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Cascade Harmony heads to Honolulu

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kim McCormic (third from left) participates in two vocal groups, Cascade Harmony and Touché Harmony (pictured here). Also pictured: Jan Anton, Gina Baker, Kim McCormic, Patty Cobb Baker.Think of Cascade Harmony as a female barbershop quartet — times 12.

Nearly 50 singers participate in the Canby vocal group. They hail from across the Portland area. The youngest member is 17, and the oldest is well into her 80s. Together, they sing a massive four-part harmony, covering everything from show tune standards to well-worn pop hits.

“It’s an interesting hobby, because in our style, we don’t require people to know how to read music,” member Marianne Allison explained. “We sing at a pretty high level, and we work on technique.”

It’s arguably a more intuitive approach, one that Allison compares to “oral tradition.”

“It doesn’t require people to be trained musicians, just to sing,” she said. “There’s a lot of education in our chorus, but we don’t have people who majored in music, or are musicians per se.”

Of course, there is the occasional exception — like Tualatin’s own Kim McCormic.

McCormic brings with her some serious street cred in the world of barbershop, which she prefers to call “a cappella harmony.”

“Literally, her quartet was judged the best in the world,” Allison said, explaining that McCormic’s other group, Touché Quartet, just won first place in the 2013 Sweet Adelines International Quartet Convention in Denver, above 53 other groups from around the world.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cascade Harmony, an all-female vocal group, is based in Canby.McCormic, a bass, has been singing a cappella harmony since 1988, and is a veteran of such events. She ultimately assembled her own dream team quartet with three other women she kept running into at vocal competitions: tenor Patty Cobb Baker, based in Long Beach, Calif.; lead Gina Baker of Tampa, Fla; and baritone Jan Anton, of DeLand, Fla.

“We took a year to just connect and get the voices melded together,” McCormic said. “It entailed flying to a mutual spot in the country to rehearse. We’d have long, extended weekends.”

But McCormic was able to find a local outlet for her talents in Cascade Harmony, and has sung with the group for the past five years.

“I just really enjoy them,” she said. “They’re a wonderful group of women. They really share that sisterhood of a cappella singing.”

The feeling is mutual.

“She helps us as kind of an inside coach,” Allison said, calling McCormic “inspirational.”

“To learn from someone who’s getting the best coaching, and singing with the highest-level singers” is a major benefit to the group, Allison added.

Final show

According to Allison, Cascade Harmony has been around since the 1960s, then known as the Piper Belles, rebranded as the Barlow Trail Chorus before finally settling on their current name. She admits the group struggled, and credits the leadership of current director Sandy Cahill, whose high standards and insistence the group compete nationally marked a new chapter of success for Cascade Harmony.

That approach is propelling the singers to Honolulu, where in November they will compete in this year’s Sweet Adelines International Convention. They’ve got something most other groups don’t: One of last year’s reigning champions in their ranks.

But first, Cascade Harmony will perform a final show in Canby, with a set list that includes everything from Cole Porter selections like “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” standards like “Love Letters,” a few samples from The Beatles and the Bee Gees catalogs— and even a little Toto. Touché will perform as the opening act.

McCormic is excited to take the stage on Saturday with both her vocal groups.

“There are so many women, and singers in general, that just really, truly love to sing,” McCormic said. “If they don’t go to church, it’s like they don’t know where to go to sing. This particular group has been huge about really, really embracing women with all different types of talent levels. Collectively, we really make some great music. It’s really a lot of fun.”

Touché and Cascade Harmony will perform Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Richard R. Brown Performing Arts Center (721 S.W. Fourth Ave., Canby). Tickets are $28. For more information, call 503-266-SING or visit cascadeharmonychorus.com or touchequartet.com.

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