After 20 years of singing together, a Central Iowa Sweet Adelines quartet will give one of its last performances right here in Nevada.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, the Sweet Adelines group made up of Cheryl Philpott, Jane Tham, Betty Fulton and Kay Bromert (formerly of Madrid) will take the stage at The Talent Factory, where this barbershop-style quartet, which has put on several hundred performances since 1993, will share favorites like "Java Jive," "Santa Baby" and other selections from the group’s large Christmas repertoire.
"We are really excited for this opportunity," said Bromert, who recently visited Nevada’s historic downtown theater, which she described as beautiful. "We can’t wait to sing on that stage."
Bromert recalls the time back in 1976 when she first joined Sweet Adelines, a world-wide organization of women who sing barbershop-style music in choruses and quartets. "My husband (Ron) had been a charter member of a men’s barbershop chorus in Atlantic, Iowa, but there was no Sweet Adelines chorus there. We moved to Madrid, and I saw an ad in the Boone County Shopper for the Ames Sweet Adelines, so I went to visit and ended up joining."
The Ames Sweet Adelines at that time had 40 to 45 members from all around the Ames area, including Nevada, Bromert said. "We had yearly show in C.Y. Stephens in the fall and a regional competition every spring, and then we had other performances in the area at various times. I remember singing on WOI once to promote our show, and we often did Christmas performances."
Bromert enjoyed the women of the Ames organization, who she described as warm and welcoming, and she loved the style of music they sang. When Ames director Leatha Hansen retired, Bromert applied, auditioned and received the position of director for a few years. "I have a degree in music and was anxious to try my hand at directing. I did enjoy it," she said.
In 1985, Bromert left the Ames Sweet Adelines when her family moved to Des Moines. A few years after that move, she said, the Ames chorus combined with the Boone chorus and was known as the ABC chapter of Sweet Adelines. "They (the Ames, Boone group) disbanded several years ago, as their membership dwindled," Bromert said. Some of those members joined the Des Moines group, now known as Harmony Central Chorus.
In the 1980s, Bromert’s life changed when she and her husband, who was principal at a Catholic school in Des Moines, answered an ad for an American School for a copper mining company in Peru, South America. The ad said a school there was looking for a teaching principal with a wife who could teach elementary-age children. Bromert, who has a teaching background, said she and her husband fit the bill perfectly and took the jobs. "We signed a two-year contract, and ended up staying for 10 years," she said.
The school in Peru was on a North American school calendar, so the Bromerts were in Peru for nine months of the year and back for about three months in the summer. They also came home on Christmas breaks, and during those breaks, Kay would sing with the Des Moines chorus.
In 1993, knowing that she missed singing barbershop music, she started to think about forming a group of four. On one of her trips back to Des Moines, she stood in front of a new member of the chorus (Cheryl Philpott) who was singing lead. "I heard her voice and knew it had qualities that would blend with mine." Bromert was a baritone.
When she returned to Peru, Bromert wrote to Philpott asking if they could get together with two other women in the chorus when she was home for summer and Christmas break. "We could just sing for fun," she wrote. And they did.
Joined by Jane Tham, bass, and Bette Fulton, tenor, they sang for fun and have continued to sing for 20 years. Bromert has been the arranger of most of the songs they sing.
"We have become like a family to each other, and we are great friends. We have laughed and cried together; we have had six weddings (one was Cheryl’s, the other five were children and grandchildren), we have survived breast cancer (Jane), we’ve sung all over Central Iowa and we’ve had way more fun than it should be legal to have," Bromert said.
After 20 years, Bromert said the group is retiring because "our lives are going in different directions. Jane’s husband is retiring and they will be spending several months of the year in Phoenix. Cheryl’s children are very involved in school activities and it’s getting harder and harder for us to get together to practice."
The quartet has a few holiday performances planned for this month, including the one at The Talent Factory in Nevada on Dec. 14. It is hoped that local residents will attend the show and let themselves be entertained, as this group of four women, connected by a mutual love of singing, go out on a high note.