The Fondest Farewell

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, women, a cappella, Harmony Incorporated, decision tree, Northern Virginia, singing, Christina Lewellen

This blog is written by our outgoing president, our FIRST president, Christina Lewellen.

Well it’s not exactly farewell. I’m certainly not going anywhere. But I am in my final days as Bella Nova’s president. Its first president. I’m assuming this is how it will feel when my daughters go off to college; I’m equally devastated and proud beyond belief all at the same time. It’s the strangest feeling, to be honest. But I’m 100% certain that Bella Nova has an amazing future ahead…and because of that confidence, I’m ready to let go.

In so many ways, I had no idea what I was getting into as the first president of Bella Nova. We’ve had lots of “figuring out” on our hands and I absolutely couldn’t have done it without our board leaders and our very, VERY patient membership. We were all in it together, and we were all committed to its success. Our founders are bonded for life, in my opinion. We built something… we’re still building something… and it’s fun to watch it all unfold.

I know I leave the chapter in the hands of an incredibly charismatic and dedicated leader, Susan Shields. It’s hard to believe I’ve only known her for a few short years because I can’t imagine my life without her. With the support of a very powerful board of directors, Susan is positioned for success. I’m here for you, girl. Don’t worry about a thing.

Look, this blog would be way too long for human consumption if I showcased every woman (and young woman) who deserves my thanks for the last few years. I could easily verbally walk up and down every spot on the risers and tell you how much each woman means to me. Bella Nova Babes: You are my sisters and I love you all. I’m so grateful to you for helping bring Bella Nova to life. Richard and I dreamed of this chorus almost 15 years ago, and you helped us accomplish our dream. I don’t know how to put in words what that means to me.

Speaking of my talented, encouraging, loving husband…Richard, you inspire all of us to be the best we can be. You lead us with the perfect blend of passion, high expectations, and a gentle touch. We are so proud to have you as our director. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish hanging on your fingertips.

As you can tell from all these sappy statements, I wanted to do something big–something lasting–on my way out the door. I wanted to leave a mark on Bella Nova that captures just a fraction of the appreciation I have for this organization. So in what I hope is the perfect blend of sappy, silly, and serious, I have established four award categories to introduce at Bella Nova’s first “big girl” installation banquet on April 3, 2016.

While I plan to keep the recipients a highly guarded secret until our celebration on Sunday, I thought I’d give a sneak peek into the awards and what they represent. The names of the winners have been blurred out to protect their identities! I’m presenting two in each category to cover the last two years….

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, women, a cappella, Harmony Incorporated, decision tree, Northern Virginia, singing, Christina Lewellen, Riser DivaRiser Diva

The Riser Diva award is to recognize the member who epitomizes a core contributor from the Bella Nova risers. This member is always prepared, brings a positive attitude to the risers, and represents the type of singer we aim to attract to our risers. She is often a quiet contributor who gets the job done—and not just vocally. She exudes the type of work ethic and consistent performance to which we should all aspire.

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, women, a cappella, Harmony Incorporated, decision tree, Northern Virginia, singing, Christina LewellenRichard’s Other Wife

Our esteemed Bella Nova director is only as good as the strong women who stand behind him. This member has provided above-and-beyond support to Richard throughout the year, enabling him to bring his best skills and most positive energy to the membership at large. She represents all of Bella Nova by supporting him behind the scenes in ways not often recognized. She positions him for success. In this way, she positions the entire chorus for success.

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, women, a cappella, Harmony Incorporated, decision tree, Northern Virginia, singing, Christina LewellenFabulous Freshman

Consider this Bella Nova’s “rookie of the year” award. She may be new to barbershop, or just new to the Bella Nova risers, but she has already made a noticeable impact on the chapter. She was quick to fit into the Bella Nova culture and her energy is contagious enough to make us all feel like brand new members. We can’t image our chorus without her and, in a nutshell, we are better because she decided to become a member.

