There’s a certain magic in a cappella singing — the art of performing unaccompanied choral pieces. And a local group formed just prior to the start of the pandemic is filling the Coachella Valley with that magic.
Alan Scott, director and founder of Coachella Acappella, the only all-female a cappella group in the area, explains that the style “uses only the voice box, lips, teeth and tongue to shape the music,” telling stories with familiar words and providing new meanings for the listener.
“A cappella has a special kind of magic that is unlike any other kind of music because you are the instrument yourself,” he says.
Shortly after the group was started, the pandemic struck. “We rehearsed for a few months and then we were forced by Covid into meeting virtually,” Scott says.
For Sherri North, who sings with the group, and also works as management team director, the chorus has been a fun way to get back into singing after more than two decades of being away from it. “It’s such a peaceful moment,” she says. “The music takes my mind off the hustle and worry and brings happiness to me.”
She has a dream “for us to be able to perform, educate and compete as a successful chorus representing the valley in regional and international contests.”
For her, Scott is the person to make all this happen.
“He is a fantastic director to work with, who prides himself in bringing empowerment to women, to be and do our best,” she says.
Scott himself is proud of the group. “These women are passionate about musical performances,” he says. “It’s magical how they sing in tune,” adding, “It also releases massive endorphins in the singers.” He started Coachella Acapella in 2019 because he saw a need for a women’s chorus. “It’s my niche and my passion,” he says. “We were a good fit because there weren’t any all-female groups in Coachella Valley and we needed one.”
Currently at 15 dedicated members, his goal is to bring the numbers up to 50 or more singers, with a definite goal of “diversity that reflects the desert community.”
Scott’s experience in choral music goes back a long way. He directed his first chorus when he was 16 years old at Murphy High School in his hometown of Mobile, Al. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in Church Music and Vocal Performance and a master’s degree in Choral Conducting.
In his time, he has sung and worked with various shows and groups, including Lucie Arnaz, Florence Henderson, Barry Manilow, Sandblaster Chorus, the New York Choral Artists, and the Alan Scott Choral in New York City.
Song has always been part of his life. His mother, Jan Prouty, won more a cappella Sweet Adeline contests (the female version of barbershop harmony) than anyone else in the region.
He proudly mentions that “My mom was the first woman in the history of the Barbershop Harmony Society to direct a men’s chorus in adjudicated competition.” And on the other side, his father also sang in two men’s choruses, and a district champion quartet. “I’m quite proud of my barbershop Harmony lineage, as you can see,” he says.
However, it was his mother who was his inspiration. “Because of her love of singing, I started signing at a very early age and developed a love for communicating through music.”
Coachella Acappella performs a wide variety of musical styles; everything from gospel, to music by Pentatonix, an American a cappella group from Arlington, Texas.
More information: Anyone interested in singing with the group can contact Scott for an audition through http://www.coachellaacappella.org/. The only requirement is that you are able to maintain a tonal center — in other words, carry a tune. And Scott makes it clear that “I make the auditioning experience comfortable and those auditioning can sing anything they choose.”