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Haslam, singers give voice to holiday season with four vocal performances in Aiken

December 7, 2018

Many voices. One director.

Those words could describe the vocal groups South Boundary Singers, Belles Canto, Bellini and the Aiken Singers and their musical director Diane Haslam.

Haslam and her singers will give the community the gift of music this Christmas at a series of holiday concerts throughout the season as follows:

• South Boundary Singers will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Trinity United Methodist Church at 2724 Whiskey Road.

• Belles Canto and Bellini will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at First Baptist Church at 120 Chesterfield St. N.

• South Boundary and Aiken Singers will participate in the Aiken Civic Orchestra’s holiday concert at 7:30 p.m Dec. 14 at St. John’s United Methodist Church at 104 Newberry St. N.W.

• Aiken Singers will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. John’s United Methodist Church at 104 Newberry St. N.W.

Haslam, a voice teacher with an impressive international resume, started the Aiken Singers at a request of a student not long after she moved to Aiken 14 years ago.

The student asked Haslam if she might be interested in starting a choral group for adults that did not require auditions.

“There seemed to be a lot of people who loved to sing,” Haslam said. “Auditions can be rather intimidating. That attracted people.”

The Aiken Singers, now with about 55 members, focuses on the “lighter side” of music, performing golden oldies, songs from the ’40s and ’50s and all the Christmas carols and holiday favorites, Haslam said.

“We have a lot of fun together. We laugh a lot,” she said. “We’ve grown over the years both in numbers and musically.”

In 2012, Haslam started an auditioned group, Belles Canto, for girls ages 13 to 19. Belles Canto offers its members a “slightly broader repertoire,” Haslam said.

“I like to keep it as entertaining as possible and give the girls as much experience with different types of music,” she said. “We do some classical music. We delve into a little bit of jazz every now and then and some pop, of course, because they love pop music. We do folk and gospel and all different styles.”

The group, which averages about 20 to 22 members, allows the girls to develop their musical abilities while learning to cooperate and listen to other musicians, Haslam said.

With the success of Belles Canto and at the request of parents looking for a musical outlet for their younger girls, Haslam started a group for girls ages 9 to 12 called Bellini, or the little bells.

“It’s also auditioned, but it’s not a tough audition,” Haslam said. “We do simpler, fun things.”

A couple of years ago, Haslam became director of the already established South Boundary Singers, an auditioned men’s ensemble, which sings mostly a cappella.

“Again, I like to do a broad range of styles with them. We do quite a bit of sacred music and some fun pieces as well,” Haslam said.

When Haslam, a mezzo soprano who was born in Mansfield, England, moved to Aiken, she brought with her a noted career.

A graduate in vocal performance from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, she has sung as a soloist in opera, oratorio and recitals throughout Europe and America.

She also has sung in concert and with leading orchestras. For seven years, she sang full-time with the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam.

Haslam has been an assistant professor of voice at both Newberry College and USC Aiken, where along with applied voice lessons, she also led classes in vocal diction, vocal pedagogy, vocal literature and vocal performance.

She developed a class entitled “Singing for Well Being,” which includes vocal meditations, chants and group singing. She also is a published author of a book on singing, “The Heart of Singing: Steps on the Path to Becoming the Singer You Want to Be,” which is available on Amazon.com and as an eBook on Kindle.

In Aiken, her private voice studio is called Vocal Dimensions.

“For a small town, Aiken has a lot of talent and a lot of great enthusiasm for singing and for music,” Haslam said.

And that level of talent keeps her constantly involved in singing and music.

When asked to describe what it’s like to direct four vocal groups with different styles and age groups, Haslam quickly summed in up in one word.

“Busy,” she said.

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