Barbershoppers carry on tradition of harmony

April 30, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

Mike Smith may not have realized it Monday night, but he may represent the uncertain future of barbershop harmony.

He was enthusiastic and talented, but the only newcomer to attend the visitors night for barbershop singers Monday night at Haven Lutheran Church.

The scarcity of new members worries some of the veterans who have long been raising their voices in song, some for more than a half century.

Smith, of Fayetteville, Pa., said he plans to join the ranks. "I've heard barbershop all my life and I love it."


Earlier this month, Smith attended Harmony on Parade hosted by the Mason-Dixon Barbershop Chorus at Hagerstown Community College. He signed a card encouraging him to join the chorus and decided to make the commitment.

One of the youngest in the group of 50-plus harmonizers that met Monday, Smith said he felt welcome on his first night.

"I didn't know all the words but I was able to keep up," he said. "It was great."

Don Dingee has been singing barbership harmony for 54 years and Howard Nicholas for 56 years. They said they are still eager for any opportunity to share their gift and their passion.

Harold James of Funkstown is a member of Friends In A-Chord. Involved with barbershop harmony for 38 years, James' philosophy of the avocation is simple.

"It's just a love of singing ... there's nothing else like it," James said. "It's even good for your health."

John Fisher of Inwood, W.Va., sings in four choruses and two quartets. "And when I'm not singing, I'm home writing or arranging music."

John Murray said a friend of his father's was involved so he came to a visitors night a few years ago. "I just love to sing," Murray said.

The Mason-Dixon group on Monday also welcomed a chorus of 10 from Cumberland, Md., to the impromptu concert.

There were bankers, ministers, educators, lawyers, people from all walks of life.

With their hands on each other's shoulders, often with their heads together, the harmonizers belted out "Girl of My Dreams," and "Wait Til The Sun Shines Nellie" as well as a medley of patriotic tunes honoring the military.

"We're dedicated to keep the whole world singing ... that's our reason for being," said Basil Day, musical director of the Mason-Dixon group.

Jim Doyle, vice president of the group, said any man who has ever sung in a church choir would fit into a barbershop group. A trained voice and the ability to read music are not required.

Anyone interested in exploring the possibility to joining the Mason-Dixon Barbershop Chorus can call 301-766-0955.

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