Harborlites Young Women in Harmony Festival 2015

Harborlites Young Women in Harmony Festival 2015

Harborlite Chorus helps young singers find their inner ‘Diva’


Jan. 29, 2015  |  Updated Feb. 2, 2015 12:03 p.m.


In a world of elaborate, over-the-top musical productions, one Orange County-based choral group is showing high school girls that it’s actually all about that a cappella bass, baritone, lead and tenor.

The Harborlites chorus, a chapter of the Sweet Adelines International, is an award-winning barbershop-style women’s singing group based in Anaheim that draws members from as far as Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, San Diego and the Inland Empire. Including 110 singers ages 16 to 87, the Harborlites reach out to the local community each year by hosting its Diva Day Young Women in Harmony Festival.

Since 2006, the organization has invited schools from all over Southern California to take part in the one-day festival in which students can learn from seasoned singers the techniques and skills needed for barbershop-style singing.


The popular 1950s tune, “At the Hop”, is sung by the La Habra High School’s Sweet Harmonics, Valerie Rodriguez 17, from left; Elizabeth Palomo, 15; Amanda Macias, 18; and Taylor Garcia, 17. The women’s barbershop quartet will perform at the Diva Day Young Women in Harmony Festival at Orange Coast College on Saturday.

The goal of the festival is to give young girls an experience they may not get from their choral programs in school, said Young Women in Harmony Festival Chairwoman Karen Ridout.

“It’s really educational for them with a performance aspect to it,” she said. “We wanted to plant the seed, so to speak, and let them experience the joy and the skill of singing barbershop a cappella harmony.”

The 10th annual Diva Day festival, set to take place Saturday at Orange Coast College, is expected to attract more than 200 attendees from 20 schools in Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Students will learn a variety of skills, including how to sing as a tenor, lead, baritone or bass, and lessons on stage makeup and costuming as well as a real-life application. They’ll finish up by singing for friends and family at the end of the day.

Neyla Pekarek, cellist and vocalist for Grammy-nominated folk-rock band the Lumineers, started singing barbershop style at a young age. She continues to sing with the Harborlites and will teach a clinic at the festival. She said she was honored to have the opportunity to work with up-and-coming singers at this year’s festival.

“Diva Day is a great way to give young women an introduction to this craft,” said Pekarek. “ It’s an environment where they’ll be with their friends singing in the barbershop style, which really demonstrates the best parts of barbershop right off the bat – not only the great music, but the camaraderie that comes with it. As a clinician, I (pick) the music we will perform, and I’m hoping it will get these gals excited about this art form.”

Lizeth Navarro, a senior at La Habra High School, has attended the Diva Day festival for the past three years and said she has learned valuable skills that have improved her singing and performing confidence.

“The members of the Harborlites Chorus take the whole day morphing us into not only singers, but performers,” said Navarro. “It is always entertaining. … I am excited for the new pieces that we get to sing and the bond that the whole chorus gains throughout the day while making music.”

Said Pekarek: “Being able to create an entire musical ensemble with just the use of the human voice is something really special, and it takes such a certain set of skills that other styles of music just don’t require. Barbershop, specifically, demands such a high level of both vocal skills and intonation because the chord structure is so rich, and when you do reach a point where everything is working and chords are ringing, it’s just really satisfying.”

Many of the students who’ve attended in the past say the highlight of the festival is being able to perform alongside the Harborlite Chorus for an audience. Not only can students test out their newly gained skills, but they get to show them off to their biggest supporters.

“Every year I bring someone new to the final concert, and I’ve always been told that it’s the best they’ve ever seen,” said Monica Menjivar, a senior at La Habra High School. “Not only do you enjoy hearing a huge choir of girls who have been working on the music all day, but you get to see performances of the Harborlites Chorus and barbershop quartets. It is truly an event you don’t want to miss.”

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