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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spirit of Spokane Chorus heads to international competition

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

After two years of virtual meetings, the Spirit of Spokane Chorus is back in a big way – by heading to an international competition in Phoenix.

On Tuesday, they’re inviting the community to attend their kick-off performance “What’s in Your Suitcase?” at Opportunity Presbyterian Church.

For 32 years the chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International, has been a competitive force in the all-female world of a cappella barbershop music.

Originally called the Spokane Falls Chorus, the group has competed at the international level five times, most recently in 2007.

As with most singing groups, COVID-19 took a toll on the organization.

“Our last live regional competition on stage was 2019,” said Cherie Letts, public relations coordinator for the chorus.

Director Mike Elliot said the shutdowns were hard for the group.

“We lost some membership,” he said. “Our first face-to-face rehearsal was in January of this year. It’s good to be back.”

He added that new members are always welcome.

Longtime member Carran Kelley expressed gratitude that at least they could meet via Zoom during COVID.

“It bonded us together like nothing else,” she said. “We maintained our sense of community and support for each other.”

Their scores at the 2019 competition qualified them to compete at the International Sweet Adelines Contest and Convention later this month in Phoenix.

“Our second-place overall win put us in the wild-card pool,” Letts said. “When the wild-card holder withdrew, we received an invitation to compete.”

Normally, the chorus would have more than 18 months to prepare, but it just received the invite in January.

“We decided not to pass up the opportunity,” Elliot said. “Around half the gals in the chorus have never been to internationals.”

That includes Letts.

“I’ve been with this wonderful organization for 7½ years and haven’t had an opportunity to even attend International, let alone sing on the contest stage!” she said.

The Spirit of Spokane chorus performs four-part a capella harmony – four voice parts blend into one chord. Barbershop singing is considered to be one of the trickiest accomplishments of a vocal ensemble.

Elliot said the group will sing an arrangement of Bobby Darin’s “As Long as I’m Singing” for their upbeat entry, and an arrangement of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” for its ballad.

Kelley has been to the international competition several times and is eager to return.

“It truly is international – some of the best choruses come from Sweden and Canada,” she said. “It’s the cream of the crop.”

She said groups are judged in four categories; music, sound, expression and visual communication.

“We’ve only had four months to prepare, so we have no illusions,” Kelley said. “We are going for the joy of hearing all those amazing choruses. It helps you to dream and raise your expectations.”

Elliot agreed.

“It’s about getting better all the time,” he said.

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