Greeley Harmonix began in 2011 as a twinkle in the brains of two friends: Julie Palagi and Tonya Olson. Both had been members of other Sweet Adelines International choruses in Colorado - notably Skyline Chorus in Denver for Olson and The Blend Chorus in Fort Collins for Palagi.
Once Olson married, moved to Johnstown and became an instant mom of four she found it increasingly difficult to keep driving to Denver to sing. So, with a heavy heart she decided to leave Skyline.
Palagi had a similar story. She lives in Greeley but worked as an executive in Denver. The weekly commute from Greeley to Denver to Fort Collins and back to Greeley was wearing on her quite a lot so she decided to step out of The Blend.
Starting a chorus in Greeley seemed like a great way to solve their yearning to sing in Sweet Adelines again - and a great way to introduce more women to this wonderful organization!
With their Sweet Adelines experience (and individual tenacity), Harmonix was able to earn their Sweet Adelines International charter about one year after their very first rehearsal. (That’s really fast!)
Shortly thereafter, Greeley Harmonix went to their first ever Sweet Adelines regional chorus competition in 2012 and earned second place Division A (small chorus) and fourth place overall. Talk about a thrilling experience! The decision to start a chorus in Greeley was validated in the best possible way.
So that’s the short and sweet story of the Greeley Harmonix early beginnings. But wait! There’s more!
Besides the fact that Harmonix was to be for all women of all walks of life and always a cappella, Palagi and Olson wanted to instill in the chorus certain fundamental principles that were important to each of them as singers and as women.
The first fundamental principle both women felt was important to the chorus was 1) incorporate healthy vocal skills, always.
Singing in Sweet Adelines can last a lifetime. So it’s vital that each woman in the chorus learns how to take care of her instrument; ie, her voice.
Music Director Julie Palagi is an experienced classical vocalist trained in bel canto style and an educated voice instructor. Not a rehearsal goes by without the introduction and/or reinforcement of healthy vocal techniques. In fact, many of the singers freely admit they’ve learned more about singing as a member of Harmonix than in any other singing group, including high school and college.
Another important fundamental principle is 2) choose personal responsibility. Olson and Palagi believe that each woman is responsible for her own success. Singers are expected to memorize music quickly - normally in two to three weeks. There are numerous tools for learning music and learnng about a cappella harmony, barbershop style. There are extra, voluntary rehearsals and each of the four parts has a section manager that can help as well. Nevertheless, each woman is expected to put in the time she needs outside rehearsal to stay current.
Next, Palagi and Olson wanted a place where women could leave their worries “on the doorstep”.
“As women, we want to feel fulfilled in our lives, yet the multitude of things we do everyday can leave us feeling depleted,” Olson says.
This desire for a way to feel renewed led them to the third fundamental principle: 3) Harmonix is a place to let go of outside problems and stressors and enjoy the harmony and camaraderie of singing with other women. Bring a positive attitude because - no complainers allowed!
Finally - and perhaps most importantly - is the fourth fundamental principle: 4) Greeley Harmonix is a safe place for all women of all ages, all backgrounds, and all walks of life to sing together.
“We want women to feel respected, included and supported,” says Olson. “The common goal of singing a cappella brings us together. Through this singing we learn to accept our differences and, more importantly, accept and love ourselves.”
You can feel the warmth when you walk into a rehearsal, but you’re also aware that this barbershop harmony thing is not for the faint of heart!
“It can be daunting to attend a Harmonix rehearsal for the first time,” says Palagi. “Unless we’re learning a new piece of music we don’t sit and sing. We spend most of the rehearsal standing or on choral risers, performing as we learn about matching vowels, how to synchronize lyric delivery, how to turn diphthongs together, how to balance chords and blend our voices and much more,” Palagi says.
“All of this work provides a level of confidence in the music that allows us to get into the message of the song,” says Olson. “We move and emote and sing with joy and passion. Then we take that emotion and share it with our audiences!”
And their audiences love it! Since its inception, Greeley Harmonix has performed their “Sparkle!” Christmas Concert and Champagne Brunch at the Greeley Country Club to sell-out audiences. Open to the public, Sparkle! is the chorus’s primary fund-raiser that includes a silent auction along with brunch and, of course, a glass of "bubbly".
Harmonix also performs at other venues. They’ve opened for the Kreme of the Krop band's Festival of Trees performance at the Hensel Phelps Theatre, and they regularly performing at Grace Pointe Continuing Care Senior Campus.
In addition, each year since 2013 Harmonix has opened the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s annual dinner and silent auction by performing their stunning rendition of the National Anthem for about 500 people.
Other performances have included “Stars and Stripes Forever”, their concert at the Hensel Phelps Theatre to honor our military men and women, songs from WWII performed at the 2017 Chautauqua at Aims Community College, the Johnstown Quilt Show in 2015, and the Silver Bell Social in 2015 and 2016, to name just a few.
So now you know something about the Greeley Harmonix. Yet one question remains - what in the world is harmonix (pronounced har-MAH-nicks)?
Simply put, harmonics are the resonance frequencies of a tone.
“We wanted to have a little fun with a legitimate musical term that is inherent to our vocal art form,” says Palagi, “so we spelled harmonics with an x."
In barbershop harmony, when all voices are singing the correct notes, in tune, with vowels matched magic happens!
That “magic” is the additional, unsung note (or notes) above the written chord or highest part sung. Not only that, there can also be the perception of a bass note below the female vocal range. That's got to be some kind of vocal magic!
Harmonix knows how to make this magic happen. You’ve got to hear it to believe it, and you’ve got to sing it because you can actually feel it! All the women of Greeley Harmonix will tell you, there’s no other singing quite like it.