Thank you to our Chorus Historian, Shirley Koebbe, for providing this written History.





          In January of 1959, sixteen women met at the home of Frances Cecil to discuss the formation of a Sweet Adeline chapter in the Utica area. Temporary officers were installed that night with Frances Cecil, Chairman; Norma Cutler, Secretary; and Emily Stanley, Treasurer. It was decided to meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Monday. Eight months later, in September of 1959, the Utica Chapter officially received its charter from Ruth Davenport, Vice-President of Sweet Adelines, Inc. The chapter party was held on February 11, 1960. Our newly registered chorus, named The Charmonizers appeared that night in their first chorus dresses of turquoise eu-de-sole with black shoes. This was the beginning of women’s barbershop singing in our area.

          In 1960, when the Rochester membership equaled that of Utica, the name was officially changed to the Utica Rochester Chapter.

          Again, as our membership encompassed more than Utica and Rochester, our name was changed in May, 1973 to the Macomb County Chapter. As our membership continued to grow, we felt that Macomb County did not accurately describe the area included, so in 1979 our name was changed to Great Lakes Chapter.

          Our first show was presented to the public on February 10, 1962. Two months later we entered our first Regional Competition with twenty-three members participating. We placed 9th that year and were beginning to feel like real Sweet Adelines. Our director was Louise McColl.

          In December of 1962, assistant director Gerry Horler stepped from the chorus to become our new director. Under her guidance, we entered competition again in 1963 and in addition to placing 9th, won the Mardi Gras award for the best chorus of under thirty members. We had 23 members on stage.

          In 1964, our third year before the judges, we placed 5th and had a good case of competition fever. In 1965, with a chorus that had grown to 35 voices, we placed third and began to realize the results of hard-working rehearsals. By continuing to strive for perfection, we continued to remain in the "top five". We have won the Regional 1st place award under the direction of Gerry Horler in 1969, and in all the contests in which we competed under the direction of Carl Dahlke: 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1980; under the direction of Paula Mullis Rink in 1983 and under the direction of Lee Balaguer Davison in 1989, 1992 and 2001.

          As the 1975 Regional winners, we competed in International contest in Cincinnati,. In October, 1976, where we placed 8th. There were 16 choruses competing. As 1976 Regional Champions, we competed in the International Contest held in London, England in October, 1977, and placed 13th. In October 1979, we again appeared on the International stage in St. Louis, Missouri, placing _____th; Two months before competing in the 1981 International contest, we welcomed a new director, Paula Mullis. We placed 19th in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1982 we placed 2nd in Regional competition in Detroit under Paula.

          In 1983 we were given the prestigious honor – we were selected to hostess the 37th annual International Convention, held in Detroit, October 25-29, at the Westin Hotel and Cobo Hall. Headed by Sheila Bornemier and Betty Kraft, and supported by every Great Lakes Chapter member, we welcomed over 6,500 Sweet Adelines from all over the world.

          Winning our Regional in 1983 gave Great Lakes Chapter the chance to represent Region #2 at the International Convention in Las Vegas in 1984. Armed with high hopes, hours of voice and choreography coaching, 82 of us appeared at the Las Vegas convention center. Out of 27 competing choruses we placed 15th.

          1986 found us once again, in the throes of change, Paul Rink resigned as our director after five wonderful years. Assistant director, Sylvia Karpinsky became Interim Director and took us into competition in the Spring of 1987. We placed third and felt that under the circumstances we did extremely well.

          Lee Balaguer came to us in May, 1987 and immediately big things started to happen to the Great Lakes Chorus. Spring competition, 1988, found us in 2nd place behind Spirit of Detroit. We were thrilled with 2nd place that year because we had other fish to fry.  June of 1988 found 50 chorus members and 25 guests on an Ambassador Tour, spending 19 days traveling and visiting the Coastline Harmony and Purbrook Choruses in England; the Aberdeen chorus in Scotland; and Ysselstein chorus in Amsterdam, Holland. We put on shows and workshops in each of these countries and sang in Covent Garden in London, England and had a wonderful time sight seeing and making new friends. We had four days R & R in Lancaster, England, visiting the Lake Country, the Cathredals, Stonehenge, Bath, and many other wonderful places.

          Again in Flint, spring of 1989 we won the Blue for first place in Regional Competition; making us eligible for the International stage in 1990.

