Sally Wallace's living room overlooking Hayden Lake is bright, airy and sunny, just like her beautiful singing voice.
Wallace has been singing since she was in high school. She also took voice lessons while in college.
"I've just always loved to sing," she said. "It just brings me a lot of joy. Thatís the best word I can think of."
This love of music and performing led Wallace to join and eventually direct the Silver Valley Chorus in Wallace when she moved there in 1973. She went on to found Coeur d'Alene's first all-female four-part-harmony singing group ó the Sweet Adelines Coeur d'Alene Chorus ó when she moved to the Lake City in 1985.
"There was no chorus here," she said. "I decided to try to start one and I put an ad in what was The North Idaho Press at that time, The Coeur díAlene Press, and I still have the ad. Well, it wasnít an ad, I didnít have any money (laughs). It was an article, and they ran it. Also, the Lake City Harmonizers were here, the menís chorus, and I contacted them and asked if I could send a letter to all their wives. They said yes, they sent me the roster, so I sent an invitation letter to all their wives. Not very many of them came, but a few did. And then the article in the paper. We started out March 19, 1985, just with an organizational meeting just to see if anyone was interested. And it went from there."
Wallace directed the chorus for 25 years and recently passed the torch to two members who she knows will do an exceptional job continuing the legacy. She now serves as the chorus coach and remains active with the group.
For her tireless dedication and more than 40 years with the Sweet Adelines, Wallace was recently awarded the Heart of the Northwest Award, a prestigious honor that recognizes those who exemplify what being a Sweet Adeline is all about.
Wallace estimates that she has participated in at least 450 performances through the years, including at The Coeur d'Alene Resort around the holidays, at retirement homes, special gatherings and many more.
And she has enjoyed every one of them.
Does she ever think the day will come when she's done with Sweet Adelines?
"That's not in my plans at all," she said, beaming her Sweet Adeline smile. "The Sweet Adeline Chorus is such a wonderful place to be and I really encourage other women, of any age, if you like to sing, come and see what we have to offer. It really can change your life for the better. Besides, itís a lot of fun.Ē
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Youíre the founder of the Coeur díAlene Chorus. How did that all come about?
"I had already joined Sweet Adelines. We were living in Wallace, Idaho, we moved there in 1973, if you want the whole long story. I had heard about the organization and wanted to join but had not had an opportunity. When we got there, here was a chorus, so I thought, ĎOh cool,í so I joined. A couple years later we were struggling, trying to find a director and they were going to fold, and I didnít want to do that. This was the Silver Valley Chorus. So I raised my hand and said, ĎIf you will help educate me, Iíd like to try,í so thatís how I started. We did really well. The education offered by Sweet Adelines is wonderful. Part of my reason for going back to school was to continue that. Actually, my tuition at NIC was partially funded by Sweet Adelines, isnít that cool? So anyway, my husband worked for Hecla Mining Company, and when they moved the offices to Coeur díAlene, we moved here in 1986. But I knew we were coming, so I actually started the chorus in 1985."
How did you find out about Sweet Adelines in the first place?
"It was in the 1960s and my husband and I had gone to a convention in Minneapolis for his work, something really exciting, internal auditing, very exciting. It was really fun to go though, to be able to do some traveling. He was at the meetings and they had a ladiesí luncheon, so I decided to attend that. And the entertainment was a Sweet Adelines quartet from the area. I can still see them, they were dressed very fashionably and it was brown-colored suits ó this was the í60s ó and they told about this organization and I thought, ĎOh my gosh, I really want to do that.í I wanted to do what they were doing, and where we were living, as in most cases, I was still singing and singing in my church choir but there wasnít any community choir. This just really appealed to me, and Bob says he can still remember me coming out of that luncheon because I was so excited about it. There wasnít anything where we were living, we were living in Arizona at the time, and we ended up moving to Phoenix where they did have some choruses. Iíd gone back to school and by then we had three kids, so there was no way I could do anything like that, and I remember when we moved up to Wallace I was thinking, ĎDoggone it, Iím never going to be able to join that.í So I was really excited when I found it in the Silver Valley and I joined it right away."
You were the chorus director for 25 years. What were some of your favorite parts about leading the chorus?
"Lots of people have come through the rehearsal doors over the years. One thing that always touches my heart is a lot of times young women, a lot of people, come in unsure of themselves and wanting to learn to be better singers, which is wonderful, and they find a place in Sweet Adelines where itís OK to make a mistake, because you get the support. Iíve seen them grow and become more confident and have that confidence just spill out into the rest of their lives, no kidding, and Iíve seen it happen again and again. I know women have told me that because of what theyíve learned and the confidence theyíve gained in Sweet Adelines that itís even helped them in their jobs. You gain confidence in one area and it helps you in other parts of your life. People will leave their problems at the door and you have a couple hours where you can just think about the music and how to do it better and laugh with your friends and have a good time and, if you choose to, you can pick up all those problems and take them with you when you go home (laughs).Ē
What do you enjoy most about the barbershop style of singing?
ďI love that you canít do it alone. You have to have four parts, and you really do depend on each other. And when you get it all put together you end up with something really beautiful. The sound is wonderful. I love the sound of it, I love that you have to do it together. It takes a while to learn it because itís all a capella, and I love that about it. Itís so much fun to perform in the community because we donít have to worry about bringing a lot of instruments. If it was a guitar, yes, thatís a little easier, but so often choral groups need a piano or an organ, and we donít.Ē
Have you faced any challenges in keeping the chorus going this long?
"Always, we always have membership up and down. Peopleís lives change and they canít always stay, so there are times the membership has been quite large and other times itís been smaller. So thatís always challenging, to take care of all the various jobs that have to be done. I knew I needed to retire, because you want the organization to continue, and leaders have to change in order for it to continue, so that was a big challenge, finding directors to take over, or a director, and it took us awhile, but we ended up doing a lot of training within the chorus and thatís where both of our wonderful co-directors have come from and they really are doing a fine job. Itís Melodie Hays and Janelle Peck."
You recently received the Heart of the Northwest Award for your time with Sweet Adelines. How did you feel when you received it?
ďOh my gosh, wonderful. Surprised, humbled, all those feelings, because I know there are a lot of people very deserving, and it was very special.Ē
Looking back at your time with your chorus and what youíve accomplished ó the friends, the joy youíve brought to people ó is there something you would like to say about your involvement and what itís done for you?
ďItís enriched my life in ways that I never imagined. It stretches me, which is always a good thing, and thatís the best thing. Itís absolutely enriched my life, and my husband. Both of us. He now travels with me when we go to the international convention. We make it a lot of fun, and weíve taken side trips and vacations around some of the meetings and the teaching that Iíve done around the country. Thatís been something thatís been beneficial for both of us. And we didnít expect that.Ē
You teach around the country?
ďNot as much now as I did. I was also on the international board of directors for about six years. The organization has about 25,000 singers and we are all over the world. Thatís why you have all the different regions, itís divided up, and those geographic regions are their own administration, you know, keep the contests going and provide the education, but then thereís overall organization thatís international. We have choruses in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland and Sweden. I probably left some out. I actually taught ó talk about a stretch ó in the Netherlands. I do not speak Dutch. I thought, ĎHow am I going to do this?í Well, they read English quite well and many of them speak it, so my instructions were to speak slow, make it very clear, donít use a lot of big words and have really good handouts in English. It was so much fun. And Iíve taught in Canada, there are a lot of choruses in Canada. I was on the international board and international education faculty.Ē
Do you have advice for somebody who wants to lead a musical organization or become a Sweet Adeline leader?
"Get all the education you can because thereís a lot of education out there. And donít give up."