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Chorus celebrates 25 years

It's been more than a quarter century since a group of women in New Port Richey got together to sing a cappella, barbershop style, just for fun.

In October 1986, the 23 members filed an official charter, naming themselves Floridian Gulf Chorus, later changed to Suncoast Harmony Chorus — and they've been singing ever since.

Now in their 25th year, they'll present their annual big show at 2 p.m. March 5 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge.

Called "Bandstand Barbershop," the program includes Broadway tunes, country music, gospel and patriotic numbers, as well as 1950s songs like Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream).

To prepare for the show, women ages 18 to 80 from Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties gather each Tuesday night of the year (except for two weeks in December) in a west Pasco County school chorus room to harmonize and socialize.

"Some have to drive an hour each way, but they don't miss," said Betty Warrick, a member since 1986 and part of the publicity committee headed by Cindy LaPorte and Patty Ritter.

Each year, longtime director Amy Riddle leads the group in an all-new show, with titles like "Suncoast Showboat," "Steppin' Out on Broadway" and "Boot Scootin' Barbershop." All the shows are done in costume, with choreography, guest performers and/or featured performers.

This year's show includes a skit, "The Retired Village People and Philomeno." Pinellas County resident Cathy Moore will play "Myrtle," a cantankerous park visitor who will remind audience members of a well-known greeting card and cartoon character who wears huge dark glasses and is often seen with a big martini glass. Choreographers are LaPorte and Cindy Kuhn.

Since the show is multithemed, the members will make several costume changes, Warrick said.

The big show is just one of many things the Suncoast Harmony group does. Each April, they drive to Daytona Beach for a choral competition, and have won medals and ribbons for their presentations.

The full chorus or quartets of chorus members also perform at retirement and nursing homes, and, as fundraisers, do "Singing Valentines" each February.

They were one of the groups who put on a "Salute to Our Veterans" in Spring Hill in 2009. A year earlier, they did "Serving Pizza with a Song" at a local pizza place to raise money for musical education programs.

In 2006, the Coastal Chords Quartet from Suncoast Harmony Chorus was chosen from 50 contestants to sing the Star-Spangled Banner before a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game in St. Petersburg.

The chorus is a chapter of Sweet Adelines International, a 56-year-old organization with 30,000 members in all 50 states and four continents.

If you go

What: Suncoast Harmony Chorus in "Bandstand Barbershop."

Where: Center for the Arts at River Ridge High School, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey.

When: 2 p.m., March 5

Tickets: $12 at the door or mail a check payable to Suncoast Harmony Chorus, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to 14275 Brookridge Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613.

Chorus celebrates 25 years 02/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 1:36am]

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