Without music, what would life be? “Without a song or a dance, what are we?” Abba’s “Thank You For The Music” asks.
It’s the lead song in this week’s set planned by the Long Island Sound Chorus of Sweet Adelines International.
“Because we’re thankful for the music,” said Peggy DiSunno, who directs the 38-member ensemble.
Despite the pandemic, the group has never missed chances to sing together, albeit virtually. From March 2020 until June 2021, they held weekly rehearsals over Zoom. Then, beginning last summer, they returned to their home base at Hampton Bays United Methodist Church’s Anderson-Warner Hall and worked outside, singing, masked, in the parking lot.
The group typically prefers to rehearse on risers and enjoyed the chance to practice in the bowl-shaped space at Good Ground Park several times last summer.
“We each stood on different rows,” said DiSunno, who’s directed the group since 2004 and been a member for 44 years. They hope to get back to practicing on risers in January. “We haven’t been standing that close together yet,” the director explained. The women worked outdoors until it got too cold.
The group traditionally performs an annual show at Guild Hall in East Hampton and at flag ceremonies and memorial ceremonies, for civic and charitable organizations, in hospitals, veterans homes, assisted living facilities, plus “quite a bit at Christmastime, usually,” DiSunno said.
Slated to perform at Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor this weekend, they canceled their appearance in the show as COVID numbers began to tick up on Long Island, and some members worried about being indoors with the huge audience that the house of worship can accommodate. The church holds up to 800 people, DiSunno explained, “and probably between 400 and 500 come. It’s a wonderful venue.”
The Sag Harbor Community Band, which traditionally has performed with the Sweet Adelines, will still host its holiday concert on Saturday.
The group has been practicing for their Christmas show all fall. Boasting an array of music lovers whose hometowns range from Amagansett to Mount Sinai, the ensemble had to find a way to sing, to make the season’s joyful noise, and to, in what’s become COVID parlance, “pivot.”
Because they need a little Christmas, Saturday, December 11, will be anything but a silent night, or afternoon. The group now plans to carol outdoors, one might say in the winter wonderland, at several locations.
They’ll bring their a cappella, four-part harmony to the gazebo on Main Street in Hampton Bays at around 1 p.m. From there, the carolers will dash through the snow (if any) to Riverhead to sing at an as yet undetermined locale; DiSunno figured it will be the Target store.
At 3:45 p.m., they’re heading to the Peconic Bay Medical Center Rehab, where Mae Bianconi is convalescing, and serenade their fellow Sweet Adeline, singing under her window.
The Sweet Adelines perform about 12 to 15 times during a typical year. Once the holidays are in the rearview, the focus turns to an annual competition in Albany come May. This winter, the group will be working with special coaches to prepare to compete alongside about 22 choruses from New York, New Jersey and Long Island. “That’s always fun. We do two songs, have costumes and choreography. We work hard for that,” DiSunno said.
The Sweet Adelines of America organized in 1945 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since then, Sweet Adelines International has grown to some 30,000 women singers in some 600 chapters worldwide. Their musical style of four-part harmony provides a challenge for the artists who memorize their parts and sing without instrumental accompaniment or reading sheet music.
Turning back to the more immediate future, DiSunno said of Saturday, “On the 11th, we’re singing. We’re still singing.”
The Sweet Adelines are always eager to add to their chapter. DiSunno invites any woman who loves singing to stop by Anderson Warner Hall any Wednesday at 7 p.m.
All they want for Christmas is you.