Bellebirds on board

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Barbershop quartet The Bellebirds have come full circle. 

The foursome of Wakatipu ladies first came together in the Bird on a Wire barbershop chorus – created for the TSS Earnslaw’s 90th anniversary celebration voyage to Kingston. 

Next Thursday, they will entertain 350 guests on the vintage steamer’s 100th anniversary, on the same re-enactment cruise of her first commissioned sailing. 

Singer Cheryl Collie says: “There were ten of us in the group back then and that was our first performance. We reformed later as a barbershop quartet. 

“It’s a very distinct style of music– the lead who sings the melody line, the tenor who sings high, the bass and the baritone – and we’re all constantly singing different notes. 

“I’ve been involved in quite a lot of choral music over the years and barbershop is one of the most difficult styles to learn but once you have it is very satisfying.” 

Collie, a baritone, is joined in The Bellebirds by Vicki Buckham (lead), Jill Tremain (tenor) and Pip Macauley (bass). 

Their repertoire is more than 40 numbers. 

“We work to achieve what we call the blend,” Collie says, “where we’re all tuned in together, all singing exactly the same phrasing and tempo. In barbershop terms we talk about making the chords ring.” 

With the noise of the coal-fired engines and the clink of 350 champagne glasses, the Earnslaw will present a difficult performance space for The Bellebirds. They plan to overcome this by giving a multitude of two-number performances to small groups. 

The Bellebirds play the sold-out Earnslaw re-enactment cruise next Thursday