Web Communicator Displays
Her Artistic Side in Choral Performance
by Pamela McLaren
from Dateline (February 27, 2003)
|The Harborlites, a 101-member chorus devoted
to barbershop harmony, accepts applause following one of their
award-winning performances. Last year, the women’s chorus
competed against teams from New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden and
Canada in the 2002 International Chorus competition in Nashville,
Tenn., and brought home a fourth-place finish. One of their
members is Sheila Faris-Penn, director of Web communications
for University Advancement.
Five days a week for eight hours a day,
Sheila Faris-Penn sits before a computer monitor, working as director
of Web communications for University Advancement.
During the day, Faris-Penn works with bits and bytes,
passwords and digital files, involved in the establishment and technical
support of Advancement’s various websites.
But when not on the job, she is part of a group of
101 women who work with notes and octaves, beats and rhythms to
create beautiful music. Faris-Penn is a member of the Harborlites,
a woman’s chorus devoted to barbershop harmony. On stage her
vocal talents, and not those talents honed on a computer, come to
Faris-Penn and the Harborlites get together at least
one night a week for three hours of “definitely fun, definitely
a lot of hard work,” says Faris-Penn, who has been with the
group since 1996. The sessions are used for intense vocal practice,
including work with voice coaches and a choreographer.
Members of the organization range in age from mid-20s
to mid-80s, and the goal is always to be the very best.
“Competitions are what we live for,” she
The Harborlites’ collective skills and effort
have generated award-winning performances. Battling some of the
best choruses from Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and
West Texas, the Harborlites spent years scoring among the top-10
international choruses by regional score, but only second place
locally. A chorus has to take first place in their region to advance
to international competition, or they can’t compete internationally,
All that changed last year. Sweet Adelines International,
of whom the Harborlites are part, created the wild card system.
“In order to enter the contest as a wild card,
a chorus has to be one of the top-five-scoring, second-place choruses,”
notes Faris-Penn, a baritone. “Our second- place regional
score put us in seventh place in the world –better than most
“This was the first year of wild cards; the
system was mostly created for us!”
Last November, the Anaheim- based Harborlites entered
as a wild card in the 2002 International Chorus competition in Nashville,
Tenn., battling choruses from as far away as New Zealand, Scotland,
Sweden and Canada. And when the last notes passed into silence,
the Harborlites had garnered a fourth-place finish.
Faris-Penn first joined a singing group in junior
high school, taking part in an after-school program. Her teacher
in that program is a member of Harborlites.
After that, the singing bug stuck. She formed a quartet
with friends from junior high and performed together for five years.
She sang all through high school and in college, performed in chamber
and baroque choirs, as well as in community groups.
“It’s just really exciting,” she
says when asked why she continues to go through the intense weekly
training and competitions. “I can’t describe how it
feels to be up on that stage, knowing that I’m doing my very
best. At the international level, the audiences are full of some
13,000 other Sweet Adeline chorus members and they know when you’re
“It’s amazing how dedicated people are
to the Sweet Adeline competitions, and I like how well our group
is performing,” Faris-Penn adds. As an example of why she
is so proud of the Harborlites and the work they do, Faris-Penn
recounted that the group’s annual concert was held shortly
after Sept. 11, 2001. Because of what happened, the chorus decided
to add in patriotic music. Unlike the rest of the program that they
had worked on for months, they learned the additional music in two
For the time being, the Harborlites are recruiting
more women to join the group. “We’re actually one of
the smaller groups at this level, and we need more voices to create
more sound,” she says. Meanwhile, it’s back to the regional
contest this April to qualify for the 2004 international contest.
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