by Meryl Kelleher
Each year without fail, I am glued to the webcast of the Sweet Adelines International Competition. It is always so much fun, so exciting and so touching. But I found this year’s contest particularly inspirational. Words such as diversity, inclusion, empowerment, support, affirmation, and acceptance come to mind. There is a new feeling about our organization. Can you feel it too?
During the competition, a portion of the events always focuses on our membership. This year’s theme was, “What’s Your Sweet Adelines Story?” A number of outstanding members got up on stage in front of thousands of audience members (and countless people watching via the webcast) and told the world what Sweet Adelines has meant to them.
One speaker was an incredible young woman named Erin. She told everyone about how she had gone down an unhealthy, dark path in her younger life, becoming an alcoholic. She felt broken and hopeless. She entered a treatment facility. When she was 6 months sober, she ended up visiting the Scottsdale Chorus. Director Lori Lyford enthusiastically welcomed her and insisted she tell her story to the members. She was shocked at their response - wild applause, and cheers, with everyone in tears. She found her home that night. With their support and encouragement, she is now a music therapist who works in a mental health and substance abuse facility, helping others through her love of music.
The amazing Peggy Gramm also spoke about how the members of Sweet Adelines supported her during her struggle with breast cancer. Tearfully, she poured her heart out about the feelings of love and concern she received. She encouraged members to reflect on what impact Sweet Adelines has had on their lives.
I also loved the moment when Lori Lyford made a speech after her chorus won first place, saying, (I paraphrase) “In our age of diversity and inclusion, I am proud to introduce my wife!” What an amazing reaction from thousands of audience members, as the thunderous applause and cheers could be heard. She also thanked everyone for opening their hearts to the great diversity in our membership.
We all have a Sweet Adelines story. Here is mine:
In 1992 I was getting divorced, living in rural southern New Jersey, and feeling very alone. My mom, who was living in Florida, came to visit me. One Saturday afternoon, we happened to catch a show at the local high school. It was a men’s barbershop chorus. After the concert, I approached the director, Carol, to tell her how much Mom and I had enjoyed it. I told her I wished there were groups like this for women. She told me, “Guess what - there are, and I happen to direct that chorus too!” That very Tuesday night, I drove 45 minutes down to Ocean City, NJ to visit the Cape Shore Chapter. I was warmly welcomed. They were a tiny chorus of about 20. They immediately had me get up on the risers with them. There was no audition, they simply told me, “You’re in”. After rehearsal, the ladies met at a local bar & restaurant, and I joined them. That was exactly what I needed. A warm, welcoming group of women, friendship, fun times, and an emotional outlet (I cried every single time we rehearsed, “Kiss today goodbye, and point me towards tomorrow….”) I loved those ladies.
One of the first things I did when my divorce was final and I moved to Florida was to find a chorus. Mom found a blurb about the Cypress Sounds Chorus in the local paper. They met a few minutes from my home. I joined that chorus, and I still sing with some of those wonderful women today. Over the years so many incredible women have impacted my life, laughed and cried with me, and of course, sang in harmony with me.
Sweet Adelines has given me so many things I needed; an artistic outlet, a friendship connection, a support system through rough times, a place to go and have fun....and so much more. Thank You, Sweet Adelines. You have always been there for me, and I know you always will!
I hope I’ve inspired you to tell someone your Sweet Adelines story!