Carrying a tune into the future ♫♪

By on May 2, 2018

Vocal Harmonix practices each Monday night in Lititz. (Photo by Studio 28 LLC)

Singing group renamed Vocal Harmonix, headed to Dutch Apple stage

Everything old is new again. It’s an adage Lori Jo Whitehaus has turned on its head.

As director of both the male and female choruses in Lancaster, Whitehaus realized sometimes a change is needed. Things need to be fresh to attract new fans, new members.

Introducing Vocal Harmonix, the female performing chorus, formerly known as Red Rose City Chorus.

“We were finding people were getting the two groups confused,” said Whitehaus.

The all-male chorus goes by the name Red Rose Chorus. Red Rose City Chorus for the female chorus was just too similar.

“We got a new name and are rebranding ourselves,” said Whitehaus. “We are singing a little bit more contemporary music and we are trying to bring in that next generation.”

New songs on the Vocal Harmonix repertoire include “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, “Cups (When I’m Gone),” made famous by Anna Kendrick in the movie Pitch Perfect, and “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen.

“It’s not your grandmother’s or grandfather’s barbershop,” said Whitehaus. “It’s music from our youthful experiences. Our audience loves rock songs. We needed to sing songs that connect with our audience.”

The group hoped the change, which became effective Jan. 1,would attract new members. It has.

“I officially joined in February,” said Jessica Dunbar. “It’s so awesome.”

Dunbar, a new Ephrata resident, has been singing most of her life, and for the past 12 years been a part of Morning Psalm at Lancaster Church of the Brethren. She discovered Vocal Harmonix when members of the group performed at the church.

“It was amazing. And I said, ‘I have to do that,’” said Dunbar, who joined the group to get some time for herself. “It’s my outlet to get away and do something I love.”

Ten new members have joined Vocal Harmonix since January, with another member expected to join next week.

“This will help our chorus last well into the future,” said Whitehaus.

Members of the Red Rose men’s chorus and the women’s Vocal Harmonix ensemble will be presenting “Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Better” at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre on Sunday evening. (Photos by Kirk Neidermyer)

Dutch Apple bound

In the present, Whitehaus and her groups are preparing for what has become one of their biggest nights of the year. Vocal Harmonix will join with the Red Rose Chorus to present “Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Better,” a one-time production Sunday, May 6, at The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre.

The show will be the third annual event featuring the singers on the Centerville stage. It’s a chance to entertain the community, but also serves as a fundraiser for the non-profit organizations. Money brought in through admission and singer dues goes toward the purchase of costumes, funding rehearsal space, etc.

Described as a spin-off of popular television singing competitions (like The Voice), “Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Better,” takes the audience through a story set up by chorus friend and community theatre actor, Scott Schmittel, who plays Chord Tuneworthy, emcee of the event.

“I’m blessed with an announcer’s voice. I try and emulate Ed Sullivan,” said Schmittel. “It’s a show within a show.”

The setting is at an eastern division competition for singers, where the winner will go up against the formidable western division champs. The two eastern groups &tstr; male and female, represented by Red Rose Chorus and Vocal Harmonix &tstr; begin to banter back and forth, claiming superiority of vocal prowess.

“Jennifer Seymour and Steve Sturgis (play) the stage managers for each group. They start off the show by being irritated with each other,” said Whitehaus.

Both are humming the song “Anything You Can Do,” composed by Irving Berlin for Annie Get Your Gun. The conflict is set as the audience learns these two groups do not really get along.

“We go back and forth a couple times,” said Seymour. “We glare at each other and have a little vocal hand off. It sets the stage for the conflict between the two choruses. The conflict escalates when we sing the song ‘Anything You Can Do.’”

Enter Whitehaus’ character &tstr; a close-to-home director of both choruses &tstr; who comes up with the idea of merging the two groups together into a sort of super chorus.

“The fix is that I put the two groups together to sing eight-part harmony, and they win,” said Whitehaus. “It’s not typical for barbershoppers to sing eight-part harmony. The men usually do their thing and the women, the Sweet Adelines, do their thing, but there is music out there for both groups to sing together. It is a lot of fun.”

In reality, the move also helps the two groups showcase their skills. In “Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Better,” the groups will perform five songs in eight-part harmony.

“We’ve never done five before,” said Whitehaus.

The show starts at 7 p.m. Dinner from Dutch Apple’s all-you-can-eat buffet begins at 5:30. Tickets cost $39 for general admission and $25 for students of all ages with ID. To purchase tickets and choose your own seat, visit redrosechorus.com/anything.

Women of all ages and voice parts interested in joining Vocal Harmonix, which practices each Monday evening in Lititz, can visit vocalharmonix.org to learn more.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

More photos of Vocal Harmonix 

Photos by Studio 28 LLC

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