Whidbey singers raise voices for charity

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Sweet, melodious music fills the sanctuary of Oak Harbor Lutheran Church nearly every Monday evening, as the vocal quartet Angeli and its accompanists gather to rehearse.

The Whidbey Island group has been performing publicly for 11 years, putting on concerts to benefit various causes. Its latest performance is set for 7 p.m. Friday, May 20 at Oak Harbor Lutheran and the beneficiary will be Ryan’s House for Youth.

“We are all singers and we love any chance to sing, so when we decided to do concerts, we thought we could do a fundraiser for charity,” said Angeli member Cynthia Akins Fletcher.

Besides Akins Fletcher, Angeli includes vocalists Sharon Erickson, Carol Fitzgerald and Joni Keller, with accompanists Verna Morgan and Jan Ernst. The group has supported a wide variety of organizations and individuals in need over the years, raising anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars through free will offerings.

“We always ask, “Who’s in need? Who can we help?” said Fitzgerald.

“It feels great,” said Ernst. “We get to pick where the money is going.”

“We’ve helped everyone from single individuals all the way up to bigger organizations on the Island,” said Erickson. “This is our community and we want to give back to it.”

“And we get to do something we love, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” agreed Keller.

As the women gather around a table in the church foyer to talk, their bond is clear. The conversation jumps around quickly as they finish each other’s sentences, the conversation peppered with laughter as they reminisce over shared memories and favorite moments.

Love of performing and love of music is in all their blood. Several of them met while doing performances at the Whidbey Playhouse. When they learned of each other’s love of music, they began singing together for the pure enjoyment of it, people telling them they sounded like angels when they sang together, according to Akins Fletcher. And so Angeli was born.

The group has given about two concerts each year since forming. While most concerts are held at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church – several of them attend services there – the group has performed at many other venues around Whidbey. The ladies even have their own groupies – faithful audience members who attend all Angeli’s concerts.

“We love that connection with those recurring audience members,” said Erickson, an elementary school music teacher.

Keller, a middle school music teacher, was an audience member before joining the group four years ago.
“I’m new to the party,” she laughed. “But I think it’s really important for the audience to be able to put our faces together with the name. Not everyone is familiar with the group.”

Members say Angeli sings a variety of music, and some in the audience may be surprised by what they hear.
“We’ll sing anything from Latin to modern music,” said Fitzgerald.

“We certainly sing a variety,” said Keller.

“There should be something in the concert that appeals to everyone,” agreed Erickson. “There will be something familiar, something a little on the edge. We sing about a lot of topics. Our concerts aren’t in-your-face sacred music, just beautiful music.”

But the group likes to have fun as well.

“There’s not a single concert we do that doesn’t have something silly or fun,” said Erickson.
It has taken a lot of work over the years for Angeli to get where it is today, musically speaking. Members plan their lives and their vacations around concert dates and near weekly rehearsals. The harmonies heard in performances don’t just happen overnight.

“You have to sing together for a while before the sound starts to mesh together,” said Erickson. “You have to know music and you have to be of one mind about how to interpret it.”

To get four vocalists and two accompanists on the same page may sound difficult, but the camaraderie and support these women find through Angeli’s music has them all singing a very similar tune.

“It’s just fun to be able to work with creative people in a small setting, and make beautiful music,” said Ernst.
“I love the music, the camaraderie and to be able to keep my voice strong and up to par,” said Fitzgerald. “I love our group, the people, the friendships.”

“Getting to do grown up music has helped keep me teaching for 35 years,” laughed Erickson.
“And it’s good because the kids need to see that music doesn’t just stop when you get home from school,” agreed Akins Fletcher.

“There’s nothing better than doing something that brings the community together,” Erickson said.
“This is just our little way of giving back to the community,” said Keller.

Angeli’s concert, entitled “Why We Sing,” is open to the public. A free will offering will be collected to support Ryan’s House for Youth. Information is available by calling Oak Harbor Lutheran Church at 360-679-1561 or via email at angeli_quartet@comcast.net. The church is located at 1253 NW 2nd Ave., across from the Oak Harbor High School auditorium.

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