A Cappella Showcase! March 12, 2016 -Peninsula Reviews
Performing Arts Monterey Bay - Kristen Thompson
Read more about Monterey Bay Belles Director, Kristen Thompson in Performing Arts Monterey Bay.
Phil Bowhay: Good old days of harmony
Phil Bowhay Flashbacks
Monterey County Herald
Posted: 11/19/2011 01:35:16 AM PST
Do you remember the first time you heard four-part harmony? Maybe it was even before you were born and your momma sang alto with the other ladies from the church.
Not sure when I first heard "The Old Songs," or other barbershop standards, but a chord was struck, and when I hear those voices in tune I feel a resonance up and down my spine, and then start to hum the bass part!
Back in the 1940s our Pacific Grove gang did a pretty good job on "Heart of my Heart" and "Swing Low," not to mention "They Had To Carry Harry To The Ferry."
Well, friends, if you missed At The Hop at the Golden State Theatre, you missed a trip back to the good old days of harmony. The Cypressaires, our own local barbershop chorus, boomed out with "Hello Mary Lou" and the music didn't stop for the next two hours.
The world famous Bay Belles, who looked and sounded like a million bucks (before taxes) wowed the crowd. Full house! With an Elvis medley, and friends, I've never spent a better 20 bucks in my life.
Kristen Thompson, director of both the Belles and the Cyps, was at the top of her form, singing, dancing and directing.
In addition to a master's in choral conducting, this lovely lady also has a degree in percussion! Yep, drums! On top of all that, she's married to Jeffrey Thompson, big-time baritone who runs Jeffrey's, that big-time restaurant in Mid Valley. Talent comes in bunches, just like bananas!
Most of us think of barbershop as quartets, and that's true, but the four-part special arrangements work beautifully with groups of any size.
To brighten your day, log on to the Cyps and Belles, sit back and listen! Then, just for fun, tune in to the Mormon Tab Choir. Just as good, of course, but different sound, different arrangements.
Now I tell you all this, not to make you feel bad, missing At The Hop (a pity), but to alert you that the holidays are almost upon us, and the Cyps and Belles will be singing around town, for sure! Keep in touch.
Phil Bowhay is a Carmel writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Barbershop singers ready to rock-'n'-roll it
Off 68 Newspaper
Drawn by the a cappella purity of sound, the women tune up their voices and practice for their show.
“It’s a wonderful feeling singing in this group,” Chris Wood said. “When we hit our notes perfectly, I get goose bumps.”
Wood, who lives off Laureles Grade, is one of 18 members of the Monterey Bay Belles Women’s Chorus. She and the others sing a four-part harmony basic to the barbershop quartet tradition.
Normally, they sing barbershop tunes popular from 1900 to 1930. Recently, though, they’ve shifted their musical focus toward Elvis and Bill Haley, among other Saturday-night jukebox giants. The Belles are preparing for “At the Hop,” an Oct. 29 rock-and-roll show at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey.
The Bay Belles and other groups will sing 1950s and ‘60s hits.
The Cypressaires Barbershop Chorus, an all-male group, will also be in the limelight, as will Hi-Fidelity. A championship quartet from Southern California, Hi-Fidelity is to present its “Elvis Unplugged” musical package.
Kristen Thompson, director of the Bay Belles and the Cypressaires, helped form the Bay Belles in 2002.
“I have five singers who have done this all their lives,” she said. “A lot of the others sang in high school. It’s a good way for all these women to express their musicality.”
In launching into a rock repertoire, the women have had to pay heed to their costumes, too.
Mostly the Bay Belles step out on stage in black slacks, turquoise-tinted blouses and scarves that glitter silver.
For the rock show, each will tap her imagination and memory bank and design her own rock-era costume.
She’ll draw from its fashion hallmarks — poodle skirts, bobby socks, leather jackets. She may venture into early rock, when pink and black where the must-have colors.
“They’ll buy their costumes or they’ll make their own,” Thompson said.
The Bay Belles will present era favorites. They’ll ring the theater’s rafters with durable classics such as the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”
The Bay Belles perform in other venues, too. They sing at Pacific Grove’s Good Ol’ Days, First Night Monterey and Feast of Lanterns. They sing in retirement homes, at women’s clubs and for fundraisers.
They and the Cypressaires present singing valentines they call “Valengrams.” Each performer, of course, brings a different story to the group.
Wood, 60, once played piano, but it had been awhile since she’d touched a keyboard. “Two years ago I decided to step out of the box and try something different,” she said. Which proved to be the Bay Belles, she said.
“It’s opened a whole new world,” Wood said. “They get along so well and they’re dedicated to the music.”
Wood had suffered a serious spinal injury prior to joining the group. It made it hard to stand and sing. Now, though, she is able to stand longer and sing.
“I feel happier, and I’m stronger physically,” she said.
Jane Heider, the group’s treasurer, has been a member eight years. Heider had sung in opera choruses. She was singing in the Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula Choir when she heard about the Bay Belles.
“I especially like singing in quartets,” Heider said. “You know immediately if you’re off. Each note has to be perfect, and I’m a perfectionist.”
Singers come from Salinas, Carmel Valley, Hollister and Pacific Grove.
“We have 18 people and so many notes, so it’s not perfect all of the time, but when it’s right, the feeling is great,” Wood said