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Barbershop quartets to harmonize at Magnificat

Sue Botos

Westshore

Residents can get a jump on celebrating Mother’s Day by bringing Mom to Tower City Chorus’ 73rd annual spring show at the Magnificat Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Fermata Town, Three Dudes and a Guy, from Oberlin College, and the Reen Family Singers will be featured guest quartets.

According to Tower City Chorus marketing Director Mike Vislosky, the group of 40 men is the oldest barbershop chorus east of the Mississippi River, and was founded in 1940. The chorus is one of six in the Cleveland area, and one of 70 in the Johnny Appleseed District of the Barbershop Harmony Society. He added that many members break out of the group to perform as quartets.

He noted that the Reen Family Singers is a quartet made up of Steve Reen and his three oldest sons, Stephan, 14, Dominic, 13, and Bernie, 12. They joined the national Barbershop Harmony Society in 2010, and within a few months, they won the novice quartet award in the Cardinal District, which is made up of 27 chapters from Indiana and Kentucky. The younger Reens are also accomplished pianists and string players.

According to Vislosky, more and more young people are becoming interested in barbershop harmony. “We have had more members join in their late teens and early 20s this year than ever before,” he noted, adding that in the Greater Cleveland area, there are about 10,000 barbershoppers in that age group.

“Young people love a cappella singing. We started going into the high schools and making presentations,” said Vislosky, adding that there are 60 area high schools with barbershop groups, both male and female, including Avon and Lakewood high schools.

There is even a four-day summer camp offered in Columbus during the month of August. “The kids really took to that. Then they go back to their schools and form quartets,” he said. The highlight of the event is a concert featuring the boys’ and girls’ quartets and a chorus of eight-part harmony.

Vislosky noted that the tight four-part harmonies actually did originate in barbershops. “Back in the day, people would stand around waiting for their haircut or shave, and they would sing,” he said. In fact, according to Vislosky, the distinctive barbershop sound produces a ringing “fifth note.”

The Barbershop Harmony Society was founded in 1938 as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Because the group, which changed to its present name in 2004, was for men only, the Sweet Adelines, a parallel organization for women, was founded in 1945.

 

 

The Reen Family Singers

 

Tickets for the concert, which will feature old-time favorites, plus harmonic twists on newer tunes, cost $15 and are available at the door. The Magnificat Center for the Performing Arts is located at 20770 Hilliard Road in ROcky River.

 

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