Bucks County Women’s Chorus director Pat Guth is forming new mixed-voice SATB choir
By Samantha Bambino
When her youngest child set off for college in 2012, the “mom duties” of Holland’s Pat Guth were all but diminished. With no one to drive to school or pack lunch for, her days were suddenly overrun with seemingless endless hours to fill.
In Guth’s quest to find a meaningful hobby, she unwittingly formed the basis of what would soon become the internationally recognized Bucks County Women’s Chorus. Now, after six years of unprecedented success, she’s seeking members for an all-new SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir for women and men alike, a project that will commence in September.
The idea for a second, mixed-voice choir stemmed from feedback Guth received from a number of Women’s Chorus members, whose husbands and grown sons sought a creative, supportive outlet for their voices. In her 42 years working as a music director at various churches and schools, the Westminster Choir College alum found most men to place a stigma of unmasculinity on the performing arts. But here was a group willing to join their wives and mothers in an undertaking far outside their comfort zone.
As we speak, Guth is gauging the interest of potential members and preparing for the fall season. The new choir, which has yet to be named, will operate very much like the Women’s Chorus in that it will be a non-auditioned group open to singers of all ages and skill levels. According to Guth, music is never memorized, so the ability to read it isn’t a prerequisite.
“We’ll perform what I like to call ‘light’ repertoire, which includes standards, show tunes, spirituals, pop, and an occasional classical piece that’s accessible to the amateur singer,” Guth said. “It’s a formula that’s worked with BCWC and I think it’ll work with the new choir, especially since many of the SATB choirs in the area do very serious classical and sacred works.”
The Women’s Chorus currently boasts members ranging in age from 23 to 80 who hail from 30 towns across Bucks and Montgomery Counties and Philadelphia. The self-described group of “Singing Sisters” encompasses virtually every profession including doctors, lawyers and homemakers. While some have sung their entire lives, others haven’t done so since high school or college. Still, each shares a common passion.
“They all come together because they love singing,” Guth said. “It’s a safe place for women of all skill level.”
In the six years since its creation, BCWC has made a local name for itself, performing at venues such as Pennsbury Manor, Pearl S. Buck International, Bucks County Visitors Center and Peddler’s Village, just to name a few. In addition to the dozen annual concerts hosted in its own backyard, the Women’s Chorus embarks on an international tour every other year. To date, the group has traveled to Italy, Hungary, Australia, Finland, Sweden and Scandinavia, with a potential excursion to Montreal planned for 2020.
Never in Guth’s wildest dreams did she envision herself traveling the world with her very own chorus, which simply started as a way to kill some time. She never realized how many like-minded women craved a light-hearted yet quality outlet for their voices, which was severely lacking at the time. That is, until she advertised her initial idea with a few press releases. Within a single week, Guth received 115 phone calls from women indicating interest, with 81 attending a meet-and-greet. BCWC welcomed 80 members its first year, and hasn’t fell short of that number since.
Guth stressed that although practicing is important, especially before a multiple-date international tour, her sole mission is to create a sense of community rather than a high-stress atmosphere. Members of the BCWC often do social activities together, such as attending Phillies and Trenton Thunder games, as well as partake in philanthropic initiatives. In its six years, the group has donated approximately $10,000 to local women and art-based nonprofits. Guth’s hope is for the SATB to enjoy a similar camaraderie, especially since a number of loved ones will potentially join together.
The Women’s Chorus rehearses weekly on Mondays at Twining Village in Holland, and there is a membership fee of $30 per month or $270 per year. BCWC’s fall season will begin Sept. 10 and run through the end of May. The SATB choir will have a similar cost and rehearsals will take place on Wednesdays, though the location is still to be determined. To start, Guth expects the new ensemble to present six to eight concerts per year at local events and venues.
“Right now, we’re just trying to gauge interest in this new chorus and are gathering names and phone numbers, much as we did with the women’s chorus,” she said. “As the summer progresses, we will put more details in place and will have secured a rehearsal location, at which time we’ll contact all who indicated interest and provide them with more information.”
Those interested in speaking with Guth for further details on the SATB choir can email email@example.com. All are invited to join, including current members of the BCWC. For more information on the Bucks County Women’s Chorus, visit buckscountywomenschorus.com. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org