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, women, a cappella, Harmony Incorporated, decision tree, Northern Virginia, singing, Christina LewellenThe Invisible Crown Award

Representing Bella Nova’s highest annual honor, the Invisible Crown award is presented to the member whose name deserves to be etched into Bella Nova’s history books for her selfless contributions, unwavering support of the Bella Nova culture, and the positive energy she pours into the growth of our chorus. No matter what the task at hand or the challenge our sisterhood faces, this member adjusts her “invisible crown” and takes care of business. She is the spirit and heart of Bella Nova—and for that we recognize her as chapter royalty.

Signing off…

So there you have it! We did it! From our first rehearsal in August 2013 to our first medal in November of 2015, we’ve had a fantastic couple of years that are more than worthy of a fabulous celebration. It’s now time to raise a glass to the journey ahead!

With much love, thanks, and respect,

Christina, your Almost-First-Immediate-Past-President

Feel Free to Spy on Bella Nova

periscope-logoSo we have been experimenting with something sort of cool. It all started to meet the needs of our members who are not residents of the greater Washington, D.C., area. We have regular Bella Nova sisters who live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, wayyyyy up in New Jersey, and even MORE wayyyyy up in Western New York. As such, we thought it might be interesting to live stream our rehearsals to make it easier for them to keep up with our quickly moving chapter.

As we discussed the idea with our director, Richard, he expressed a desire to let people peek “behind the curtain” at Bella Nova to see what a normal rehearsal looks like. We don’t have any particular secret sauce, but we like to have fun and we take a strong stance on education and personal development in our chapter. So why not experiment with live streaming to see if it would be of interest to an audience beyond our out-of-town members? Maybe it would allow prospects to check us out before taking the first step toward becoming a member. Letting ladies “spy” on us will give them the opportunity to see if our culture aligns with their musical goals (and hopes and dreams!) with ZERO pressure.

Enter Periscope. If you’re not familiar with the platform, it’s pretty simple, especially if you’re simply viewing a live stream. If you pop open your laptop on a Sunday afternoon and visit Bella Nova’s Periscope channel, you’ll be able to observe our rehearsal as it unfolds. The video stays on the Periscope channel for 24 hours, but that’s it. After that, it disappears.

Bella Nova Periscope

Feel free to join us sometime! We rehearse this Sunday from 1pm to 4pm, EST. There’s always room for you on the virtual risers at Bella Nova!


What a Weekend!

Wow! What a weekend for the Bella Nova sisterhood! Once again, we had the opportunity to share the stage with our brothers in harmony, the Fairfax Jubil-Aires. In addition to sharing a director, the Fairfax gents are truly our partners in crime. They have been so supportive of Bella Nova throughout our journey and they’ve welcomed us to take part in their annual show for the last several years. As partners, we work hard to fill the seats in the auditorium and we sure had a successful outcome to our efforts this year. The cherry on top was featured quartet, Route 1; those guys are simply awesome.

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, Harmony Inc., a cappella, Richard Lewellen, female barbershop, Northern Virginia choir, Washington DC, chorus, women singing

A small but mighty Bella Nova contingent on the Fairfax Jubil-Aires show, March 2016.

Our numbers were a bit light this year. So many of our sisters were taken down by bugs, the flu, and other obligations! We were missing about a third of the chorus but the remaining members sure brought their “big girl” voices! In the first show, we knew our sound was solid from the first few lines of the opening song. By the time we got to our contest ballad, “Secondhand White Baby Grand,” we had settled in for a fantastic ride–we were connected to each other, and we were hanging on Richard’s fingertips. The ballad was probably the best we’ve ever sung it. It was magic. We could see it all over Richard’s face! And when we later made our way to the lobby to greet our audience, we were blown away by the comments and feedback we got about our set! What an uplifting experience.

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, Harmony Inc., a cappella, Richard Lewellen, female barbershop, Northern Virginia choir, Washington DC, chorus, women singing

ReVoiced stepped out for a few songs. A special shout out to lead, Grace, who was celebrating her 15th birthday!

We also need to offer a shout-out to our first official Bella Nova quartet, ReVoiced. These ladies always do us proud, but we were particularly proud to have them step out from the risers and represent our chorus with two songs during the show. Not only are they singing better and better with each performance, but it’s clear the audience loves them as much as we do. And best of all…. Saturday was Grace’s 15th birthday. What 15 year old do you know who spends her 15th birthday singing barbershop all day long!?! Happy birthday, beautiful Grace. We love you.

