Breaking gender divide rejuvenates harmony club

Letting go of tradition and embracing change has rejuvenated one Ipswich singing club.

It’s just after seven o’clock on Wednesday night and in a heritage listed former courthouse in the heart of Ipswich a small, enthusiastic group of singers is rehearsing for their final performance of the year.

In a week’s time the Ipswich A Cappella Harmony Club, more commonly known as the Miner Chords, will perform at Booval Uniting Church’s Christmas event.

Tonight music director Gordon Dryden begins by taking them through Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

It’s a festive favourite and one the barbershop harmony club has sung many times before. However, this Christmas the group’s rendition of the classic sounds and looks a little different.

As club president David Green explains it’s the result of a “major decision with far reaching positive consequences” taken by the club earlier this year.

“We decided to open the club up to women. Before then it had been a men only a cappella group focused on barbershop music,” he said.

“There were really two drivers behind opening the club up. The first was concern that numbers in the chorus were dwindling and the second was that female voices can really add to the chorus.

“There is also a degree of equality about it, there’s no real need for separation.”

Father and daughter duo Dennis and Maija Boothby enjoy singing together in the club.

Members of Ipswich A Cappella Harmony Club, the Miner Chords, practice.

Club membership has surged since the change, climbing from a low of eight at the start of the year to 20.

Maija Boothby is among new members to join. Her father has been in the club for five years.

“I think it’s good for diversity to have women in the club. Music has always been a big part of our life, dad would play the guitar and us kids would sing while washing up,” she said.

“I’ve always been interested in singing and was in youth choirs when I was younger. It’s fun to sing with dad and it’s a very welcoming, friendly group of people.”

The Miner Chords – named so in honour of the Welsh miners of the Silkstone area who started some of the region’s first singing groups – is open to anyone interested in singing, no matter their skill level.

“Our goal is to get everyone who walks through our doors to the level where they can join the chorus,” Mr Dryden said.

The club has big plans for 2018 and will be focusing on creating several quartets within the broader chorus.

“We are certainly still interested in more members and certainly interested in lifting the standard, breadth and depth of the chorus,” Mr Green said.

“Down the track we may also look at making a return to entering competitions.”

Ipswich A Capella Harmony Club – the Miner Chords – rehearses 7pm to 9pm each Wednesday at the Old Ipswich Courthouse, 75 East Street, Ipswich. For more information phone David Green on 0407 831 326 or Gordon Dryden on 0414 294 120.

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