A song for the Birds, Angels

Unknown Harmony performs national anthem before thousands attending May Orioles game

Unknown Harmony performs national anthem before thousands attending May Orioles game

June 10, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - What started out as a shot in the dark a year ago turned into the gig of a lifetime for four Clear Spring-area young men who sang the national anthem before more than 20,000 people at the May 27 Orioles-Anaheim Angels baseball game.

"That was our biggest audience ever - by about 19,000 or so," said Unknown Harmony first tenor Gerad Haupt, a psychology major at Messiah College.

Haupt said it's his job to sing the "ridiculously high notes" needed in the group's performances.

"We were really sweatin' the weather but otherwise, we were ready," said Brad Cline, a freshman at Virginia Tech who is studying engineering. Second tenor and arranger of the vocals sung that night by the group, Cline was the spark that led to the group's formation more than a year ago.


The other members of the group are Chris Hoffman, baritone, an accounting freshman at Eastern University; and Jared Timmons, bass, who is in general studies at Hagerstown Community College.

All four graduated from Clear Spring High in 2002. One of their first performances was singing "Silent Night" at a Christmas concert. They capped their high school singing experience by singing at their own graduation ceremonies.

"We made a recording of the national anthem to see if we could sing for a Hagerstown Suns game," Cline said. The recording was made at school with the cooperation of Will Vogtman, as well as school personnel who made sure the public address system didn't go off in the middle of the performance.

The Suns management heard the tape and invited Unknown Harmony to sing at the beginning of one of the team's games. It was then the idea was hatched to send the recording to the Orioles, Cline said.

A demo was sent while the four were still in their senior year of high school. They got the word in March that they were in.

"The Orioles gave us six or seven dates to choose from and we picked May 27," Haupt said.

After several hastily arranged practices before they finished their freshmen years at college, the group made plans to meet at Oriole Park at Camden Yards just before the game was to start.

"We were all coming from different directions, including Chris, who was driving up from Myrtle Beach (S.C.)," Cline said. There was a wreck on Interstate 95 and Hoffman got on Interstate 495 thinking it would take him to Baltimore.

"I ended up in Washington, D.C., instead," he said. Minutes before they were to go on, Hoffman arrived at the stadium.

Timmons said the Orioles staff warned them they might have to deal with an echo because of the size of the stadium but he said it wasn't a problem.

Their parents attended the performance, along with about 30 people from Clear Spring who wanted to see and hear the group on its big day, Timmons said.

A videotape was made for posterity, they added.

Wearing black shirts and khaki pants, the four young men stood behind home plate and sang a cappella. Even though it wasn't included in the televised coverage of the game, their performance was played on the radio.

"People in the stands cheered for us and clapped their hands as we left the field," Haupt said.

Beth Smith, choral director at Clear Spring High School, said she worked with the four young men for two years.

She said all were outstanding students and she enjoyed working with them a great deal.

"The five of us would meet before school and practice," she said.

It all started when Brad said he wanted to do barbershop, Smith said. He wrote his own arrangement for the national anthem and the four of them learned it.

"I'm glad I got to be a part of this, although they could have done it without me," Smith said.

The Herald-Mail Articles