Singing with swing

Crystal Heibner, center, a Shoreview resident, alongside Ashley Lyle, left, and Ellen Puffe, right, performs with the City of Lakes Chorus. (submitted photo)
Crystal Heibner, center, a Shoreview resident, alongside Ashley Lyle, left, and Ellen Puffe, right, performs with the City of Lakes Chorus. (submitted photo)

Area barbershop aficionados to perform at University of Northwestern

City of Lakes Chorus member and music teacher Crystal Heibner is unequivocal in describing the enjoyment she feels when singing and dancing with the barbershop group.

"The camaraderie, having an experience when you're with people and making music is so energizing," says the 37-year-old Shoreview resident. "You use both sides of your brain ... it's euphoric."

Heibner will have a chance to experience that euphoria close to home when City of Lakes performs its spring show, "Singin' with a Swing! An Evening at the Stardust," at 7 p.m. on March 14, at Maranatha Hall at the University of Northwestern.

The show features music from the 1940s and some 85 or so chorus members as Rosie the Riveters, working an assembly line by day and hitting the Stardust club come nightfall.

The nascent City of Lakes Chorus group formed in 1951 and was officially chartered by the Sweet Adelines International in 1952.

Sweet Adelines, which held its first meeting in 1945, is a nonprofit that describes itself as an organization of "women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education, competition and performance."

A chorus member for the past three years, Heibner, who has a speaking role in the upcoming show, says that even though she "loves to sing," she joined the group by happenstance.

"I was doing a Bible study Monday nights and the Bible study ended," she says, mentioning that City of Lakes meets Monday nights at a Richfield church. "I decided I needed a night to be with the girls," the mother of two, added.

All walks of life

Wendy Hamilton, another Shoreview resident and member of two choruses, including City of Lakes for the past year and a quartet, says the lack of musical accompaniment is what makes singing in the chorus so compelling, noting that the barbershop-style harmony creates a sound all its own.

"It's the music and the harmonies that drive us to sing more," she says.

A part-time bookkeeper for a nonprofit, Hamilton, 64, describes her packed signing schedule is "a little insane." She says City of Lakes members, who range in age from the late teens to 90-years-old, "run the gamut."

"People who love to sing harmony come from all walks of life," Hamilton says. "And then we become a team."

Roseville resident Maureen Bushard says she first became involved with a chorus group after she got married and moved to Fargo, North Dakota. She says the "welcome wagon lady" linked her up with a group affiliated with the Sweet Adelines,

"45 years later, here I am," Bushard says, adding that she's been a member of City of Lakes for 25 years, and a member of five chorus groups in total. "We moved a lot," Bushard adds, saying that in each new place she ended up, she could usually find a chorus with which to sing.

"It's an amazing chorus, it's extremely talented," Bushard says of City of Lakes, adding that when she moved from the Twin Cities to Rochester in 1997, she remained a member.

"I commuted for 13 years to this chorus because I didn't want to leave it," she says.

Bushard says the group could be described as a "magnet-type of chorus," in that, beyond her Rochester and back trips, the group has other members who currently trek in from places like Fargo, Mankato and Iowa.

Talent talks

Part of City of Lakes' draw is its consistency in competition. The group's website boasts of its first place exploits in regional competitions, and it finished sixth at the 2014 International Chorus Finals held in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bushard says a part of what sets City of Lakes apart from other chorus groups is its "crystal clear sound." There's also the group's showmanship, one of four categories on which chorus groups are judged, which Bushard says has been a point of emphasis of current director Scott Kvigne, who she describes as "an extremely talented choreographer."

Groups are also judged on sound, music and expression.

Competition gives chorus members a chance to get out of town. Says Heibner, "It's a reason to travel — I've been to Denver and Baltimore."

When it comes to this year's internationals in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bushard says City of Lakes will be one of the best shows in town.

Says Bushard, "We will be as good or better as any entertainment in Las Vegas."

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Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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