By Richard Lewellen
The Artistic Director is appointed by and serves at the discretion of the Musical Director. Formalizing a dynamic and a role that has been filled by Christina since the founding of Bella Nova, I hereby appoint her Artistic Director.
Throughout her life, Christina has been a member of successful women’s barbershop harmony choruses and quartets. Christina shines as a visionary in the branding. She conceived the incredibly potent brand of Epic, 2012 International Quartet Champions of Harmony, Inc. Epic won on their first outing in large part due to Christina’s branding, which included song selection, costuming, choreography/performance, and vocal style.
Christina brought this skill set to the launch of Bella Nova. Throughout our journey Christina has been developing our brand that has two key components: (1) we are strong women who love and support one another, and (2) we are an intergenerational chorus that welcomes and celebrates families singing together. Ultimately, we have created our Bella Nova family.
Christina served as our first president and was instrumental in selecting our first competition music. Jerri White developed the core choreography to our first competition uptune, “Nobody’s Sweetheart Now.”
Following our first year of competition Christina lead the modifications to “Sweetheart” and chose “Secondhand White Baby Grand” as our ballad. With this package Bella Nova earned a 5th place medal in its first International competition.
In our first competition package “Baby Mine” spoke to our love of family but also spoke to our backstory. Christina and I met because of a performance of my Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) International medalist quartet, Riptide. Within a year Christina and I were married and at our first men’s International as a married couple Riptide sang “Baby Mine.” Riptide was very focused on family and the birth of a set of twins for our tenor and a set of triplets for our lead (all of these babies were boys) was shared by the BHS. At this particular International Christina was pregnant with our first daughter, Morgan.
Bella Nova’s next competition ballad was “From the First Hello to the Last Goodbye.” In it we told the story of our chorus, including the central element that we were saying goodbye to a dear friend and chorus member as she moved away. Christina conceived of our “Fit As A Fiddle/For Me and My Guy” uptune to tell the Christina and Richard love story. Rather than being an indulgence, this choice was in recognition that Christina and I were well-known and that our role in the founding of Bella Nova was a story to share. With our strongest chorus to date this package earned 6th place at International.
Christina refined the presentation of “Fiddle” and choose “If I Had My Way” to complete the “Lewellen” story. Christina was introduced as the bride in “Fiddle” and continued in that role as BN became a “greek chorus” to support her portrayal of her fears and hopes as a woman embarking on a new stage in her life. An important subtext was that we all had found a new family in Bella Nova and that we had great hopes for sharing our music and growing our BN family into the future, past this “founding” stage of our story.
During the development and refinement of this package Christina found additional members of BN who had performance talents to share. Adding to Jerri’s foundational training of a great many brand new barbershop harmony singers, Annie Ermlick and Teri Allred bring their years of theatre and musical comedy experience to enhance Bella Nova’s performance skills. They will continue to work with Christina in her formal role of Artistic Director in the realization of Christina’s vision for our next competition package, “Small Fry” and “The Little Girl.”
We are grateful to Jerri, Teri and Annie for their support of Christina’s vision for Bella Nova and for all they’ve done to help grow the performance skills of each singer.
Please join me in formally recognizing and celebrating our Artistic Director, Christina Lewellen.
Musical Director – Bella Nova
Our exciting adventure to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, culminated with 4th place bronze medals… an outcome that was beyond thrilling for the Bella Nova sisters. We welcomed our FOURTH class to the Bella Nova history books and can’t wait to tackle the year ahead!
A huge welcome to Class IV, Betsy, Alessandra, Jennifer, Sarah, and Dawn! We love you ladies and we couldn’t have done it without you.
A big shout out to our chapter quartets, Relative Pitch and Mystic Chicks, for making us proud with Top 20 finishes!
Counting down the days until Orlando!
Earlier this month, we were THRILLED to have another chance to take the stage with our brothers in harmony, the Fairfax Jubil-Aires. For the last few years, we’ve teamed up to share the stage with the guys and present the residents of Northern VA with some awesome barbershop!
