Chorus members love thrill of performing

Heart of New Jersey group has members from all walks of life

BY LINDA DeNICOLA Staff Writer

Heart of New Jersey
group has members
from all walks of life

BY LINDA DeNICOLA
Staff Writer

The Heart of New Jersey Chorus, part of the Sweet Adelines International, is looking for women who love music and who love to sing. In fact, the chorus is offering free vocal lessons to sweeten interest in the offer.

According to Ellen Greenhouse, who has been a member of the Sweet Adelines for 22 years, the chorus is about to kick off a membership drive called “Ready, Set, Sing.” The free vocal lessons will begin on Sept. 22 and run for six weeks. Those who wish to join the chorus will then be asked to audition.

Greenhouse, of Freehold Township, said the chorus has about 40 active members who come from Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties. Directors would like to grow and become a larger chorus.

The Heart of New Jersey Chorus sings in all kinds of venues. The chorus recently performed in Washington, D.C., at the dedication of the nation’s new World War II memorial.

Jennifer Weisman of Old Bridge was in charge of the arrangements for the trip. Weisman joined the chorus in January 2003 and was hooked immediately.

“This hobby ends up being so exciting and important that I sometimes can’t fit it in with the rest of my life,” she said.

As part of the whole process of getting ready for the Washington trip, she sent out fund-raising letter to organizations, to the governor and to area representatives. She also wrote to President George Bush.

“I decided to write President Bush a letter inviting him to the performances. I sent it in early May and about two weeks later I got a call from a man who said President Bush would like to speak with me. It was a very brief conversation, but President Bush got on the phone and said he would not be able to attend,” she said.

The phone call was just the beginning of a very rewarding trip to the nation’s capital, Weisman said, adding that a lot of people helped to make the trip special.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s office arranged a White House tour for the chorus, and the cost of the trip was paid for by donations from many sources, including the Monmouth County Arts Council, the Marlboro Improvement and Cultural Fund, contributions from banks and from people like Dr. Ronald Frank of Green Brook, with whom she works as a nurse practitioner.

Jane Holden of Freehold Township, who conducts the chorus, has been with the Sweet Adelines for 18 years and with the Heart of New Jersey Chorus for almost a dozen years. Holden has a degree in music education and teaches elementary music at the H.C. Johnson School in Jackson.

“We had a marvelous time in Washington, but we enjoy singing and performing wherever we go,” Holden said. “We perform all over. Sometime it is gratis, sometimes we’re paid. The money goes into a fund for the chorus. We have to hire coaches that come in and help with our music and there are fees for the rehearsal hall.”

The chorus rehearses at the Frank DeFino Central School in Marlboro.

The trip to Washington included a performance at Constitution Hall and Weisman said that was enjoyablebecause there was another Sweet Adelines group from Overton, Neb., that the New Jersey women had a chance to meet.

A concert at a Fairfax, Va., retirement home for retired military personnel was very moving because there were between 150 and 200 people on hand who were very appreciative of the patriotic songs the group sang, Weisman said, adding, “That really meant the most to us. It was very touching.”

Weisman explained that at Mount Vernon, Va., the chorus performed during a wreath laying ceremony at George Washington’s tomb.

“That was a very special moment,” she said.

The Sweet Adelines International is a not-for-profit women’s singing organization. In May 1994, two women had a dream to create a new chorus to be part of the organization. Forty women, including six musical leaders, a certified arranger and a certified director joined with other members from Monmouth, Middlesex, Mercer and Ocean counties. Present members come from all walks of life and include students, homemakers and professionals.

The Heart of New Jersey Chorus has an experienced performance coordinator who works to see that the members perform on a regular basis. There is also an active membership committee, a publicity chair and a ways and means committee.

“We are proud to say that the chorus is stable both financially and administratively,” Greenhouse said.

The Heart of New Jersey Chorus is supported in part by the Monmouth County Arts Council through a regrant from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts.

The chorus was charted in November 1995. The group meets on Wednesday evenings from 7:30-10:30 p.m. throughout the year. To find out more about the chorus, visit the Internet Web site www.heartofnewjerseychorus.org. For information about joining contact Ellen Greenhouse at (732) 780-9834.