JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Five years ago, Chief Master Sgt. Mark E. Cherrix sat in an early morning commander’s call when the emcee played the national anthem from a CD.
“I’m watching and there is no one really motivated,” said Cherrix, assigned to the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “I thought to myself, there are a lot people around here who can sing.”
Sensing untapped talent across the wing, he recalled the Voices of McChord, a singing group created in 1999 by Team McChord personnel showcasing their vocal talents at ceremonial events.
As an Air Reserve Technician in 1997, Cherrix saw the birth of the singing group. However, key members retired and eventually Voices of McChord went silent.
Reminiscing of the group’s former glory, he reached out to one of the founding members, retired 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Reservist, Master Sgt. Cynthia Delzer.
“She was my link to the past,” he said.
Together, they scrapped together other vocalists in the 446th Maintenance Group and resurrected Voices of McChord.
Today, the all-volunteer singing troop has five 446th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen from the MXG and the 86th Aerial Port Squadron, along with one retiree and one spouse.
Voices of McChord performs at various venues including wing award banquets, retirements and change of command ceremonies. The group also showcases their talent in the local community at sporting events, colleges and veteran funerals. Although, they sing traditional numbers such as the Air Force song and national anthem, they are open to performing other songs.
“The Voices of McChord adds a touch of honor to a ceremony,” Cherrix said. “Our sound is passionate and uplifting. Having that live feel when singing is better than playing it from a CD.”
Hailing from the small-Southern town of Exmore, Va., Cherrix’s Methodist upbringing and affinity for jazz and blues ignited his passion for music. The self-taught vocalist sang in his church choir, later joining his high school band where he played clarinet, piano and guitar.
“We are not trained professional singers,” he said. “Many of our members learned how to sing in church choirs.”
Cherrix said it can be a challenge blending a group of distinct and diverse voices together into one harmonious sound. The group performs in a quartet; two males singing in a rich, deep baritone melody and two females rounding out the harmony as sopranos.
“For a lot of events, you see solo national anthem singers,” he said. “This is a little different, having it sung in a group.”
Demanding schedules, along with time constraints of a Unit Training Assembly can make it difficult to squeeze in a practice with all group members. Prepping before a performance, Cherrix said he often practices in his car.
“Sometimes we practice 15 minutes before we perform,” he said.
Master Sgt. Megan E. Plascencia, 86th APS Unit Training manager, has sung the national anthem for most of her active duty career. In 2016, she was introduced to Cherrix, who encouraged her to audition.
She made the cut and now performs around the base at retirement ceremonies and veterans events.
In order to keep Voices of McChord alive, Plascencia recruited other talents within the Aerial Port squadron.
She considers performing with Voices of McChord as a gift.
“Performing at retirements is such an honorable and humbling experience,” she said. “The best feeling is to bring chills to someone’s spine.”
The group, which is open to the entire community, is always recruiting new members, said Cherrix, who also performs with his wife, Michelle. “We are always looking for new singers across the base.”
For more information about joining or booking the Voices of McChord, contact Cherrix at 253-982-6782.