          We couldn’t rest on our laurels. 1990 was our busiest year yet. We traveled to Midland, Michigan to sing for the Michigan Traveling Arts Showcase and were put in their catalogue. In June, 1990, the chorus spent five wonderful days in New York City, where we sang on the stage in Carnegie Hall. In August, while singing on the stage in Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan, we were presented a commendation plaque by state Representative Sal Rocca. October, 1990 we spent five glorious days in Salt Lake City, Utah where we placed 8th out of 26 choruses on the International competition stage – the highest placement any chorus in our region had ever achieved to that date.

          January 12, 1991 our director Lee Balaguer became Mrs. Dan Davison and about thirty of us went to Toledo to attend the wedding. Lee directed us in a short performance at the reception so that her new husband Dan could see and hear us for the first time. March of 1991 "A Happening" happened at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. We shared our stage with the 1990 Region #2 Champions East Pointe Chorus; the 1989 Queens of Harmony, "Growing Girls" from Sweden; and the 1990 International 2nd place winners "Swing Street". 

          Great Lakes Chorus was the hostess for "Fiesta Grande" at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids in April, 1991. We had a lot of work to do and performed, as outgoing Champions, in the Show of Champions. Memorial Day, 1991 found us riding in the Sterling Heights Memorial Day parade. We performed in the opening ceremonies in front of the city hall and were taped by Comcast for presentation on the Sterling Heights Community Channel. In June we worked at the Willow Run air show again, for two days. 

          In October, 1991 "Swing Street" – staring our tenor, Sylvia Karpinski – became Queens of Harmony in International Competition at San Antonio, Texas. This is a great honor for our chorus as well as for Sylvia and her quartet, and we are very proud of them.  During the July 4th weekend of 1991 the Great Lakes Chorus had the honor of singing in Washington, D.C. representing the State of Michigan. We were billed as the Gerald Ford Choir. Sixty-five members attended. A good time was had by all. We sang in the Independence Day parade; were given a tour of the White House and sang on the White House steps; sang in President’s Park and various other places. It was a special weekend too because the Desert Storm soldiers were being honored and welcomed home.

          On November 2, 1991 GLC was the guest chorus at "A Celebration" in Oscoda, Michigan to help the Jill Pines Chorus celebrate their 10th anniversary. We stayed over night in the homes of our host chorus members. We sang Christmas Carols at Troy Beaumont Hospital on the evening of our Xmas party.

          April, 1992 competition at Grand Rapids, Great Lakes once again became champions of Region #2. This was the second time in a row, since we had not competed in 1990 or 1991, due to International "sit out" rule. Also in 1992 we were invited back to Washington, D.C., including a trip to Spain and Italy in celebration of Christopher Columbus; and we were invited to sing at Disney World and various other attractions in Florida. As it turned out, we were unable to do either of these trips, but it was an honor to be invited. July 1, 1992 found us on an open air stage in Algonac, performing at the Pickerel Festival. August 6 -7 , 1992 we had a membership drive at Sterling Heights Arts and Craft Show at Dodge park. September 19, 1992 we performed at the Almont Apple Festival. October 3 & 4 we had a choreography coaching retreat with Jim and Marcia Massey. November 7, 1992 - We had two performances of our "Boulevard of Dreams" show at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts with guest quartets 1991 Queens of Harmony, Swing Street and 1990 SPEBSQSA champions "Acoustix".

          December 12, 1992 we performed in the small town of Bad Axe, Michigan, as guest chorus for the Lake Huron Chapter show.

          On January 14, 1993, the Great Lakes Chorus performed in a benefit show for Rick Davis, a rare-cancer patient, at Center Line High School. The show was called "A Little Help From My Friends" and featured us along with the Macombers, the Wayne State University Jazz Band, One Beat Back and Chad Harben. Spring of 1993 found us once again "sitting out" Regional, by hosting the competition and performing as outgoing champions, for our peers during the Show of Champions in Grand Rapids. The theme of that year’s competition was Headed For The Future and it was a big success. Other performances we did in 1993 included the Builder’s Show in Detroit, memorial Day parade in Sterling Heights, guest chorus at the Fenton Lakes Chorus show and the City Lights Barbershop chorus show, the Maumee Bay Resort in Ohio, and Xmas caroling at the Sterling Heights Christmas Noel night. Our next International competition, was the 46th International Competition in October, 1993 in Indianapolis, Indiana, we placed 7th (once again, the highest any chorus from Region Two has ever placed – so far).  We had many fine coaches over the years.  Most recently we have had voice coaches Renee Craig, and Dale Syverson, and choreography coaches Gail Jensic and Jim & Marcia Massey.

