Greater Nassau Chorus chalks up regional, international awards

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The Greater Nassau Chorus, an a cappella barbershop chorus on Long Island since 1960, continues to find success in regional competitions. The chorus recently won its 13th regional title, receiving first place in the Greater New York/New Jersey Region 15 Regional Competition in Albany. The chorus was awarded medals for first place overall, first place Division AA chorus and the Renee Craig Performance Award, for earning the highest combined scores in the Showmanship and Expression categories.

“It’s very powerful to be able to do something with a group, as opposed to being able to accomplish something on your own,” said Harriette Walters, the group’s director.

Comprising women that come from different walks of life, GNC covers jazz, Broadway show tunes, contemporary rock and pop music, making them a chorus for several generations. The entire ensemble and subset quartets have performed at venues ranging from weddings to Radio City Music Hall, and have appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning.” The group has about 60 women, while its competitors are typically twice or three times that size.

“It comes down to the sheer will of it all,” Walters said of the Baldwin-based group. “It’s all about believing that you can, and never ever giving up.”

“Even though we’re a small group, we have big voices,” said GNC member Marisela Luna-Thompson, of West Hempstead. “Together we have a strong voice, and it’s something that everybody admires.”

Luna-Thompson, who manages a dental office, has been in the group for 12 years. She is a lead singer, and has been a member of the group’s management, membership and activities teams.

“I didn’t know what barbershop singing was until I found this group,” she said. “Now it’s a part of my life. It’s something that I always wanted to do, but I couldn’t find a group like this. This was the perfect place for me . . . It fills me up.”

The group’s experience level ranges from people who sing in the car to professional performers. “It’s an amateur group, so we try to get everyone to perform at the same level,” said Mary Austin, GNC’s marketing and public relations coordinator.

GNC has become accustomed to being vulnerable and taking constructive criticism from judges. “With a small group, you’re very exposed,” Austin said, explaining that there is less room for error. “But we feel that we’re able to grow so much because we get a lot of feedback, and we have to really be efficient because of our size, but we feel that it’s also improved our skills.”

Members of the group, which has also notched nine top-10 international awards, would agree that their different personalities, strengths and weaknesses have contributed to their overall growth over the years. As director of the group since 1984, Walters said that working with a diverse group of women has been life-changing.

“It’s a journey, and you have to think of it that way,” she said. “You can’t think of it as just one goal. We’re always looking at the big picture.”

Walters said that it comes down to each individual realizing her potential. “I’m not sure if they realize it, but I do,” Walters said. “They can do more than they think they can, so my goal is to convince everybody that we can be unstoppable, and we really have to all believe that.”

GNC is currently preparing to compete in the Sweet Adelines International Competition in New Orleans in September 2019. Luna-Thompson said that the singers hope to finish first at the event, and that the group has much work to do in order to reach its goal. “It’s a process, but I know that if we put our whole soul into it, I know that we can be number one,” she said.

The GNC’s summer home is Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, and they are currently holding open auditions. For more information about membership or to book performances, visit www.greaternassauchorus.org.