The local non-auditioned group was invited to perform recently for VIP tourists
By Samantha Bambino
Since its inception in 2012, the 94-member Bucks County Women’s Chorus has accomplished feats most performers only dream of. Not only has the non-auditioned group shared its vocal stylings locally, singing at venues such as Pennsbury Manor and Peddler’s Village, it has toured throughout Europe, headlining shows in Italy, Budapest, Helsinki and Stockholm.
But on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 29, BCWC was featured at arguably its most memorable venue to date — the White House. For an impressive two hours, 50 members performed Christmas repertoire inside the country’s most famous home, providing entertainment for VIP tourists in the exquisitely decorated East Wing.
Several days after the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, The Times caught up with director Pat Guth, who is still in awe over what she called a “surreal” experience.
According to Guth, BCWC’s journey to the White House began in May when she submitted an application for the group to be included in its annual holiday concert series, which runs from the end of November through Christmas. Dozens of performers are selected, with three-to-four singing each day for visitors. Guth sent in two of her favorite audio tracks and a few words explaining why BCWC should be chosen.
“For my essay, I explained more or less that the choir represented sort of every woman because we have singers that range in age from 23 to 86, and they’re from many different walks of life. We have everything from doctors and lawyers to stay-at-home moms and retirees and just about everything in between,” she said. “I think that maybe was a selling point, that we had such a huge range of ages and different kinds of women.”
As spring turned into summer and eventually fall, the application had faded from Guth’s mind. Clearly, she thought, the White House wasn’t interested. But in mid-October, one email notification changed everything.
“Like most of us who get dozens of spam emails each day, I wasn’t sure this one was real,” Guth said. “But after a little examination, I determined that we had indeed been selected to sing.”
With so little time to prepare, BCWC immediately got to work on its song selection, as well as determining which members would get to go on the trip. Though there are 94 members this year, the White House would only allow 50 to attend. To make it as fair as possible, Guth sent out a mass email at a time most of the women would be home. Selection was based on who responded first, with some voluntarily declining.
“A lot of our newer members were very cordial and said, this is really an honor. It should be reserved for people who have been in the choir for a long time,” Guth said.
With the exception of approximately seven members on a waiting list, everyone who expressed interest was invited to go to Washington, D.C. As the group departed on a bus from Newtown and made its way down Interstate 95, there was a mixture of nerves and excitement. This was a huge deal.
Once BCWC arrived at the White House, it was checked in by security and ushered into the foyer of the East Wing, where emotions were at an all-time high.
“One of my choir members was crying, thinking of how proud her deceased mom would have been that she was singing in ‘The People’s House,’” Guth said.
Karen Moyer, a Newtown resident and BCWC member of three years, echoed this sentiment.
“How amazingly fortunate to do something I would never have thought possible — sing with 49 of my ‘sisters’ in the house of the American people at Christmas,” she said. “As we stood in front of the portrait of George Washington in the gorgeously decorated East Room, we all had tears in our eyes and lumps in our throats. An experience of a lifetime.”
The chorus performed from 5 to 7 p.m. with a short break halfway through, showcasing sacred and secular choral favorites to invited VIPs touring the White House that evening. The set included full-group numbers, solos, duets and small ensembles singing favorite Christmas carols.
“You definitely felt that air of it being a formal occasion, but at the same time, the audiences were really receptive and had a lot of fun with our repertoire, which is mostly bright, cheerful stuff,” Guth said.
After the performance, which Guth said was “done in the blink of an eye,” they enjoyed dinner at the nearby Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant before heading home. Looking back on the experience, which still feels like a dream, Guth expressed the sense of pride she feels.
“I think that the really nice thing about the day is that we have people who are of a variety of political persuasions, but everybody put politics aside and made it about the choir and about the performance,” she said. “Professionally for me, it was something that I never dreamed I would do. I’m so proud of that for myself, but I’m even more proud for the women. They worked really hard to make themselves a quality ensemble so that they can be recognized in ways like this.”
It was also a thrill to see that the women upheld their natural, lighthearted persona despite the nerves that were surely felt.
“I was happy to see that they were the same way at the White House. They weren’t all worried about being formal,” Guth said. “They still were smiling and swaying. They weren’t all stiff and stuffy. They were still themselves and I think that resonated with the audiences that stopped by.” ••
For information on the Bucks County Women’s Chorus, visit buckscountywomenschorus.com or call 215–801–1445.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org