In between the two shows, our assistant director, Kris Adams, taught us some Pitch Perfect mash-ups to keep our voices warmed up and ready to go. A very fun way to pass the time!

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, Harmony Inc., a cappella, Richard Lewellen, female barbershop, Northern Virginia choir, Washington DC, chorus, women singing

The Fairfax Jubil-Aires having some fun with crazy wigs as their music walked the audience through the decades.

All but one song of our show set were arranged by Larry Wright, who just happened to be in the audience for both performances. He told Richard that we did him proud and even elicited a misty eye during the ballad. There is no higher honor for us than to bring our brilliant arranger’s work to life. Larry–you bring the soul to Bella Nova’s music. Thank you.

To top it all off, we had our regular rehearsal on Sunday because, hey, contest is coming! We’re bound and determined to roll out our new uptune so there is no rest for the weary (or wicked, as some might say). We kept it short; we were all BEYOND tired. But we made great progress, warming up with our Pitch Perfect mash-up from the day before, and working hard to refine our choreo moves. We opened our rehearsal to the “interwebs” once again with Periscope and Queen Lindsay “stopped by to visit” for a while! Hi, Lindsay!!! Best of all–a woman from our afternoon show’s audience came by as a visitor and left as a NEW MEMBER!!! We were so excited to meet her and open our arms to another Bella Nova sister!

All and all, another fantastic experience in the Bella Nova journey. XOXO!

Bella Nova Chorus, barbershop harmony, Harmony Inc., a cappella, Richard Lewellen, female barbershop, Northern Virginia choir, Washington DC, chorus, women singing

The big finale!

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

Wow! What a wrap-up to 2015 for Bella Nova. So much of what we’ve been building for the last few years came to fruition in early November when we participated in Harmony, Inc.’s 2015 International Convention & Contests (IC&C). This was our very first time participating in the “big girl contest” and it turned out to be so much more than we could have ever imagined.

To take a step back, Bella Nova is much more than a “contest” chorus. We have spent much of our early days focusing on our path toward an international appearance, but the journey has been rewarding far beyond what we could have expected when we first set our eyes on the end goal. With each rehearsal, we become a tighter knit family, a sisterhood, a true team working together to make meaningful music.

A few weeks before IC&C, we had a serious discussion as a chorus and we decided that it was time to “let go” and put our trust in our incredibly talented director, Richard. We didn’t need to worry about our individual performances if we just trusted Richard. In fact, the song we sang, “Secondhand White Baby Grand” became a song less about a secondhand piano with plenty of life left in her to an analogy for Bella Nova Chorus. We were ready to be “played” and we needed to trust Richard to do what we knew he could do as one of the most experienced and talented barbershop harmony directors on this planet.

Folks, it worked. It worked beyond our wildest dreams. We had SO MUCH FUN up on that contest stage. We did what we meant to do, what we went there to do, and we had more emotion wrapped up in that chorus than any of us as individuals would have thought possible.

When a barbershop contest wraps up, the head of the judging panel will take the podium and execute what we affectionately refer to as “the call off.” When the call off happened in Verona, NY, in that ridiculously chilly auditorium, the following words boomed out over the audience: “Your 2015 5th place medalist chorus is… Bella Nova Chorus!!” From there, the world seemed to implode!! We were hoping to MAYBE make the top 10 in terms of placement; we never anticipated that we would walk away from our first international contest with medals.

We are so blessed that the team at Best Bets Photography happened to be positioned right in front of where our chorus was sitting in the audience. They turned and captured a moment that many of us will, most certainly, take with us to our graves.


And then our president, Christina Lewellen, and our director, Richard Lewellen, were called to the stage to collect our medals!

