Member: Heart of Georgia Barbershop Chorus
Q: How long have you been involved with the Heart of Georgia Barbershop Chorus?
A: I've been singing about all my life, but I was invited to a choral meeting in 1990 and just fell in love with the barbershop sound. I got involved with the local chorus a few years later and have been ever since. I'm the past president after serving for about six years or so.
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Q: How many are involved in the chorus?
A: About 20 active members. We're in a rebuilding phase right now and have grown. We hope to get back up to around 50 like we have been before.
Q: How is the group organized?
A: We have the large chorus and then that's broken down into two registered barbershop quartets. One's called Harmonic Balance and the other is Macon Harmony. I'm in Macon Harmony. Registered means we're affiliated and qualified to compete in international Barbershop Harmony Society competitions.
Q: What sort of things does the barbershop chorus do?
A: We practice most every Monday evening from 7:30 to 9:30 at Christ United Methodist Church in Warner Robins. We're in their choir room in the administration building at the back of the church on 511 Russell Parkway. We work to provide music education and do all sorts of community performances. We do things like visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities, we perform the national anthem for Museum of Aviation events, like their marathon, and the Southeastern Little League playoffs, and we do larger community concerts like one last year at Wesleyan College. It was big, with singers from all over the Southeast joining in. We're hoping to do another big concert later this year but we don't have details yet. We're available for a lot of different things people ask us to do, and money we raise through the year goes toward music and our outfits. But a large percentage of it is set aside for charity.
Q: What charity?
A: For a number of years it's gone to Heart of Georgia Hospice. A percentage of everything we make in all the different things we do goes to charity. We were able to donate over $2,000 to hospice last year -- that's pretty good for a small group of guys like ours.
Q: Didn't you just do one of your community-service-type fundraisers over Valentine's weekend?
A: We delivered singing Valentine's all around Warner Robins and Macon. We've done that every year for 30-plus years now.
Q: What's a favorite performance for you? And the most unusual?
A: I think the most unusual was something we did in Williamson, Georgia, at the airport and Candler Field Museum. We walked around singing all day for about 12 hours. We'd walk and stop and sing for people then move on. That was a great time. I think some of the most rewarding times for me are at nursing homes and assisted living centers. A lot of elderly people we sing to can hardly communicate. To see them get a smile across their face, a light in their eye or maybe even mouth the words when they recognize a song -- well, that's really something. So much of what we do is from their era; it brings back good memories. As someone whose mother went through Alzheimer's, I certainly understand how import those times can be.
Q: What are some favorite songs for the group?
A: Oh, I guess maybe "Shenandoah" and "Grand Old Flag." Both are ones we do in almost every show. Personally, I fall back on my church background and songs like "Amazing Grace" and "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place." But I love the new songs, too, and favorites change.
Q: How does someone get involved with the chorus and quartets? Are there qualifications?
A: You can come to a Monday practice or can call 478-345-7464 and leave a message. That's a good number to call to find out about booking us, too. To join, you do need to read music. You'll be working with four-part harmony so you need to find your note well. Plus, you need to enjoy all the different things we do. We do all this to have a good time and make people smile. We don't do it to make money -- being able to raise money for charity is an added side benefit. We have members from all over Middle Georgia. There are dues but they're discounted the first year.
Q: What is it about barbershop -- about four-part male harmony -- that does it for you?
A: You can't find anything else that makes a chord ring the way four-part harmony does. There's no other style of music like it. And the style and the songs are timeless.
Q: But doesn't it seem pretty old-fashioned?
A: Well it did start 100 years ago with guys hanging around barbershops. They all wanted to sing a different part so it developed that way and caught on. About 10 years after that it got organized and became an international movement. We're getting a larger and larger audience among young people these days. At a recent national event we had 700 kids show up. And think about it: A cappella is the big thing now in every genre of music and that's what barbershop quartets are all about. Young people hear the harmony and their ears perk up.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.