          November, 1993 found us in Indianapolis competing in the 46th International Competition. We were very happy to come home with the 7th place award. We celebrated with a big party for the Aberdeen chorus the night we won.

          In January of 1994, Great Lakes Chorus quit the concession stand business at the Palace of Auburn Hills after five years, and branched out into BINGO. We ran the Monday night BINGO at the FOB hall in Ferndale for eight months. In January, 1994 we had our first "Ready, Set, Grow" program to find new members. We gained six new members from this class.  In the Fall we had our second Ready, Set, Grow class and gained seven more new members.  Winter Regional weekend was held in Windsor, Ontario. Several of our members attended and we were very proud of our brand new quartet, Affinity Fore, winners of the novice quartet contest.

          In the 1994 Regional competition in May at Grand Rapids, Great Lakes had three quartets competing: Affinity Fore, Accolade, and PrestigeAccolade placed 2nd and Prestige placed 3rd. it was a very emotional weekend for Great Lakes. We placed 2nd, in chorus competition, but more important, on May 10, we said our final farewell to Lee; presenting her with a video tape of the Balager-Davison years (1987-1994). In June we worked the Selfridge Air Show, selling souvenirs and tee shirts; in July we had a full chorus performance for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League’s anniversary dinner in Lansing; a small group sang at Pete & Frank’s Fruit Market ice cream social in Sterling Heights; a performance of a concert series at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Royal Oak and an open house for a new subdivision in Rochester. Summer music camp in Kalamazoo was a combined weekend with Region 2 and Region 3, and was attended and enjoyed by several of our members. The Great Lakes Chorus celebrated our 35th Anniversary this year with a big party. We were happy to see many of our past members, regional officers and members of many other choruses.

          While our search for a new director was going on, we were happy to have Beth Anne Shier as our Interim director; and as her assistant, Peggi Starky.

          After our exhaustive search for the perfect director; on September 20, 1994, David Wallace started as our new director. David drove 230 miles from Canton, Ohio to be with us each week. He is also the master director of the City of Flags chorus in Canton. We were really excited about our future under his directorship.

          1995 was another exciting year. Once again we shared the stage with Eastpointe chorus at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. The show was called "A Happening, Take II". We had several great coaching sessions, with coaches Gail Jensic, Tom Gentle, Tori Postma, and Sylvia Alsbury.  Competition in London, Ontario was great fun and we placed 2nd, following Spirit of Detroit.  Competing quartets were Affinity Fore, Accolade, and Prestige. We had nine novices on stage. Again this year, we sang in the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade and worked the Michigan Air Show. Our new money making adventure was to usher at the Silverdome in Pontiac for Lions football games and other events. We were hired by Arganbright Security. We gave celebration parties for both Eastpointe and Spirit of Detroit choruses. Five of our members became brides in 1995. Ready, Set, Grow in September brought in eight new members. We helped sponsor two different programs called "Swing & A Pitch" and helped Swing Street present them to teenage girls at Dakota High School and Marysville High School. We received grants from Young Women In Harmony for these events and performed with the girls on stage in the evening of their days of learning.  The 50th Anniversary of Sweet Adelines at International Competition in New Orleans, Louisiana was attended by many of our members. We helped out the Coronet Club by working in their booth, selling their tapes, CDs and records, and made money for our chorus by doing it.

          Our show "Hot Buttered Barbershop" on February 10, 1996 was held at the Dakota High School, a brand new school with a state-of-the-art auditorium. It was a great success, and according to many fans – "the best show we have ever done". Marquis – 1995 SPEBSQSA Intentional Quartet Champions were our performing guests and also charmed us with their humor and song during our break between shows..

          May 4, 1996 found us at a great competition in Grand Rapids. In the quartet competition we were represented by Prestige (2nd place) and Affinity Fore (6th place). Accolade did their final performance as a retiring quartet. The chorus members were stunned by our placement of fourth, until David explained how great our scores were. There was only one point difference between 1st place Thumb Area Chorus and 2nd place London Chorus, and only one point difference between 3rd place Eastpointe chorus and 4th place Great Lakes . Great Lakes’ total score was 572, higher than we have ever scored in the past.

