Local barbershop chorus the Wild Rose Harmonizers are marking a very special week in Red Deer.
April 7-13 has been proclaimed as ‘Barbershop Harmony Week’ and members of the Harmonizers are featuring two special events in April to celebrate the occasion and build awareness about their group.
“It’s also the Barbershop Harmony Society’s 75th anniversary,” said David Crozier-Smith, a long-time barbershop singer and member of the Wild Rose Harmonizers Barbershop Chorus. The official date of it is April 11th, and it’s international in scope. It’s also the name of what used to be known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.
“They found it was a bit of a mouthful, so years back they changed it to the Barbershop Harmony Society,” he adds with a laugh.
On April 9, the group is hosting a ‘Special Guest Night’ during what is their regular practice time at Davenport Church of Christ (#68 – Donlevy Ave.) The event runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
“We’re inviting back any former barbershoppers to join us for an hour or so and celebrate the week and the anniversary,” he said. There will be lots of singing of classic tunes, opportunities to catch up with old friends and enjoy some refreshments as well. “It’s open for anyone who is interested in barbershop.”
Crozier-Smith is asking those interested in attending to call him at 403-342-1318 so organizers can have a general idea of how many to expect.
Later in the month, on April 26, a spring show called ‘Celebrate Harmony’ with special guests will be held at Living Stones Church starting at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling Crozier-Smith, Rob at 403-782-3744 or Ron at 403-789-6489. They will also be available at the door.
The concert will also pay tribute to both Red Deer’s Centennial celebrations and the Barbershop Harmony Society’s anniversary, he said. There will also be appearances by such quartets as The Executives and Cornerstone, plus performances by Hearts of Harmony and the Lindsay Thurber CHS Chamber Choir.
On March 25, Mayor Morris Flewwelling made the official proclamation designating the week as Barbershop Harmony Week.
The Barbershop Harmony Society was officially organized in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the proclamation reads, ‘What began as a small group has steadily blossomed into the world’s largest all-male singing organization.’ According to their web site, the Society can be credited to a meeting in Tulsa organized by Owen Clifton Cash on April 11, 1938.
“He and acquaintance Rupert Hall had a chance meeting in Kansas City several weeks before and discussed forming a Song Fest. On his return to Tulsa, Cash drafted an invitation and mailed it to the 14 singers he knew might show up and encouraged them to bring guests.”
Today, there are more than 25,000 members in the Society across North America alone. Another 4,000 have signed on in nine other countries.
Barbershop style-singing has quite a lengthy history in Red Deer as well.
“As the Wild Rose Harmonizers, the present group has been around for about 30 years. But prior to that, they had a very, very large group here in Red Deer. They weren’t known as the Wild Rose Harmonizers, but they had a chapter here.”
Today the Harmonizers is a chorus consisting of members from across Central Alberta. Under the direction of Roberta Koelmans-Cameron, the group sings at hospitals, nursing homes and many functions throughout the year.
They participate in and support local charitable agencies and organizations as well as the Sing Canada Harmony Foundation which supports vocal music in schools and communities across Canada.
Crozier-Smith said the Harmonizers are also working to promote barbershop singing among young people, too. Over the past year, they’ve been joining a chorus group at Lindsay Thurber High School, going in once a month and teaching students some barbershop tunes. “They really seem to like it – it’s a way of introducing barbershop to the younger generation.” Along with the traditional songs there are plenty of contemporary numbers performed in the genre these days as well, he said.
For Crozier-Smith, barbershop singing has never lost its charm or appeal – it’s always fun, offers a wonderful sense of camaraderie and friendship with the other members and it’s a great way of connecting with the community.
“I love the singing and I love the harmony,” he says, adding it’s always enjoyable to see the reactions from audience members. Singing at seniors’ homes is also heartwarming, as there are both laughs and tears amongst the residents as happy memories are stirred up.
“Music does different things to different people – there’s no doubt.”
Check out www.harmonizers.ca.