Say the words ‘barbershop singing’ and chances are you’ll think of four men warbling in striped shirts and straw hats... but The Red Rosettes of Preston are helping to blow those preconceptions away.
Formed in 1980, The Red Rosettes trace their humble beginnings to the efforts of Jean Gould.
After placing an advert in the Evening Post, setting up a meeting with 15 ladies and appointing Richard Baker as the first musical director, The Red Rosettes were born, ready to bring barbershop to the people of Lancashire.
Barbershop singing is the practice of singing, unaccompanied, in four-part harmony.
Each member of the chorus goes through the process of a ‘voice test’ in which their singing voice will be assessed and then placed into one of the four musical sections: tenor, lead, baritone or bass.
Each section comes with its own challenge, and all are integral when it comes to creating the ringing chords which give barbershop its character. With more than 50 members ranging from pre-teens to octogenarians, the Red Rosettes offer the chance to engage in a hobby that is both invigorating and rewarding.
Mary Sheryn, who has been with the chorus for 25 years, explains: “I am particularly proud of the high standards we are attaining and the commitment of each and every member to work towards a better position and higher marks in the national annual competition.”
This competition, known as Convention, is held by the Ladies’ Association of British Barbershop Singing (LABBS) on an annual basis.
This year marked the 40th anniversary of LABBS, with more than 30 choruses from England competing against each other to be crowned the national champions.
The Red Rosettes performed Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Anything Goes and finished in eighth place, one higher than last year.
Added to the excitement this year was the chance to sing Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody with more 2,000 other barbershopers, each having perfected their section of the four-part harmony.
This concept of coming together to share a love of singing is present at a local, national and even international level.
It’s this spirit of friendship and enjoyment that makes The Red Rosettes such a wonderful chorus to be a part of.
Leanne Blaney, has been a member for three and a half years. She says: “It has provided a light for me during a very dark time of my life.”
This sentiment is echoed by Lindsay Carey, a member for five years, who asserts that being in The Red Rosettes “is so much more than a hobby; it’s about friendship, support and encouragement and becomes part of your life.”
Having recently switched parts from lead to tenor, working full-time and being a mum-of-two, Vicki Spencer has never let the commute from Liverpool get in the way of her love for the chorus.
She says: “Rehearsals are my weekly tonic. It’s two and a half hours of pure me-time with the most amazing women.”
Many describe the chorus of being like a family, with successes and tragedies being shared. It’s the love of singing which attracts new members, and the feeling of belonging that retains them.
The chorus is always on the lookout for new singers and gladly welcomes any visitors to their rehearsals on Wednesdays at 7.30pm in Leyland Methodist Junior School.
The chorus travels all over Lancashire to perform at various events singing barbershop classics such as Swannee and If you Love Me plus modern songs such as Holding out for a Hero and Hey Soul Sister which makes an eclectic mix for all manner of audiences.
Further information and booking details can be found on the Red Rosettes website: www.theredrosettes.co.uk.