Front Porch Magazine
Ashleigh Chevalier was preparing to perform in Fredericksburg’s annual Christmas parade last fall, and in the spirit of the season she envisioned a group of female vocalists lifting each other in support and friendship. The realization that there was more to music than getting on stage and performing gnawed at her, and she realized how easy it was for musicians to lose sight of that and fixate on their own successes. Today she explains, “It is difficult to put yourself in front of people in a competitive industry. The best way to deal with that anxiety is to kill it with kindness, love and support.”
Karen Young concurs, “Those of us with years of industry experience should help beginners gain more exposure and confidence. We’re all artistic women, which adds to our insecurities. We brightened at the opportunity to engender creativity within the safety of a group of female friends, certainly for empowerment, but most of all for camaraderie.”
A recent addition to Singin’ Ladies, Lisa Wyland describes the benefits of engaging with women who have industry experience, “Though I have been a singer for many years, I just recently started writing songs and playing my guitar. The ladies have never criticized my efforts. Someone will pipe in with, ‘hey, this is nice’ or ‘this would sound good here.’ I had the creative energy before, but Singin’ Ladies has given that energy an outlet.”
“It’s kind of a mixed bag of expectations,” muses Kathy Douberly. “I think everyone takes a different approach to it; some think we’re going to do great things, while others simply enjoy the cooperation and learning each other’s songs. Ultimately, we all love to sing.”
The ladies’ mainstay is their monthly showcase at Bryan Highland’s 909 Saloon. Chevalier emphasizes that these have allowed the women to hone their talents, and she credits Bethany (Wolfe) Cleveland for taking the first step as a headliner, “During rehearsals we generally jam and wing our way through covers, but on the night of Bethany’s acoustic showcase we performed her original music. We spontaneously took turns chiming in with her and you could feel the lift in the room when we unintentionally harmonized with one another. We all went to tears. The awe grew in the room that night, and it continues to grow with each show.”
Laura Shepherd shares her own experience with showcasing, “The first time I sang with three of the ladies backing me it was so beautiful I forgot the words to my own song.”
Emily Barker ascertains that this spontaneity remains a highlight of the group. “One of the first events we did was Christmas caroling in front of Virginia Wine Experience,” says Barker. “We were winging it, and people stopped to listen and ask about the group. Here comes a girl who joins in and starts singing with us. I thought she must be a local singer, but she was just inspired.”
In addition to supporting each other, Singin’ Ladies of the ‘Burg set altruistic sights toward the future. Douberly hopes to extend the group’s musical reach to people who are unable to attend the showcases, such as those in elderly care facilities or confined to their homes. A live Christmas album is also in development for sale later this year. Proceeds from both projects will be donated to charity.
The Singin’ Ladies of the ‘Burg will play their next showcase featuring Emily Barker on Friday, October 28, 2011, at 909 Saloon on Caroline Street. For complete bios and more information, visit them here:
A.E. Bayne is a teacher and writer who has lived and worked in Fredericksburg for thirteen years.