In song and in life, local members of the O-Town Sound a cappella chorus complement each other beautifully
O-Town Sound Chorus members pride themselves on being in tune with each other, not only onstage but offstage as well.
The women’s a cappella group sings beautiful four-part harmony in the barbershop style. The chorus is comprised of about 45 women, ranging in age from the mid-20s to 80-plus. Founding member Marsha Williams sums up her love of barbershop singing and O-Town Sound this way:
“It starts with the music, and then you add in the people, and you have fast friends for life,” says the 66-year-old Sanford resident. “It’s a very warm and inviting atmosphere, and singing the harmony makes it that much tighter.”
Sara Barnett, 29, echoes Marsha’s opinion.
“It’s kind of a sisterhood,” says Sara, who lives in Altamonte Springs. “If anything happens, you’ve got more than 40 sisters and moms who are there for you.”
Sara isn’t speaking figuratively, either. Her mom, Paula Barnett, also sings in the chorus. They hold the distinction of being the only mother/daughter duo in the group.
Kay Webb, the group’s music director, can attest to the willingness of the singers to help each other in times of need. Recently, a pipe burst in her home, causing extensive damage. Several chorus members gladly pitched in, helping to repaint several rooms.
O-Town Sound formed in 2011 as a spin-off from the Sound of Sunshine Show Chorus, another women’s a cappella group. Both Orlando-based choruses are chapters of Sweet Adelines International. Sweet Adelines is a nonprofit organization of female singers who are committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education, competition, and performance.
A cappella singing has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to television shows such as The Sing-Off and the Pitch Perfect movies. Barbershop is a specific style of singing that falls under the umbrella of a cappella. Barbershop music is characterized by close, unaccompanied four-part harmonies and ringing chords. The voice parts are lead, tenor, baritone, and bass.
O-Town Sound has come a long way in a short time. In 2015, and again this year, the group was named the first-place mid-sized chorus in its region. The chorus will represent its region in the Sweet Adelines Harmony Classic Competition to be held in October 2017 in Las Vegas. The Harmony Classic showcases the top 10 small and mid-sized choruses within Sweet Adelines.
O-Town Sound, whose members come from nearly a dozen counties in Florida, have had the honor of singing the national anthem at an Orlando Solar Bears game. And several members have performed at a United States naturalization ceremony in Orlando.
Recently, O-Town Sound presented a show at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford. A Cappella Jukebox featured music through the decades, in various a cappella styles.
The rest of 2016 will be a busy time for the group. Every November and December, the chorus performs beloved holiday songs at Walt Disney World hotels, charming tourists and locals alike.
One of the group’s most heartwarming performances to date was for one of its own. Tricia Torrance, who lives in Oviedo, invited the whole crew to perform at her wedding last summer. Tricia’s fellow singers donned blue scarves to match her wedding colors and serenaded the new husband-and-wife with The Nearness of You.
“They all got to be there and watch me walk down the aisle,” says Tricia, who at age 25 is one of the group’s youngest members. “I love the camaraderie.”
Strong friendships are a hallmark of O-Town Sound and so is the members’ desire for musical excellence. It’s not easy preparing for all those performances and competitions, says Pat Feverston, a 76-year-old Sanford resident. The group doesn’t just stand on risers and croon songs. Members must convey the mood and meaning of the lyrics with their facial expressions, gestures, and even a little dance choreography.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” says Pat, who retired in 2012 from her teaching job at Jackson Heights Middle School. “It’s very rewarding. You get involved in all this, and it’s very hard to walk away.”
O-Town Sound’s weekly rehearsals can be demanding, but they give Sara a welcome respite from the concerns of daily life.
“I can just focus on music. That’s magical,” Sara says. “It’s very therapeutic.”
The group rehearses from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Mondays at Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church in Orlando. The chorus, which is always looking for new members, is available for hire. For details about joining O-Town Sound or booking the group, visit OTSChorus.com or call 407-900-3934.
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