Their love of singing developed in different ways.
“Singing has always been a part of my life,” said Sandy Everly, of Land O’ Lakes. “On Sunday nights, at home, my mom played the piano, and my sister and my dad and I would sing.
“Actually, I learned to harmonize at a very young age.”
Cathy Frey, of Wesley Chapel, recalled “my parents used to play these reel-to-reel tapes with these singing groups … I was always singing.”
Nancy Hansel, of Lutz, said her mom had a radio show. “They were Two Girls and a Guy. That was their name.”
Fran Byers, of Wesley Chapel, said her dad used to sing to her in the car. “My dad was a crooner. He could sing like Bing Crosby,” she said.
Beth Bosserman Curts also recalls lots of singing in the family car.
“We had to drive everywhere. Florida to Kansas. Kansas to Boston.
“My parents would throw the four of us in the car and off we would go, and this was before air conditioning, and the radio was not very good.
“Mother and Dad taught us all these rounds.
“We just clicked off the miles by singing rounds. You had to hold your own part.
“I grew up singing different harmonies in the car on those crazy road trips.”
No matter how their musical path began — each of these women now belongs to Toast of Tampa, a group of female a cappella singers that performs in four-part harmony.
Toast of Tampa is one of the more than 700 choruses of Sweet Adelines International worldwide. The group will compete at the Sweet Adelines International 71st annual Convention & Competition, Oct. 9 through Oct. 14, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Toast of Tampa has had success at the international level, including third-place finishes in 2015 and 2013, and the top prize in 1993. In between, they had a number of top-10 finishes.
It’s a challenge these women relish.
“This will be our 13th time on the international stage,” Curts said. “It is so exciting to sing at the level we’re singing at.”
Closer to home, the show chorus will be presenting a public performance on Nov. 4, at the University of South Florida’s School of Music Concert Hall.
Toast of Tampa defies the stereotypical notion of “a bunch of gray-haired ladies with crinoline dresses,” Frey said.
Under the direction of internationally recognized Tony De Rosa, the group sings modern, complex arrangements.
It is also a selective group, requiring its members to audition and holding them to high expectations.
Toast of Tampa practices on Tuesdays, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with occasional weeks off. The sessions are at the TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, at 4121 N. 50th St., in Tampa.
Those interested are welcome to come to a rehearsal to see if joining the chorus is something they wish to pursue.
The group has 120 active singers, ranging from age 10 to 85, Curts said.
Toast of Tampa draws members from all walks of life, including military veterans, new moms, grandmothers, real estate agents, accountants and others.
Beyond being devoted to singing, members should expect to incur costs of $1,000 to $1,500 a year, added Curts, who in addition to being a member, handles media and marketing duties.
The monthly dues are $51, with prorated dues for those under age 25. A portion of the dues is paid to the national organization and the rest goes to rent the hall, pay the director and cover other costs.
There are also costs associated with regional competitions every year, and international competitions every other year.
The costs are no greater than those for other pursuits, and the value goes beyond voice lessons, Frey said. Toast of Tampa involves dance and choreography, and helps members develop poise and confidence, she said.
It’s a workout on many levels, Hansel said.
“I go to chorus, and I stand on the risers and I sing. It’s physical. It’s mental. And, challenging. But, when I start breathing and singing, and singing properly, on a great night, and we’re really cranking, it’s like I’m running a race, and I am winning. I feel so physically good.”
“It’s empowering,” Byers added.
Chorus members come from throughout Tampa Bay and other parts of Florida, including Jacksonville, The Villages, Sarasota, Bradenton, Fort Myers, Orlando, Melbourne and Crystal River.
“I drove from Sarasota to Tampa for 23 years, and then my husband had died, and I moved to Land O’ Lakes,” Everly said.
The relationships forged among members go beyond a shared passion for singing, members said.
They describe it as a sisterhood.
When someone is sick, they said, other members respond.
When a member has a new baby, it is deluged with love.
Toast of Tampa Show Chorus presents Standing Room Only, featuring special guest Voctive
Where: University of South Florida Music Concert Hall, 3755 Holly Drive in Tampa
When: Nov. 4, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Cost: $40 patron; $25 regular
Details: The Toast of Tampa Show Chorus is an internationally recognized female chorus that performs four-part a cappella singing. As they perform, they sing and move with emotion and precision.
Published Oct. 4, 2017