          Another new fund raiser came into our midst in the spring of 1996. The Argenbright Security Company liked us so much that they asked us to be head ushers at the New Detroit Opera Theatre, for Michigan Opera Theatre’s spring season, which opened with a Gala in April, staring Luciano Pavorati. Some of us worked the Gala, LaBoheme, Romeo & Juliet, LaTraviata and Salome. We also worked two concerts at the Silverdome starring U2 and The Rolling Stones. July 1st we performed at the Commerce United Methodist Church in Pontiac as part of their concert series. We had the privilege of competing in the Buckeye invitational", which is a competition for 2nd place winners from the previous year. This was the first year that the SPEBSQSA opened this competition to women’s chorus. It was held on August 17, 1996 in Columbus, Ohio. 

          Great Lakes Chorus members decided in 1997, not to renew David’s contract and said their good-byes to him. We were lucky to learn that Lee Davison was able and willing to come out of retirement and return as our new director. We welcomed her with open arms. Lee began her new directorship in September, 10 years after she originally came to us.

          At Regional competition in Flint, April 1997. Great Lakes Chorus, with our new Director, Lee, placed 5th and received green medals. This is the first year that medals were awarded for 4th and 5th place.

          Great Lakes was honored in the spring of 1997, to have our own Kay Kastens installed as Regent of Region #2. She made us proud again when she was installed in 1998 for another year in that office.

          Early in 1998, we celebrated the fact that we reached an important goal, when Jill Chambers became our 100th member We then quickly went beyond one hundred. Our new risers finally arrived in March. On April 5, GLC performed as guest chorus for the Festival Sounds show in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. April 30, 1998 we performed for the VFW Loyalty Day Ceremony in Southfield; and on May 1, for the Macomb County VFW Loyalty Day Ceremony, at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights. On May 5, the evening of our annual family dress rehearsal night, 25 members, under the direction of Assistant Director, Peggi Starkey, performed at the Mother’s Day banquet at the American House Senior Citizens home. Regional competition was held in London, Ontario. We placed 3rd, receiving white medals. We are once again on our way up the competition ladder! Early morning on May 27 found us singing, once again, for the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade opening ceremony. The members of Great Lakes Chorus were deeply saddened  this year by the deaths of two well loved long time members, Donna St Amant and Nancy Brzoska.

          Our greatest show yet, according to many sources, was the Oct 10, 1998 "Spooktacular-A Howling Night of Harmony", held at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. It was spooky and so much fun, with everyone dressed in Halloween costumes and singing songs like Zombie Jamboree, That Old Black Magic, Love Potion #9,and Monster Mash. Due to a death in Lee’s family, Peggi Starkey directed the show.  In December we had small groups singing for the Sterling Christmas and at the Dakota High School night for homeless children.

          We had coaching this year with Sylvia Karpinski, BettyLou Coleman, Gail Jensic and Jim Arns.

          At Regional competition in Grand Rapids on April 24-25, 1999 Great Lakes Chorus once again placed 3rd. We improved our scores over last year with an "A" score in Showmanship. We were only seven points out of second place. We had four novices on stage. May 1, 1999, GLC performed once again for the VFW Loyalty Day Ceremony, at Freedom Hill in Sterling heights; with Peggy Starkey directing. We also sang in the opening ceremony for the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade. May 20.  We had a standing ovation for a group of 18 performing at Temple Israel in August. and another small group performance for the 100th anniversary of St. Joseph’s hospital in Clinton Township. Our show this year, "http://www.glc.com", was held on October 23, 1999 on stage again at the Macomb Center For The Performing Arts.

          The year 2000 was a very busy and exciting one for Great Lakes Chorus. In May we managed to come in second place at Regional Competition with a score of 613 helping Lee to become a "Master Director". In July many of us, along with some husbands, and other guests, took a seven day cruise to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Majesty. We performed two shows on the ship and one on the island. For our annual show "Rhythm & Bluegrass" we once again shared the stage with Eastpointe Show Chorus.  Guest quartets were Bluegrass Student Union and Motor City Mix.

Stay tuned to your GLC History Channel, there is more exciting GLC History to come...........