Stacy Schumacher and the vibrant group of more than 100 local women prepare for International competition
The women of the Kansas City Chorus of the Sweet Adelines are sassy, hard-working and diverse in their daily occupations, but unite them in song and they are powerhouses with one goal in mind – winning the international competition this November in Hawaii.
They stand a chance to bring an international title back to Kansas City against other top choruses from places as dissimilar as Sweden and Australia. And whether they win or not, the women from the Kansas City metropolitan area are sure to be crowd-pleasers and charming representatives of the Midwest region.
In 2012, the Kansas City Chorus placed first in the Midwest Region 7 Competition to qualify for International Competition in 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Their goal is to make it to the top 10 choruses to be in the finals after a possibly intense semifinal round.
Since the realignment of all Sweet Adelines International Regions effective May 1, Region 7 has been retired, and choruses have been combined into other regions. The Kansas City Chorus is now associated with Region 5 – Spirit of the Midwest, and will be one of two choruses representing Region 5 in Honolulu this coming November. This new region includes most of Missouri, northwest Kansas, eastern Nebraska, most of Illinois, all of Iowa and the extreme northwest corner of Kentucky.
Carol Schumacher, who serves as chorus marketing coordinator and part of the leadership team, says the group has a long history to uphold. The first group met in 1945 and by 1952, they were champions of the first regional competition. “It makes us the second oldest chapter in the international organization,” she says. “The men’s organization is celebrating their 75th Anniversary this year and a plaque in the Muehlebach commemorates their beginning. Needless to say, Kansas City appreciates barbershop music for men and women.”
The chorus rehearses weekly and they gain vocal instruction and choreography. More than 120 women are active in the chorus. “We may spend an hour on a couple of lines, but being international competitors, we have to be that good. It’s a constant education,” Carol says.
The women are led by Stacy Schumacher, who has a unique relationship with the chorus. Stacy grew up singing in the
chorus with her aunt Carol and her mother Linda, but did not
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take over as director until 2009. She replaced long-time director Jo Kraut, who conducted from 1980 to 2008. Stacy was a full-fledged member at 14 years old. “I suppose that makes me a 20-year member,” Stacy says. However, the move to be director wasn’t easy. During the work day, she teaches elementary school music with the Fort Osage School District and hesitated about conducting another organization in the evening. “I was a little apprehensive at the start, but it really has been an easy transition,” she says.
Today, the chorus has members ranging in age from 15 to their mid-80s. They come from all over including as far as Warrensburg and Concordia in Missouri. There are singers from Leavenworth and Basehor, Kan. “We are truly representative of the community and two states,” Carol says. “We have lots of families here, not just ours. We have sisters, mothers and daughters. The family units are fun. A friend of my mother drew her into rehearsals. Now, we have Stacy as that third generation.” Carol joined the group in 1974 and Linda in 1976. She recently won the Kansas City Chorus 2013 “Sweet Adeline of the Year” award.
“For many women, singing with the Sweet Adelines brings them out of their shells. We become a sisterhood,” Linda says. For Carol and Linda, the camaraderie is key to enjoying the chorus. “For many of us, the option to sing with the Sweet Adelines fulfills that love to be part of a group. As an adult, there aren’t lots of options to sing. There’s church choir, but not much else.” Jen Roberts agrees. The chance to sing with the Sweet Adelines was to simply have music continue in her life after college graduation, she says. “It’s also terrific to be part of a cross generational group. It’s an awesome opportunity for younger generations to learn from those more experienced,” she says.
To help guests, Heather Nicolosi is one of the first friendly faces. “My job is to get guests up to speed. I want them to have fun. I have been with the group for six years, but barbershop is part of my life as my father has always sung. I would go to the men’s competitions and I would be asked often about the Sweet Adelines. It made sense to join.”
Linda and Carol have several links that have to be tied together. First, there is the high quality and professionalism.
“We are part of a unique American art form. What was created in the United States now permeates all over the world,” Linda says. Nicolosi says she also aims for community awareness. The organization has supported groups such as the Spofford House. “We have to stop being a best kept secret. It’s not just little old ladies getting together to sing,” Linda says. “Women find us via the Internet. It’s no longer word of mouth. We are a savvy lot.”
Along with the main chorus, several women have united to sing in quartets. Stacy sings lead for Legacy, a quartet that stands at 15th in the world. “No matter what we do, we pull from each other’s strengths. The Sweet Adelines provides so much. They learn to be performers and listeners. They learn to express vulnerability and teamwork. We all have learned that amateur singers can be internationally ranked and very successful. We can be remarkable, but it is in the hard work,” Stacy says.
Before the chorus heads to Hawaii, they will have a chance to shine for the community at the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre Aug. 10. Past shows have included lots of humor or songs themed around musicals like Chicago. The women do a tremendous version of All That Jazz. The Aug. 10 show, to honor the group’s preparation for Hawaii, will be Flip Flops and Barbershop!
“Of course, no matter what we perform, we have to hit certain criteria for competition. There are requirements for a ballad and an upbeat tune. The performance package could be fun and crazy. We are sort of known for that zaniness, but no matter what, there is a focus on the music. I am honored to be part of this achievement,” Stacy says.
After they return from the international conference, the women will work on their portion of the 2013 Holiday Harmony Spectacular Dec. 7 at Unity Village, which unites them with the Heart of America Barbershop Chorus. No matter the outcome of the competitions, the singing must continue with joy and gusto for all.•