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The 'Bellacappellas' of the Ball: Springfield Choral Society's all-women small ensemble


The Bellacappellas at the Bella Boutique in Springfield, Illinois. From left to right: Linda Younkin, Kari Jones, Claire Gordon, Becky Kemp.
The Bellacappellas at the Bella Boutique in Springfield. From left to right: Linda Younkin, Kari Jones, Claire Gordon, Becky Kemp.

They were singing Christmas carols at the Fair Hills Residence, the local assisted living community, when Linda Younkin noticed longtime choral singer Susan Harris in the crowd. Harris, a current alto singer in the Springfield Choral Society who now resides there, joined Younkin and her three fellow Bellacappellas in song. 


Younkin, who also sings alto, says it was her most memorable performance with the all-women quartet. She had signed up to be in the group to share her love of music with others. 


“We were a little teary-eyed,” Younkin says.


The Bellacappellas – comprised of Younkin, Becky Kemp, Kari Jones and Claire Gordon – are one of four SCS small ensembles, an initiative launched by a couple of our board members which aims to make the 85-person choir more “nimble.” This opportunity to take our singers “on the road” allows us to be more adaptable to many different venues and events around town, while also giving us greater exposure to the community.


And, the Bellacappellas have hit the ground running as the first ensemble to book performances. During the holiday season, they donned their red Santa hats and sang Christmas songs at the Bella Boutique, Fair Hills, the Hoogland Center for the Arts and Scheels. 


Younkin says they will be looking at a new repertoire for the Spring semester.


“Hopefully [it will be] a mix of traditional and contemporary, sacred and secular, with a few ‘familiar favorites’ thrown in,” Younkin says. 


And for Kemp, as long as it’s not country music, she will be glad to sing it. Kemp is a soprano member of the group, and has been singing her whole life. She says she can’t imagine a scenario where she’s not singing – whether that’s inside the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, to the Scheel’s lobby, right next to the life-size, taxidermized bear statue. 


“People were just walking in and out of the [Scheel’s] store because it was very casual,” Kemp said. “And when this little kid heard us singing, he pulled his mom's hand to stop and listen for a minute. That was super sweet.”


The Bellacappellas’ next appearance will be on Thursday, February 22 at the Springfield First Presbyterian Church, where their vocal performances of Black composer Florence Price’s music will be woven into a spoken narration of Price’s life. The event is part of a weekend-long musical festival celebrating the piece, “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight,” a cantata by Price of a poem penned by Springfield native Vachel Lindsay. 


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