Miller finds chorus a social, stimulating hobby

April 27, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • David Miller, front left, director of the Mason Dixon Barbershop Chorus, leads the members through a rehearsal of "Please Mr. Columbus" at Haven Lutheran Church in Hagerstown.
By Kelly Hahn Johnson/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- David Miller might have earned an undergraduate degree in music education at James Madison University, but now he considers music "a fun hobby."

By day, he's a network engineer for Medical Faculty Associates, part of George Washington University.

His commute to Washington, D.C., which begins at 5 a.m., allows time for him to listen to music for his positions as director of the Mason-Dixon Chorus and organist of Zion Episcopal Church in Charles Town, W.Va.

Miller, 53, lives in Hagerstown with his wife, Rose. He also has lived in northern Virginia and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The couple enjoys birding, hiking and gardening together. David Miller is also a model-railroad enthusiast.

Miller began directing the Mason-Dixon Chorus about six years ago, after singing with a barbershop chorus in Charles Town. He said the Mason-Dixon Chorus was founded the year he was born and is a "very active" chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.


There's more to singing in a barbershop chorus than just the notes, though.

"It's halfway social, halfway singing," Miller said.

Besides relishing the four-part harmony of barbershop music, Miller said he also appreciates that the local group contributes a great deal to the community.

Members sing at nursing homes, and Miller said he especially enjoys the response from Alzheimer's patients. Something about hearing music from their earlier days "brings 'em back to life," Miller said.

The group raises money from its annual singing valentines and contributes to local nonprofits, as well as using the proceeds to purchase music, pay licensing and arrangers' fees, and to make tapes to help singers learn the music.

Recently, the group donated money to the Community Free Clinic and Habitat for Humanity.

"We donate as much as we can to charity," Miller said.

Miller said barbershop-style music is getting more popular as a cappella music has become more in vogue. He said the overtones style of harmony the chorus sings "gives you goosebumps" and creates a unique sound.

All men are welcome to join the chorus for its weekly rehearsals at 7:30 p.m. Mondays at Haven Lutheran Church in Hagerstown. Miller said the group would like to add some younger singers to the mix.

The Mason-Dixon Chorus' next confirmed performance in Washington County is Sunday, July 25, from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

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