Barbershop Invasion at Unitarian Church, Carmel Pine Cone, page 14, 5/9/2018
Barbershop Extravaganza, Cedar Street Times, page 19, 5/5/2018
A Cappella Showcase!, Peninsula Reviews, 3/12/2016
Monterey Bay Belles Director, Kristen Thompson featured in Performance Monterey Bay. 3/25/2015
Phil Bowhay: Good Old Days of Harmony, Monterey County Herald, 11/19/2011
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