Harmony Heritage, Southern New England Chapter of Harmony, Inc. received its Charter in January 2001. This was the culmination of almost a year of planning between The Harmonettes and Rhode Island Sound Chapters. In April 2002, under the direction of Renée Tramack, Harmony Heritage qualified for the first time to sing on the international stage in Indianapolis, Indiana in November.
In Spring 2000, the Board of Directors from The Harmonettes Chapter of North Attleboro, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Sound Chapter of Providence, Rhode Island met to discuss the possible merger of their Chapters. Both Chapters were well-established and long-time members of Harmony, Inc., an international educational organization consisting of women from throughout the United States and Canada who sing 4-part a cappella harmony in the barbershop style.
Not only were The Harmonettes and Rhode Island Sound similar in size, with each Chapter having approximately 20-25 members, they also rehearsed a mere 15 miles apart from one another. The Board Members knew the task of melding these two chapters together would prove a unique challenge, but felt a merger would benefit both chapters. So a comprehensive plan and long-range goals were established and presented to a joint meeting of the membership for approval.
Following is a brief history of each chapter.
The Harmonettes were organized in 1957 by Mary Perry of Attleboro Falls, Massachusetts. In those early days, few of the members had barbershop singing knowledge, but were fortunate to receive a great deal of help from the near-by Melody Belles Chapter in Providence, Rhode Island. It was this Providence Chapter, after breaking away from another women’s singing organization, that conceived and formed Harmony, Inc. in 1958. The Harmonettes Chapter was one of five original Charter Chapters of Harmony, Inc.
After struggling for about a year, The Harmonettes had the great fortune to acquire Bob Turcotte as their Director. His knowledge, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn and improve, provided the momentum for future successes. In the 16 years he directed The Harmonettes, they entered 14 contests and obtained Medalist standings in each of them, with eight First Place honors. Since the chorus won three consecutive contests, they were not permitted to compete in 1964 and 1972. The Harmonettes won their ninth First Place finish in 1977, under the direction of Dick Naas.
The Chapter also takes pride in the fact that they produced three Harmony Queen Quartets: The Chord Jills, The Debonnaires and Talk of the Town. Several Harmonettes have served on the International Board of Harmony, Inc., with three – Charlotte Sneddon, Skidge Heath and Barbara-Ann MacIntosh – attaining the position of International President. Skidge Heath designed the membership pin for Harmony, Inc.
With the exception of 1976, The Harmonettes participated in every competition from 1960, Harmony, Inc.’s first convention and competition, until the merger to form Harmony Heritage. The Harmonettes are extremely proud of their accomplishments and bring a rich tradition to Harmony Heritage.
Rhode Island Sound’s history began in 1975 with the merger of three Harmony, Inc. Chapters, all of whom were based in Rhode Island. The members of the Village Green Chapter of Greenville; the Rhythm-Aires Chapter of East Providence and the Providence Chapter (known as the Melody Belles) of Providence began a series of meetings and joint rehearsals with the possibility of a merger in mind. The meetings included singing together and discussion sessions where all members offered their views on the feasibility of merging. A vote was finally taken and Rhode Island Sound was born! Rhode Island Sound received its Charter from Harmony, Inc. in September of 1975. By that time they had hired Bill Green, an experienced barbershopper, director and coach as their Director. With about 70 voices in our chorus, they prepared for their first International Contest in Moline, Illinois and were thrilled to place sixth.
Their first scripted show, “By the Sea with the Sound’, included three costume changes for the chorus. Especially memorable was “On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City”, complete with old-fashioned bathing suits and their patriotic finale of “Grand Old Flag”. Rhode Island Sound was blessed with much artistic talent and its annual shows featured innovative set decoration and costuming along with a creative story line. They supported Harmony, Inc. by inviting the current championship quartet to appear in their shows and often invited a local group from the community to perform. Of course, they always supported their chapter quartets and they appeared as well.
They continued to work on improving their sound and placed third at the International Chorus Contest in 1977 and fourth the following year. They gained a reputation throughout the organization for original visual presentations and always looked forward to creating something new and entertaining for the next contest or show.
Through the years members of Rhode Island Sound served Harmony, Inc. by participating in International as well as Area II activities. They hosted a Directors’ Seminar and several Harmony Education and Coaching Days. In 1984, Rhode Island Sound had the honor of hosting Harmony, Inc.’s Silver Anniversary Convention in Providence, RI.
In September of 2000, Rhode Island Sound represented Rhode Island for the National Festival of States Bicentennial Celebration in Washington, D.C. While there they performed at several venues, including the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, Navy War Memorial and the National Cathedral. Upon their return, they celebrated their 25th anniversary with a pot luck dinner and, of course, lots of singing. These were essentially the last major events as Rhode Island Sound, as they had begun preliminary merger discussions with The Harmonettes. The two choruses have now joined forces as Harmony Heritage and have received their charter from Harmony, Inc. The members of both chapters bring much experience, enthusiasm and love of harmony to the new venture.