Members of the Bella Voce Chorus practice vocal techniques at Craig Middle School. The group won second-place overall at the Sweet Adelines International Rocky Mountain regional competition in late March in Colorado Springs. The distinction is the highest level the group as ever reached. The group, which also won first place in the small chorus category, will perform Saturday at Moffat County High School and will travel to Hawaii in May.

Photo by Brian Smith

Members of the Bella Voce Chorus practice vocal techniques at Craig Middle School. The group won second-place overall at the Sweet Adelines International Rocky Mountain regional competition in late March in Colorado Springs. The distinction is the highest level the group as ever reached. The group, which also won first place in the small chorus category, will perform Saturday at Moffat County High School and will travel to Hawaii in May.

The ‘beautiful voices’ of Craig’s chorus

On the heels of awards, local women’s group preparing for performances

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Members of the Bella Voce Chorus practice vocal techniques at Craig Middle School. The group won second-place overall at the Sweet Adelines International Rocky Mountain regional competition in late March in Colorado Springs. The distinction is the highest level the group as ever reached. The group, which also won first place in the small chorus category, will perform Saturday at Moffat County High School and will travel to Hawaii in May.

If you go ...

What: “Mamma Mia!” and Other Hits From Stage and Film

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane

— The award-winning Bella Voce Chorus will perform their a capella version of the music of ABBA and other songs, a set they will perform during their Hawaiian tour in May. Admission is $5. The group is always open to new members. For more information, call Emily Pfeifer at 824-6715.

Before immersing herself in the Northwest Colorado music scene, Emily Pfeifer did not believe in competition.

But, as director of the Bella Voce Chorus, spending time helping the women of Craig raise their voices has changed her tune, especially after the group’s most recent accomplishment.

Bella Voce, the Craig chapter of the women’s chorus network Sweet Adelines International, took home second place overall at the organization’s Rocky Mountain regional competition, Harmony Heaven, in late March in Colorado Springs. The distinction is the highest level ever reached by the group.

The high rankings in the contest, usually won by larger groups in the seven-state area, was a surprise for the singing team, which also repeated their first-place win last year at the small chorus level.

Team manager Jeana Womble said news of the group’s placing created “pandemonium” among the 27 members.

“To get second-place overall is just unheard of for a group our size,” she said. “We were all really excited. It was the most exciting weekend in our history.”

Bella Voce also claimed the honors of “Watch Us Grow” and “Most Improved,” an indication of the group's development from last year, jumping from a score of 544 to 576, outpacing all the mid-sized choruses at the competition.

“In the Sweet Adelines world, 32 points is a big deal,” Pfeifer said.

Groups in the competition were judged on four categories: music, expression, sound and showmanship, with a perfect score being an 800.

Womble said the difference in the score was noticeable because of the rise in points in music, sound and expression, raising the group up to its strongest category last year — showmanship.

“It’s like getting a high B only a few points away from a B+,” she said.

The performance included the song “Crybaby” and Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean?” leading up to the group’s rendition of a “Mamma Mia!” medley at the awards ceremony.

Pfeifer said the selection was arranged specifically for the group, condensing songs from the ABBA-based musical such as “Dancing Queen,” “Voulez-Vous” and “Take a Chance on Me.”

“No chorus or entity in the world has ever performed what we’re going to do,” she said.

Bella Voce will perform the medley for local residents at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane. The show will also include a capella versions of songs from “The Sound of Music,” Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” and “Friend Like Me” from Disney’s “Aladdin.”

“It’ll be totally different than how people have ever seen us,” Womble said.

Pfeifer said the group, which consists of singers 11 to 62, wanted a wide array of music that all ages would enjoy, a revamp also expressed in the name.

The group took on the Bella Voce name over the course of the last year, replacing the original name — Sweet Adelines International Yampa Valley Chorus. The Italian phrase translates to “beautiful voice” in English.

“It expresses us as a group,” Womble said. “It sounds more youthful and exciting for our image.”

Womble said “the challenge” of singing in a group is what she enjoys most about her participation.

“I’ve always loved harmonizing, it’s what I always felt I was strongest in” she said. “It keeps me happy musically, and singing always gives me a night out with lady friends. Emily has been so great as a director bringing everyone together.”

Pfeifer, who has worked with musical groups around the world including Europe, Asia and Latin America, began working with Craig’s Sweet Adelines in 2008.

“Everything I’ve done has been exciting and fulfilling in a different way,” she said. “What’s different with Sweet Adelines is that I’d never taken a group to contest. I’ve seen how preparing for the contest brings out the best in the ladies and helps them achieve a level of excellence they never would have reached. And when we get there, everyone is so supportive, no feelings of discourse. It made me realize that there are situations where competition can be a good thing. It gives you something to work for and it’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie.”

Pfeifer said she especially likes the Sweet Adelines experience in Craig because of the support from the community.

The Craig concert will be a “dry run” for the next venture.

The group has spent a year arranging its upcoming tour, which begins in May, traveling to Hawaii, where Pfeifer was born and raised. Besides performing over the course of a week, the group will host workshops for area singers.

Though the Hawaii trip will take them hundreds of miles away, the group is also hoping to qualify for a closer venue — the Sweet Adelines’ international competition, which takes place in 2012 in Denver. The group will learn at the end of May whether it is on of the select few to make the cut.

“There are over 700 groups and only five of them make it,” Pfeifer said. “It’s really lucky for us that it’s in Denver and we won’t have to arrange such a big trip.”

For the near future, Pfeifer said the group is focusing on recruiting new members. Membership is open to women who are interested, starting at the end of May when the group returns from the islands.

“The only pre-requisites that we have is that you can commit to rehearsals (at Craig Middle School) every Thursday night and that you can hold a tune,” she said.

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