Ellsworth American:

Whether it’s “Rum and Coca Cola” by the Andrews Sisters or “Turn on the Radio” by Reba McIntire, the Blue Hill peninsula-based Ellacappella leaves almost no song unsung.

“Our only prerequisite is there has to be an arrangement out there somewhere,” said founder Nancy Hatfield of East Blue Hill. “We have a music selection committee, which is really anybody who wants to do it because it takes time.”

Ellacappella began in 2002. 

“It started in East Blue Hill around a campfire one night and we realized we were singing in four and five parts,” Hatfield said. “I said, ‘I have lots of music.’ We met at Holly Weinberg’s. She had the music studio and that’s how it started.”

Since then, the campfire singers have grown into a professional a cappella group. Ellacappella’s 10 members — split between soprano I and soprano II and alto I and alto II — now are preparing to perform with other post collegiate a cappella singers from across the nation.

Ellacappella is a group of women who can sing, but they vary in stage of life and background.

The singers count among them a physician, a store clerk, a nurse anesthetist, a business manager, a wellness coach, and a retired teacher, to name a few.

Founding member Nancy Hatfield is the oldest at 78. She has been singing since she was a schoolgirl. She was a member of the alliance long before Ellacappella was invited to join.

The youngest and newest member of the group, Ashley Terwilliger, is 28. She is a billing and coding specialist for Coastal Eye Care in Ellsworth. Terwilliger joined the group this winter as a soprano.

A classically trained singer, Terwilliger also plays piano, flute, saxophone, and guitar.

“I had done a lot of singing in college and when I graduated I kind of got away from it,” she said. “There’s not as much opportunity in Maine when you’re out of high school and college. Some of the girls in Ellacappella had done some shows with me at The Grand, so they suggested I come into the group.”

During college, Terwilliger was part of the 60-member touring group, University Singers, at the University of Maine in Orono.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “It’s a nice break because you have your everyday life and your family and everything else you have to do. We’ve been practicing twice a week. We’re attempting after the performance to get it down to once a week.”

Terwilliger’s favorite piece in the Ellacappella repertoire is a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

“It’s very pretty,” she said. “It’s simple but complex in the richness of the voices together.” 

Other members include Ellsworth resident Jen Myers, 46, who is a wellness coach for Juice Plus. Myers also sings with The Crown Vics. She is an alto.

“I sing the very low bass parts,” Myers said. “I think what I’ve loved most about this group is I’ve been challenged to sing songs I’d never choose myself.”

“They’re great about choosing a nice balance of songs,” she said. “We sing actual classical pieces, a lot of well-known oldies type songs. We also throw in a little country and a few pop. There’s something for everyone in the group.”

Singing, whether with Ellacappella or The Crown Vics, has given Myers confidence.

“I’ve always enjoyed music but didn’t start singing until my 20s,” she said.

Her husband, Andrew Myers, lead singer of The Crown Vics, who grew up in a musical family in Salina, Kan., encouraged her.

“He supported me and got me to my first audition and from there I was hooked,” she said.

Both groups “helped me grow as a performer and singer because I’m working with people who have been musicians all their lives,” Myers said.

Music Director Joyce Newkirk, 63, of East Blue Hill, is a retired music and theater teacher.

As music director, “my job is to teach the music and shape it,” Newkirk said. “When we’re choosing music, I have the final say whether it’s a good piece.”

“I think it takes a special person to lead this group,” Newkirk said. “It’s like herding cats. We’re very democratic. We have to vote on everything. There are times I wish it wasn’t so but it’s also a joy. Everybody has a say in the music and the direction we go.”

“I love having all different ages in the group,” Newkirk said. “I think the camaraderie with a cappella can be shared with any age group.”

“The thing that would break us up is figuring out what to wear,” Newkirk said. “We do well choosing music and meeting once a month to decide on gigs. But it’s the costumes that would break us up. The young ones want to show everything — necks and legs — and the oldest people want to cover everything up.”

“Last year, we had blazers and pants that matched,” Newkirk said. “This year, we’re pulling from our closets and wearing a common color.”

The ladies use an iPhone app called minipiano to get into tune.

Ellacappella performs a diverse repertoire throughout the year, entertaining for charities, private parties, and numerous musical functions.

“We do a lot of charity,” Newkirk said.

Highlights of last season included performances for “Spring Sing” 2015 in Boulder, Colo., and for the French frigate ship L’Hermione, which docked in Castine.

“It’s a big commitment being in this group,” Newkirk said. “We’ve been meeting twice a week all year. You’ve got to have a good time but we take it seriously.”