Indy-based Greater Cleveland Chorus stays performance-ready

by Dan Holland

For Deb Ferenc, president of the all-female Greater Cleveland Chorus based in Independence, the group’s practices, performances and competitions are about much more than just a love of barbershop-style a cappella music.

“It’s not just singing; we educate,” said Ferenc, who has been with the organization for 30 years. “The leaders teach our members how to sing better, but it’s more than just a choir; it’s a very educational organization. We put on large productions and shows. It helps women to grow inside and out; it’s very fulfilling.”

The group, which was formed in August 1986, practices each Tuesday night at Independence United Methodist Church, where it has been anchored for the past 25 years. It is a chapter of a much larger international organization of women singers known as the Sweet Adelines, which breaks up choruses into 24 regions around the globe.

The chorus is currently practicing to compete in the 75th Annual International Convention and Competition to be held Oct. 30-Nov. 4 in Louisville, Kentucky. The group has won its regional singing competition ten years in a row, which has afforded them the opportunity to compete internationally.

The group has performed at a variety of events and locations around Greater Cleveland including Cleveland Guardians and Cleveland Cavaliers games, Playhouse Square, Music Box Supper Club and other area venues.

“We perform the ‘National Anthem’ for the Guardians every year in early August,” said Ferenc. “This year, it was a beautiful night with a sellout crowd, and we’ve done it for 15 years now. It’s a wonderful outing for us.”

The group’s selection of songs for their upcoming competition consists of an eclectic mix, said Ferenc. “There’s rock, Broadway and Disney, so there’s a wide range of a cappella music all done in four-part harmony in a barbershop style.”

Independence resident Pat Shaffer has been a member of the chorus for 40 years, before it was named the Greater Cleveland Chorus.

“Many of these women I call family; they have known my children since they were babies,” said Shaffer. “They attended my wedding, watched my children grow and have been there in the good times and bad. For me, this group of women has empowered me with confidence and support to be the woman I have become. We come for the beauty of the music, but we stay for the friendship and the sense of community.”

Nathan Ogg became the group’s director three years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic. He replaced long-time director Jean Flinn, who retired after leading the group for 26 years.

“We kept our chorus going on Zoom during COVID,” explained Ferenc. “We lost a few members but have built back up since then and have held ourselves together. We did a director search and hired Nathan via Zoom.”

The group will perform its repertoire for the upcoming international competition during a free public show to be held Oct. 22 at the Independence Civic Center.

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The Greater Cleveland Chorus is a chapter of the all-female international singing organization “Sweet Adelines,” which is broken up into choruses in 24 regions worldwide. Photo by Pat Shaffer.

On our cover (photo): The Greater Cleveland Chorus practices every Tuesday night at Independence United Methodist Church. The group includes about 60 singers of all ages and is Cleveland’s ten-time regional champion of Sweet Adelines International, a worldwide organization of female singers. Photo from Facebook.