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Finding harmony

Barbershop singers relax with music, fellowship

Posted: April 6, 2009 11:59 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

SCV Men of Harmony, a local barbershop quartet, practice the song "Under the Boardwalk" at the Valley Oaks Apartment Clubhouse on Tuesday.

 
Bill Wolf runs a local travel business, which often leaves him stressed.

But give him a couple hours performing with Santa Clarita Valley Men of Harmony every Tuesday, a local barbershop singers group, and he'll go home refreshed.

"I know when I go over there, sooner or later, I'm going to wind down," Wolf, 70, said, who serves as the organization's vice president of marketing and public relations.

The experience of being part of a barbershop quartet is beneficial to Wolf, even if he was a little reluctant when he joined the group about seven years ago.

But the accepting attitude of others in the group, along with what he considered an educational opportunity, put that reluctance to rest, he said.

"It relaxes me after I've done it," Wolf said. "It's a fun thing for me."

Performing with three other singers in a quartet takes time and requires constant practice and education.

"You have to tune to the other person," Dave Norman, program vice president, said. "It's a group accomplishment."

While the group has a musical director, there is no musical accompaniment, leaving every piece of the music to be performed a capella - with voices only.

The men typically wear sport coats when performing, although they have barbershop costumes when needed, Norman said.

Men of Harmony, formerly known as Harmony Hills Chorus, brings its music to the community through various performances for the community and local charities.

The group typically performs songs by The Beatles and The Beach Boys, but has branched out to learn show tunes. Even patriotic songs and Christmas songs make it into the rotation for special occasions. In fact, Christmas is always a busy time for the Men of Harmony.

The quartet dates back to 1973 when a group of singers wanted to resurrect the inactive Newhall Chorus of Barbershop, Norman said.

At its peak, the group had about 45 members. The organization now has about 20 members, especially as college students have picked up interest in choral singing by bringing back quartets on campus, Norman, 62, said.

Members range from retired police officers to insurance specialists, businessmen and veterans.

Norman has been part of the group for about 32 years, while Wolf joined about seven years ago.

The rehearsals quickly become part of the daily schedule.

"My family knows if it's Tuesday, it's barbershop," Norman said.

While singing comes as a stress reliever for some, for Norman, it's finding that moment where the sounds of voices blend in harmony.

It's a feeling Wolf understands.

"When you're a part of it, you feel that vibration," Wolf said.

"The sum is much better than the individual parts," Norman chimed in.

That harmony makes for a personalized heart-to-heart performance - that's what happened when the group performed its Singing Valentines for the February holiday.

"It's from us to them directly," he said.

The performances lead some to become emotional.

"We've had every reaction for Singing Valentines. We've had tears, people holding hands with tears coming down their cheek," Norman said.

Regardless of the songs to be performed and the community concerts, the weekly meetings easily become a part of daily life and a chance for men of all backgrounds to gather and share a love for barbershop-style singing.

"We are a fun-loving, fraternal chorus," Norman said.

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