We were excited to debut our two newest quartets, Relative Pitch and Mystic Chicks. And our longer standing quartet, ReVoiced, also debuted its new bass! A stunning showing all around!
There were many magical moments throughout the weekend, but nothing compares to those blissful moments we spent on the stage with our director, Richard. In both the afternoon and evening shows, there were highlights of our sets that demonstrated the very best that the Bella Nova sisterhood has to offer.
Great news–we’ll have video to share soon!!!
For now, some pics of our awesome quartets!
We’re in the final weeks before heading off to our second Area Contest & Convention (AC&C) up in Rochester, N.Y. We’re super excited because we’re taking a song we LOVE (“Secondhand White Baby Grand”). It’s a song that means a lot to Bella Nova. It earned us a medal last fall at IC&C and it’s come to signify the Bella Nova journey. It’s a bit like slipping on your favorite pair of jeans…it always fits just right.
But our second contest song is a new uptune that we’ll be debuting with our Area 3 sisters on April 30th. It’s new-ish and the choreography package is super new-ish. We’ll be honest–we were more than a little nervous heading into last weekend’s rehearsal. We still had plenty of finishing touches to put on the song and we had been missing a slew of members due to sickness, work, life, etc.
Any singer who has experienced the weeks leading up to contest certainly understands how that deadline puts a healthy amount of pressure on a rehearsal. We were feeling it, no doubt. In fact, we even decided to push pause on our live streaming of rehearsals via Periscope so we could lock things down and channel our focus.
Then…in typical Bella Nova fashion… a few things happened:
- We scheduled a LuLaRoe fundraiser for the morning of our rehearsal. Suddenly, we were more focused on cute patterns, and “omg, that dress is SOOOOO you,” and teamwork, and writing (BIG) checks. Shopping is therapy, people. Trust us.
- At the previous rehearsal, we identified a few holes in our visual plan and asked the chorus for feedback. Long story short, the emails started flying and we basically crowdsourced the rest of our choreo package. Together, we came up with a plan that would work for area…and we have more enhancements in store for International contest (should we be fortunate enough to make the numbers!).
- We rolled out this crowdsourced choreo at rehearsal. We were fierce. We were committed to getting it right. We worked it… HARD.
- Then, a moment of utter “eye of the storm” breathlessness. As our two fabulous LuLaRoe consultants (thank you Jessie and Stephanie!!!!!) were cleaning up and preparing to leave, we asked them to join us in the rehearsal hall itself so we could properly thank them for supporting Bella Nova on its journey as a chapter. We guided Jessie and Stephanie to the center of the front row and we surrounded them in a great big Bella Nova circle. Then, we sang them our Bella Nova “goodbye” tag. From the first chord we hit, the ladies were physically affected. Jessie, in particular, immediately began shaking and teared up. Then we teared up. Her reaction was so powerful it was breathtaking. It stopped us in our tracks and suddenly our stress about finishing off a contest package was gone. For the ladies in the chorus who stood in front of her, it was a moment we’re unlikely to forget for many, many years. We love you, Jessie. Come back and join us… you’re a part of our family now!
- We talked. We talk a lot as a chorus. We talked about what it means to want to do our best, but not at the expense of anyone being uncomfortable or not having fun. We talked about being our own bratty selves on stage. We talked about what it means to be “Bella Nova” authentic. We’re probably going to execute a less-than-perfect plan, but our goals have nothing to do with being perfect. They have more to do with experiencing this journey as a family.
There are a lot of Bella Novas who are probably sipping some wine and going to bed early tonight. Sunday’s rehearsal was killer in so many good ways. We were nervous, until we weren’t, and now we’re cruising toward Area 3 contest with the Bella Nova spirit, complete with half-baked choreo, a few surprises up our sleeves, and a stronger bond than ever before.
That, in our opinion, is #winning.
At Bella Nova, we talk a lot about the “Bella Nova spirit.” What exactly does that mean? We put it in graphic form in an attempt to capture it.
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….
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.
Richard’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.
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.
The 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.
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
Decisions are hard. This should help!