Eight area women have formed an a cappella group with the goal of bringing serendipitous music to Chautauqua County.
Serendipity is comprised of eight female voices including: Melanie Gritters, Laura Hotchkiss, Gail Grundstrom, Lissa VanDewark, Cyndi Lorenc, Sue Huther, Carolyn Whitehead and Leslie Hallock. The name of the group came from Hotchkiss, who said serendipity means the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
Before forming Serendipity, all of the members were at one point part of the Chautauqua Chamber Singers, a community group sponsored by the Community Music Project. All of them also come from rich musical backgrounds in teaching, learning and performance. But, they craved being able to have a group where people knew how to sing and liked to sing, said Grundstrom. The idea was originally brought up by Hallock in 2009 at a picnic, and Sue Huther morphed into director of the group.
Pictured is Serendipity, a women’s a capella group, front from left are Melanie Gritters, Laura Hotchkiss, Gail Grundstrom and Lissa VanDewark; back from left are Cyndi Lorenc, Sue Huther, Carolyn Whitehead and Leslie Hallock.
Photo by Nick Certo
"It really connected with all of us, and it met a need," said Grundstrom. "We started singing for several clubs and organizations in town, and really loved singing in ensemble. We really enjoy singing one or two on a part because we like it tight, and we like a challenge. But, we make it sound like it isn't hard, and we want it to look like we're having fun. We don't want to just be singing; we want to be performing."
VanDewark remarked that the experience is therapeutic, which inspired a flourish of comments from the rest of the women.
"You put everything aside, and you create something together with people that you love," said Hotchkiss. "Just the creating part, and making beautiful harmonies together, there is nothing else like it. It's very satisfying."
Huther added that there is a huge reward after putting a lot of effort to learning the parts. As director, she tries to pick songs that are varied, and selections that include soprano, tenor, alto and bass.
"There are songs that you need a lower register for, so she picks songs that sound good as a women's group," said Grundstrom. "She picks songs that when we sing something people don't say, 'Oh, but I miss the men.'"
The group sings a variety of different styles of music ranging from pop, renaissance, sacred, secular and more. At their most recent rehearsal they practiced "Fields of Gold" by Sting, "Nothin' Gonna Stumble My Feet" by Greg Gilpin and "Rise Up, My Love" by Eleanor Daly.
"Rehearsals are just as fulfilling as doing a performance," said Lorenc. "We get so much joy out of making music together, so much so that it's not uncommon for us to get goosebumps during a rehearsal."
They have performed at a variety of venues including the Marvin Community House in Jamestown, Findley Lake Gazebo, local churches and at Chautauqua Institution. They also have a Christmas concert scheduled for 7 p.m. at The First Presbyterian Church of Jamestown on Saturday, Dec. 8. There is no admission charge, but they are asking for a free-will offering that will be donated to a scholarship fund that will serve to help children go to music classes.
"It seems as though that whenever we sing someone comes up to us and asks us to sing for their event," said Hallock. "Last year we were asked to sing at so many Christmas events that we decided to do our own concert this year. We tried to mix up the song selection. It's not all going to be sacred Christmas music; it's holiday music."
The group's next performance is scheduled for October during the Road Scholar Week at Chautauqua Institution.
To find out more about the group or to book a performance, contact Leslie Hallock at email@example.com.