled to countless cities across the U.S., performed in Canada, England and Ireland, and are five-time international chorus champions.

Competition in Sweet Adelines is like nothing I’ve encountered before. All competing choruses are absolutely in it to win it, but never at the expense of friendship. Each chorus brings their very best to the contest, collectively raising the bar. We learn from each other, we support each other. In that sense, we all win.

Rich-Tones often say, “I joined for the music, I stay for the friendships.” Many of us find that we share interests beyond the music—running, mah-jongg, knitting, gardening. Our connections to one another cross decades and geography. At any Tuesday night rehearsal, guests may include former Rich-Tones or Sweet Adelines from choruses around the world. Rehearsals are always open to local visitors too. Stop by—we’ll have a place for you. 

The Rich-Tone Chorus rehearses Tuesdays from 7-10 p.m. Find out more at richtones.org.

Amanda Stevens is a career communicator and freelance writer. Along with her daughter, she sings baritone with the Rich-Tone Chorus. They have performed together in Nashville, Seattle, Denver, Baltimore,
Las Vegas, Calgary and Great Britain.

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