Shazia Perry, Bid Co-ordinator at Maven Public Sector, ALARM's Platinum sponsor, has been an active member of the all women's vocal acapella group, the Vocal Dimension Chorus for over ten years.
Based in Redhill, Surrey, the Vocal Dimension Chorus is part of an international organisation called Sweet Adelines, founded over 50 years ago as a counter to the long established exclusively all male barbershop choirs that competed worldwide.
We sing in four-part harmony: bass, baritone, lead and tenor without accompaniment. I have sung bass and tenor and now sing lead. It's quite a responsibility because if one of us goes off pitch, everyone goes off pitch.
For Shazia, the acapella group is intrinsic to her life, with working full-time, marriage and motherhood making way for practising, performing, fundraising, and socialising with the Vocal Dimension Chorus.
This is my adult time and I'd be lost without it. If I hadn't started the group before I had my son, I would never have done it.
From singing and choreography, to costumes and scripts, Shazia is fully involved.
It’s a full-on commitment. If we are rehearsing for a competition it can be eight hours a day at the weekend, plus four hours after work. It fills a social and creative space inmy life, as well as bringing me the joy of singing.
I studied Drama and Theatre at the Brit School in Croydon but fell out of love with performance and decided not to make a career of it. After having gone down a different career path I found the singing group through a local ad and became passionate about performing again.
Being in a group with other women – of all ages and backgrounds – is what has maintained Shazia’s passion.
It’s something wonderful we can do in a safe and friendly environment. We are 100% supportive of one another, and we cheer each other on, even in competitions. I love being in a small women’s choir; it’s a family. I have made many friends and we all support one another. They came to my wedding, and I sang with two others during the speeches. There are two couples that met through the Vocal Dimension Chorus, and we sang at their weddings too.
There is a serious side as well as a social side to the group and competing at an international level is what drives them to performance perfection.
The Vocal Dimension Chorus competes in the small chorus group, which is fewer than 30 singers. Heats are performed in regions and the Chorus is part of region 31. Winners are then ranked, with the top ranking in the world from all regions going on to compete at international level.
This autumn they are off to the US and it will be the third time the Vocal Dimension Chorus is competing internationally.
We hope to bring home a winning medal for the UK!
The Vocal Dimension Chorus and other groups in the Sweet Adelines organisation are open to new joiners, celebrating the opportunity for women of all ages and from all demographics to harmonise.
Our youngest singer in our group is 19 and the oldest is in her 80’s, so we welcome all women! All women who can sing that is. The group has a thorough audition process, and along with being able to commit to the hours to perfect their sound, the Vocal Dimension Chorus welcomes women who fit in vocally.
It’s pretty professional. Joiners have to audition and not everyone gets in. First of all you are given a song to learn, then after a month you are put into a quartet to see how you interact and hold harmonies. This is the final audition when a decision is made.
Shazia explains that Chorus members don’t need to have a musical background or be able to read music:
Some people read music but I don’t. I print off the lyrics then copy the learning tracks by sound.” The Chorus regularly hosts professional singers who take teaching sessions with the singers. We learn a lot from them.One of my favourite songs we used to sing is Sisters are doing it for themselves - which exactly typifies what we do!
Any woman interested in finding out more about Sweet Adelines and the Vocal Dimension Chorus should contact Valerie Taylor, Director.