Ase Hagerman, an expert in barbershop singing, was in Dubai to spread the musical word

One woman's commitment to harmonise the world through music has taken her across the globe.

Ase Hagerman was in Dubai last week to hold a workshop on the nuances of barbershop singing.

The Swedish vocal artiste is a music teacher, speech therapist and a Sweet Adelines International's certified faculty member.

A music and speech therapy graduate from the Stockholm Music Institute, Ase (pronounced Os'ah) is the director of Sunlight Chorus, a barbershop chorus in Kista, Sweden.

Under her they have won the Nordic championships six times. Representing Nordic countries, Ase led the chorus at the championships organised by Sweet Adelines International in 1999 and won a Silver medal.

Barbershop harmony allows female singers with various voice ranges to enjoy the experience of singing in a chorus.

Ase has sung duets with Sweden's famous bass guitarist Bjorn Englen.

Taking on the low notes of a bass singer at a barbershop performance in Stockholm, she has since been completely involved with such harmonies.

She believes that aspiring female singers - with or without a vocal education or a musical background - can take on this wonderful hobby with some training.

"It's been an energetic and dynamic experience so far and has left our singers clamouring for more," says Phyllis Holmqvist, director, Dubai Harmony Chorus. During the very first session with the singers, Ase sent them on a musical high and encouraged them to feel the rhythm and beat of the songs. She gave them tips on how to achieve a louder sound while keeping the harmony for an effective performance.

"She has a unique way of getting us to develop individually while bringing unity to our sound and losing our inhibitions. For her, the process of reaching the goal is far more important than the final product," adds Phyllis, who met Ase in Mexico in 1995 and was immediately drawn to her fun personality and caring attitude. "Many of our members, who have joined choruses around the world, say that following instructions from Ase has helped them achieve a better position within their respective choruses."

Thanks to such a repute, Ase has been invited by choruses around the world to coach members on singing techniques, voice energy and expression.

This summer, 13 choruses from the Illinois and Iowa states in the U.S. and 20 choruses from the San Fransisco, California, have already scheduled sessions with her.

While attending a symposium in Glasgow, Scotland, for 300 women, Ase told the BBC how much she enjoyed teaching vocal production, rhythm, characterisation and techniques which help "reaching out to the audience".

Her multi-faceted personality allows her to combine the role of mentor and supporter to help the singer discover how the body and voice work together.

"I always use practical exercises in my lectures in order to effectively present the contents and make the experience multi-dimensional," says Ase with a twinkle in her eye.

"I especially like coaching the chorus in Dubai because here with 17 different nationalities, they represent one world in one room. It is here that I get the, almost spiritual, experience of the whole world harmonising together and singing the same songs as we sing back home in Sweden," she says.

Apart from her vocal expertise and coaching skills, she has contributed to the world of barbershop music by arranging a number of popular songs in four-part harmony. Some of the songs include Abba's Gimme Gimme Gimme, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, Things We Do For Love, Sisters‚ and It's Rainin Men.

"It is very difficult arranging music but I do it because there are not many arrangements for female voices or songs that I wanted to do with my chorus. I hear those harmonies inside my head and decide that I should make it happen and fulfil that need so that every singer can enjoy singing them," she says.

Others also share Ase's sentiments. "When we sang some of her arrangements at a recent symposium in Europe, other chorus members were impressed and it felt special to sing them," says Jane Whiteside, member of Dubai Harmony Chorus.

The Sweet Adelines International has nominated her for the Ann Gooch Award for her role in promoting and developing further the barbershop style of music across borders.

While promoting the barbershop art form, she has made a positive difference in the lives of singers everywhere. And her influence can be gauged by the gratitude felt by the many choruses. "Many of the songs our chorus sings have been arranged by Ase," says the Mid-West chorus website.

"Our chorus was fortunate to benefit from the coaching skills of Ase Hagerman. While well-known for her vocal expertise, she had us howling with laughter and tears at our own antics as we performed her improvised version of our choreography," says Betty Hooper, member of the Forth Valley chorus in Edinburgh, Scotland.

"In our quest for musical excellence and on our journey to the international competition, we have scheduled sessions with Ase Hagerman in the summer of 2003," declares the Velvet Hills Chorus, Colorado, USA, on its website.

Sweet Adelines International and barbershop singing

Established in 1945, Sweet Adelines International (SAI) is a worldwide organisation of 30,000 women who enjoy singing four-part, a-capella harmony, barbershop style.

Members range in age from teenagers to senior citizens from all backgrounds and walks of life. Sweet Adelines is committed not only to teaching the barbershop style, but to improving the musical skills and knowledge of its members and bringing the joy of music into the lives of young people everywhere.

"Harmonise the World" is the organisation's motto. Choruses across the world are affiliated to the organisation. The 40 members of the Dubai Harmony Chorus hold prospective membership to the SAI, which in turn considers the chorus as one of their satellite choruses.

The music they sing is characterised by the following:

- Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterised by four-part chords.

- The melody is sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonising above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonising notes, and the baritone completing the chord.

- Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily sing-able melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal centre and imply major and minor chords and barbershop seventh chords.

- The presentation of barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout.

- Information courtesy: The Judging and Scoring Handbook