Local women’s chorus raises money for breast cancer awareness

With goal of $550 surpassed; collections will extend through November

A photo of chorus members walking over the Ben Franklin Bridge to support Breast Cancer Awareness. Pictured: Nancy Burns, Wendy Alexander, William Cekala and Jeannie Cekala.

The local women’s chorus, Shades of Harmony, has collected more than $600 for Breast Cancer Awareness with its first Shades of Harmony Breast Cancer Awareness Virtual Walk.

Shades of Harmony member Teresa Siwak came up with the idea to create ribbons and start a GoFundMe site to raise money and awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The group originally set a goal of $550 and has since surpassed $600.

“It is the first year, and we are looking for things to keep us busy and engaged and give us a sense of community,” said chorus member Melissa Guzman. 

Along with the fundraiser, Siwak and several other choir members took their ribbons and walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge on Oct. 17 to show support and raise awareness of breast cancer.

“We are just walking on our own wearing our ribbons, getting the message out through social media and our friends and family to help collect donations,” Guzman said.

Shades of Harmony is a four-part chorus and a branch of Sweet Adelines International, a worldwide women’s singing organization. Shades of Harmony was founded in 2001 by Lori Ludlum, a retired music teacher and Williamstown native. The group now involves 30 women ages 16 to 80 who get together to perform across South Jersey. 

“We are like a big family, and we really support each other,” Guzman noted. “Throughout the pandemic, we have been doing drive-by parades for people’s birthdays, since we can’t sing to them at rehearsals.”

Like many other organizations, the chorus has been hit hard by COVID-19. All performances and educational retreats have been canceled: Some of those  performances include the annual show at the Pfeiffer Community Center and Honor Flight performances for Vietnam Veterans. The group has also had to move its rehearsals online via Zoom. 

“As a chorus, it was devastating,” Guzman said. “The Zoom rehearsals are focused on everyone improving their own singing skills, so we work on vocal production and improving resonance and breathing techniques … When we do come back together, we can pick up where we left off.”

Despite the disappointment and cancellations, the choir still wanted to give back to the community. The singers held their annual Build-Your-Own Scarecrow event at Danny’s Farm Market and put together a virtual performance that showcased Shades of Harmony talent. 

“We are just trying to find other ways to keep the chorus active and give them a chance to interact with each other and contribute to our community,” Guzman explained. 

The chorus awaits a decision about protocols for Christmas caroling in December. It   performs annually every Friday in Haddonfield during that town’s Candlelight Shopping event. Chorus members hope to break into small quartet groups to continue that  tradition instead of canceling yet another performance. 

Anyone who wants to join the Shades of Harmony is encouraged to email info@shadesofharmony.org. The chorus will then be in contact about an audition. 

In order to donate to the chorus’ breast cancer awareness fundraiser, visit https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/shades-of-harmony-breast-cancer-awareness-virtual-walk