A cappella group will spice up concert with guitar, fiddle and poetry
In 2009, after a 30-year career as a performer on the opera stage, Julie Andrews began to realize that her professional career was coming to an end. Andrews, who holds a master’s degree in performance and taught at both Salve Regina and Roger Williams, began to look for another outlet for her talents. That was the beginning on the Accidental Sisters.
“After I stopped singing publicly,” she said, “I missed it.”
The first step that Andrews took was to send out an email to a group of friends who she knew were singers. That was the beginning of the women’s a cappella singing group that now has approximately 25 members who range in age from high school students to women in their 80s.
“We love singing and it’s a cappella,” Andrews said. “That’s very important to us.”
According to Andrews, who serves as the musical director, the group favors a world music repertoire and like to sing in solidarity with women all over the planet. Proceeds from each concert goes to support women’s organizations. The causes include ending hunger and lifting people out of poverty.
The Accidental Sisters will perform Sunday at 3 p.m. as the second of five free concerts in the Friends of the Jamestown Library’s 2013 music series. The stipend that the Accidental Sisters will receive for its performance will be donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank.
Andrews’ years of performing on stage has given her a good idea of what helps to make a wellrounded musical program. She tries to choose music that appeals to different needs. As an example, for the concert Sunday at the library, Andrews has chosen a classical piece by a French composer that is challenging for the singers. She says it requires focused listening by the audience. The piece is juxtaposed against mountain music, African music, Negro spirituals and more modern music that might be heard in a contemporary a cappella competition on television.
Among the groups that Andrews cites as influences are Libana and Sweet Honey in the Rock.
“Those are two a cappella groups who offered an idea of how to coordinate a program,” she said. “We got a lot of our initial repertoire from them.”
Also appearing on Sunday will be the bluegrass duo of Matt and Judy Bolles. The Bolles, with Judy playing fiddle and Matt on guitar, will perform songs by artists Gillian Welch, Paul Simon and Gordon Lightfoot, and will also accompany members of the Accidental Sisters on two songs.
The Accidental Sisters are committed to one annual concert – which takes place in June – and open to other offers. The appeal of the library concert is its location in Jamestown.
“We like singing for our Jamestown friends,” said Andrews, a resident. “I also like that it is a library concert. We were able to add some literary stuff to our repertoire.”
The literary material will come in the form of three villanelles, a type of poetry that is songlike and includes refrains and returning stanzas. The presentation of the villanelles was the idea of group member Dorothy Strang, who has been with the Accidental Sisters since the group’s first year.
Strang, who has lived in Jamestown for five years, has sung with the Jamestown Community Chorus as well as the Baptist church choir. She said that singing is vital to her and is something that she has always done, although not professionally.
According to Strang, who taught English at one time, poetry is an important part of her life and poetry books line the walls of her home. She said that she has spoken to Andrews on a number of occasions about the similarities between poetry and music. The library concert seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring poetry to the performance.
“We had talked casually about bringing some poetry to our performances,” Strang said. “I mulled for a long time what might be a nice kind of poetry to offer. I came up with the idea of doing villanelles, which is a poetic form that is very musical.”
There will be three villanelles presented at the concert. They are Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking,” Sylvia Plath’s “Bad Girl’s Love Song,” and Strang herself will perform Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”
Sonya Morton-Ranney has been a member of the Accidental Sisters since September 2009. She has lived in Jamestown for 25 years and has been involved in both the community theatre and chorus.
“The Accidental Sisters appealed to me because it looked like something different, because it was an a cappella group, and because it was all women,” she said.
According to Morton-Ranney, whose daughter is also a member of the Accidental Sisters, the audience at Sunday’s concert can look forward to seeing a group of women of all ages enjoying music together and benefitting a good cause.
“It’s such a diverse, eclectic program,” Andrews said of Sunday’s concert. “The audience will be able to hear a wide range of sounds. It promises to be a wonderful, uplifting concert.”