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October 7, 2011 > Fremont woman heading for international barbershop quartet competition

Fremont woman heading for international barbershop quartet competition

By M. J. Laird

Kathy Hebert of Fremont heads to Houston in two weeks with more than one song in her heart. She will step briskly onto center stage at the convention center, taking her place alongside three other Bay Area women, her partners in the PDQ barbershop quartet, singing a cappella at the 65th International Sweet Adelines competition, October 17-23.

Before a live audience of 10,000 and a team of judges, Hebert, Leah Brooks of San Rafael, Karrie Colette of Campbell, and Laura Conners of Tracy - one of the 10 female barbershop quartets in the world - hope to croon their way to distinction.

Barbershop harmony first entered Hebert's life during her senior year in high school. After college, a chance meeting with her high school coach led her back to barbershop. That was more than 20 years ago. Beyond the joy of liquid words and opportunities to perform, Hebert finds community support, a Sweet Adelines sisterhood of women who come to each other's aid through every life transition, from births to deaths, from crises to celebrations.

During regional female barbershop quartet competition in Nevada last April, Hebert and PDQ were tapped to represent Region 12 at the international convention in Texas. An audience of 500 gave PDQ a standing ovation even before their repertoire ended. Unaccustomed to this show of emotion at a performance, Hebert was flummoxed, then later moved since "standing o's" as she calls them are rare in competition.

Region 12, which stretches from Redding to Monterey and Hawaii to Reno, designated the group as its representative to the 64th convention in Seattle last year where PDQ placed 35th. The group formed four years ago and together represents more than a century of singing. Brooks sings lead, or melody; Conners bass; Colette tenor, or soprano; and Hebert baritone, the "left over notes that glue the chords together." Unabashedly Hebert reports, "I sing the best part."

Beyond the required two selections-a toe-tapping upbeat tune and a ballad-PDQ will spice its presentation with entertaining talk and other songs. Often, PDQ explains its name. Running out of time to find a moniker, Hebert voiced at their first meeting four years ago: "We better do this pretty darn quick."

On Sunday, October 9 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., PDQ hosts its second and final fundraiser at Hebert's Glenmoor home in Fremont, a "Pies, Pies and More Pies" event where pizza (pie) and dessert pies will be served. Brooks, whose pies were a summer winery fundraiser hit, will also bake pies for auction. Her recipes can be found in a PDQ cookbook, available on its website.

For Hebert, singing comes as naturally as breathing. Reportedly singing since age two, accompanying Mitch Miller on television, Hebert followed the ball as it bounced over the lyrics, long before she could read a word.

"I can't imagine life without singing. It makes me so happy," says the mother of three teenagers, who serves on several boards and as a parent volunteer for musical and theater groups in which her teens are involved. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Regional Center of the Eastbay, a private, non-profit corporation providing services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities.

"I've been singing barbershop since 1982 and I've never looked back. I like it all from Tin Pan Alley songs of the 1920s and '30s to Frank Sinatra's 'Come Fly With Me' to Steve Wonder's 'Sir Duke.'"

Through barbershop singing, Hebert met her husband, Chris, well-known in the singing field as a barbershop judge, coach and competitor. He serves as the primary coach for PDQ. This common interest helps with home life, explains Hebert, since her husband understands the commitment competition can require.

At least one night a week, she is out singing, and with international competition just days away, she is singing on weekends as well. Most often PDQ meets in Alameda at the home of a Sweet Adeline "angel" as Hebert calls Carol Ansley, who opens her house as a practice facility and serves meals to feed the group.

In January 2012, a campaign using the song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," Sweet Adelines worldwide will invite new members to share their passion. Beyond opportunities to sing and perform, the organization has strengthened its educational efforts, teaching proper breathing and methods to maximize the voice, says Hebert. She serves as regional membership chair, visiting chorus's region-wide and recruiting new members.

With a proclivity to look for life's sunny side, Hebert nurtures a song in her heart, not just when she's competing for what she calls the "Olympics of Sweet Adelines," but also at times when life can seem to toss punches. Right now, she can be found humming a Broadway musical, lingering on the words: "Destiny beckoned, I never reckoned second best. I won't look down. I must not fall. This is the moment, the sweetest moment of them all."

"I never imagined that Sweet Adelines could open so many doors," reflects Hebert, "so many opportunities to grow personally, to step into leadership roles, to head a 120 member chorus for four years. I just never dreamed this."

For more information about the October 9 PDQ fundraiser or the January membership drive, call (510) 790-139.

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