By Larry Higgins
Well, I know a bunch of guys who can shower-sing and they are pretty good at it. They’re called “Friends in Harmony.” We are about 120 in number and we just sing every week for the fun of it. Our unpaid leader, Artie Dolt, specializes in harmonies originally founded by black singers at impromptu gatherings in barbershops. We owe a soul-felt debt to our black brothers for jazz, and this is no less true with our barbershop harmony.
Many songs were written at the turn of the 20th century—including our current favorite, “Sleep Kentucky Babe,” composed by blind musician, Adam Geibel, who also wrote “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” Kirk Roose arranged it for barbershoppers. Our ongoing theme song is Whiting, Egan & Khan’s “Ain’t We Got Fun” which traces its origin to Vaudeville and The Great Gatsby, arranged by Mark Smith, son of one of our bassos.
But hold on there! Why sing together with a group of guys – of good character, as Artie likes to say. Because it is really fun. Concentrating on the chords removes me from daily cares and transports me to a pleasant, lively milieu. Many hobbies can do this, but many seem age-bracketed like baseball, swimming and so on. Our members’ ages range from 9 – 90, honest!
Our volunteer assistant conductor, Bill Wilkinson, tells us that to be popular a song should be reasonably easy to sing – and be familiar. “You want the audience to feel the music and hum along.” (Historical trivia: Verdi hated people whistling his tunes, so he hid them, such that the orchestra could be sight reading at the opening performance!) By the way, less than 15% of our singers have ever sung barbershop before.
We share that close harmony every Monday at University United Methodist Church on De Zavala and Vance Jackson. Gathering at 6:45pm, we quit at about 8:45. Come listen to us and you will likely be hooked as I was. This is the only chorus of many I have sung in that has a regular visitor’s weekly. You can slide right in.
We do sing in public, of course. Each Spring we have a concert Spectacular in which we add guest world champion quartets. We have a joint woodshed gathering on September 28 at Garden Ridge Community Center and on October 5 with the Air Force Fighter Aces. We are the South Texas Regional Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Yes, I said guys! But, there’s more. Artie has assembled 80 very talented ladies in the Harmony Belles. They practice in the same church on Thursdays. And they join us in occasional 8-part harmony. What a treat for our ears!
We’re always looking for more voices. No auditions required. Just come, smile and sing.