A Capella on the Beach
Keeping things harmonious is the goal of a Barbershop Chorus. And who wouldn’t want to live in a world of harmony?
Two of the best Barbershop Choruses in Ontario will be on the Rotary Stage at Grand Bend Beach Wednesday, July 19. The Seaforth Harmony Kings and the Forest City Fire will be presenting their award-winning voices on the beach.
In addition to the two large groups, five Barbershop Quartets will take part: Hickory Junction and Avenue Road from London, Matrix from the Kitchener area, Heet from Seaforth area, and Resolution from Sarnia, who are the Ontario senior champions.
Barbershop music is presented a cappella, meaning no musical instruments accompany the singers. Generally, the songs are sung in four parts: the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead.
The Seaforth Harmony Kings have been active for 34 years. Singers come from Stratford, Wingham, Goderich and many other locations in the area. Grand Bend is well represented by local residents Hank Winters, Rob Quaid, Paul Jones, Bob Gilmar, Doug Carr, John Gill and Doug Procter.
Dave Campbell of Seaforth is the Director of both The Seaforth Harmony Kings and The Forest City Fire which is based in London. In 2016, the Harmony Kings’ dedication paid off when they won the Ontario District Championship for the first time. According to regulations, the winners of the previous year can’t compete, so this year, the Harmony Kings didn’t take part. That left the 2017 competition open for the Forest City Fire to win!
“Dave is a musical genius,” says the Kings spokesperson, Hank Winters. He credits the musical director for leading both choruses to the championships. “This concert will be quite a night of Barbershop music,” Winters adds.
The chorus will take to the stage for vocal warm ups at 7:00 p.m., which those arriving early will find quite interesting. Then the formal program will begin at 7:30. While the choruses are made up of 25 to 30 men, not all are available for every concert. They expect to have 20 to 25 present and singing Wednesday evening. The various quartets will sing at different intervals throughout the evening. Matrix is a new mixed quartet, with three women singing along with Campbell.
The Seaforth Harmony Kings are members of the Barbershop Harmony Society located in Nashville; a huge international organization. In recent years, interest in Barbershopping has grown in Asia, and many good quartets come from Europe and Scandinavia.
The Kings are a bit of a novelty in the Barbershopping world. All their singers come from small towns and rural areas across Huron County. But despite the relatively small pool to draw from, they have put together a group of exceptionally talented singers. Barbershopping is popular in cities like Sarnia and London, where they draw from a larger population. “It can be a challenge to recruit new members, but there is always interest after we perform a concert,” Winters adds.
In addition to many wonderful Canadian songs to celebrate Canada 150, the choruses will present a selection of Broadway show tunes. The line-up will include Canadiana such as Rita McNeil’s Working Man and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and musical theatre songs such as Consider Yourself from Oliver!, You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, and Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera.
The Evening of Harmony is the second in the Grand Bend Beach concert series “Wednesdays’ Familiar Favourites”. Organizer Mary Alderson has volunteered her time in order to see the Rotary Stage used more often. The concerts are sponsored by Lambton’s Creative County, the municipality of Lambton Shores, West Coast Lions Club, and Denny’s Drive-In.
Upcoming shows will be August 2nd – Broadway on the Beach with Thomas Alderson and Friends, and August 16th – Second Wind, a Lambton Shores band playing 50s, 60s and 70s music that was very popular on the beach last summer. Alderson encourages everyone to come, and she asks that you please pay what you can! “Bring your lawn chair and enjoy the beautiful Lake Huron sunset,” Alderson adds. On Wednesdays, Beach Parking is free after 7:00 p.m. and Main Street Parking is free after 5:00 p.m.
Photo – Left: The Seaforth Harmony Kings. Right: The Forest City Fire