Saturday, May 03, 2008

Four Voices

The closing song of each rehearsal, meeting, convention we do as barbershoppers is "Keep the Whole World Singing". There is little more inspiring, at the end of a contest, to hear several hundred voices singing that song en masse. Puts goose bumps on the arm! Some chapters in the Society add "It's great to be a barbershopper!" at the end of the song. Our chapter/chorus does, and it is not only a proclamation, it is the true feeling of being in this wonderful singing fraternity.

Since returning from my hiatus at the beginning of the year, I have been reminded of just how great that is. Every rehearsal, every event, anything to do with barbershopping is simply... great.

In my nearly eight years in the "hobby", I have sung in pickup quartets, Novice quartets, workshop quartets, etc., but have not been a member of a performing quartet. A group that sings "gigs" for general public consumption. Sure, some of the other foursomes do songs in front of the public, but on a limited basis, and mostly for insiders.

Last summer, two members of His Story IV, (shown here in an earlier PR photo, with the original bass.) suggested that they might want to try me out at bass. The roots of this quartet go twenty years, three of the guys singing together for that long a time. Their original bass left town, only to return and join a new quartet. The remaining three tried a few guys, but the blend just was not to their satisfaction. A half a year later, Bob and Perry made good on the original offer, asking if I might want to sing with them for the annual "Valengrams" singing Valentine program. Like literally hundreds of quartets throughout the nation, we deliver singing Valentines to the objects of the purchaser's affection. Always a fun day, and probably the Barbershop Harmony Society's biggest single day.

So we got ourselves together, went over the two primary Valentine's songs, a few others, and went out for a day of fun. And boy did we have some fun and great stories to tell. I pretty much figured that might all I would have to do with "HSIV", until they asked if I would sing with them for a requested eightieth birthday party.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we had some rehearsals, established a set and off we went to entertain for a party of about 40 people, in a local chain restaurant. My words on this web log will only begin to express the pure thrill I had in that restaurant's private banquet room that day. There is always the risk that you go on stage and flop. That despite all practice, rehearsal, performance planning etc., the audience just won't like you. Blessedly, that was not the case at all. These folks were excited about what we were going to do, and they showed it. And we did not disappoint either! From the opening "Hello" bell chord (taken from the intro to Coney Island Baby) to the final "May God hold you in the palm of His hand" from The Irish Blessing, the group seemed to enjoy every moment.

This was in no small part due to someone I realized might be the most consummate showman I have ever seen, or at least worked with. Tenor Bob Greenhalgh, our "MC" can read an audience like no one can. He can play off each individual AND each quartet member. Nothing scripted save for the set list, our "intro to barbershop" routine, and the swearing in to the "Honorary Wild Irish Rose Society". Everything else was pure improvisational comedy. Bob let every quartet member play into his stuff, even turning a real blunder of forgetting my solo part into an hilarious event that seemed part of the show itself!

With our closing song, we could not get away. In, what I understand to be the first requested encore, we stayed for one more song, a parody of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that described the comedy that is aging. The party had a professional photographer shooting, so I am hoping he will send along a few shots of the quartet. (update.... here are two!)

As Bob presented us the new printing of business cards, my name was on it. Well, I guess I am in a quartet now. And thrilled to be a part of it. I guess I will have to behave!

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