We are so optimistic about our future. We know from the bottom of our hearts that this was the first stop on a long and fulfilling journey for Bella Nova. We’re going to keep making music that we love, and we’re going to keep doing it in a positive, welcoming, and energetic environment. There’s room for EVERY voice on our risers. Women of all experience levels are coming together to make a sum greater than the parts. We’re reaching the original vision of our chapter one Sunday afternoon rehearsal at a time… and it’s had the unexpected and lovely side effect of some pretty yellow (5th place!) necklaces with which we can now accessorize.

We’re Harmony, We’re Strong!!

2015 Momentum

Bella Nova Chorus, female a cappella, barbershop harmony, Harmony Inc., Northern Virginia

Hi everyone! Boy have we had a busy spring and summer. We attended our first Area Contest & Convention (AC&C) as official members of Area 3 of Harmony, Inc. This was new for us! Before, our chapter had been classified as a “geographically outlying chapter” in Harmony, Inc., but effective with this year’s membership renewals, we were welcomed into the Area 3 family and we qualified for International the good ole’ fashioned way–with a minimum qualifying score!

For many of our members, this was only the second or third time they had every participated in a barbershop harmony contest. We even had a few first-timers! We had an excellent time and we felt great coming off of the stage. As always, Richard (our fearless leader) was a fabulous coach and director. He kept us calm and focused…and, most importantly, he reminded us to enjoy the ride.

We’re now focused on our preparations for this year’s International Contests & Convention (IC&C), which takes place near Syracuse, N.Y., this year. We’re really, REALLY excited about our new ballad. It’s hard, but it’s worth it! We’ll be spiffing up our existing uptune and trying to get more out of it than we have in the past. We’re working really hard and we have a clear vision for the future.

We’re also growing! We’ve had the very good fortune to welcome some talented ladies to our risers this spring and summer. Many of them are making plans to come with us to IC&C, so there they’ll officially be welcomed as part of Bella Nova’s second trip to International but first time to the “big girls’ contest.” We cannot wait!

Our new rehearsal site is working out great. It’s so nice to have a permanent home! Our risers are there, our stuff is stored in our own storage locker…. it’s “home.” Please feel free to stop by and visit anytime! We rehearse at the Ashburn-Sterling Masonic Lodge #288 on Waxpool Rd. in Ashburn, Va.

Until next time!

Come check out our new rehearsal site!

We’re so excited about calling the Ashburn-Sterling Masonic Lodge our new home. This summer is going to be fantastic; there are so many fun things in store for Bella Nova. In case you didn’t know it, you don’t need to audition for Bella Nova and we rehearse just twice a month to align with busy schedules.

Our new address: 43881 Waxpool Rd, Ashburn, VA 20146

See you Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. Check the schedule to confirm which week we’re on!

Our new “forever” home

We had a feeling when we started this chapter that it would take a few tries at the bat to find the perfect rehearsal site for Bella Nova. We have an “interesting” schedule, we come with a bit of baggage (it’s safe to say that ginormous sets of risers are baggage, yes?), and we’re loud (mostly because we’re happy and we have a tag-singing problem).

We’ve had a couple of false starts on the rehearsal site front through no fault of ours or the host facilities. Like adopting a pet, we knew it might take a while to find our “forever” home.

Guess what? We found our “forever” home. At least we hope we have!

With a huge thanks to Bella Nova’s ad hoc rehearsal site search committee, we have officially struck a deal with the fine men of the Ashburn-Sterling Masonic Lodge #288. They have gone above and beyond to accommodate us, our rehearsal schedule, and our risers, and we simply cannot thank them enough for being willing to “adopt” Bella Nova. We are good pets and we promise not to pee on the carpet!

Seriously, though, we’re beyond excited about this new stage in our journey. Right after we return from our Area 3 contest in New York, we’ll shift our rehearsals to our forever home.

Here’s the address:

43881 Waxpool Rd., Ashburn, VA

No rehearsal March 1st

We’re going to have to play it safe, ladies, and not rehearse today. We are so disappointed because of all of the guests who had planned to come, but our rehearsal time coincides with some icing so we don’t want to mess with that.

Guests: if you want to get your study materials sooner than our next rehearsal, feel free to email bellanovachorus @ Gmail. com (no spaces). We will be happy to send the packet to you!

See you March 15 for the “Find Your 15 Minutes of Fame” kickoff!