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HARMO-ssourian Monday July 28 2003

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  • Brian Lynch
    Mittlestadt: I Thank Barbershopping For a long and happy friendship, long and happy marriage, I thank Barbershopping, said quartet man / director Dave
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2003
      Mittlestadt: "I Thank Barbershopping"

      "For a long and happy friendship, long and happy marriage, I thank
      Barbershopping," said quartet man / director Dave Mittelstadt in the 2003
      Harmony College keynote address.

      A Russ Foris-produced video retrospective introduced Mittelstadt's quartets:
      The Villageaires, the silver medallist Play-tonics, The Easternaires, and
      his championship chorus, the Dapper Dans of Livingston, New Jersey. And then
      Dave took the stage, and for the next hour shared remembrances of his boy
      quartet's evolution into world-class singers in the hotbed of harmony around
      Chicago in the '40s and '50s. Starting with simple duet harmonies with
      boyhood pal Clair DeFrew shared around the schoolroom piano, Dave's story is
      the American Idol dream of mid-century mid-America.

      As today, the great singers clustered together and reinforced the growth and
      appreciation of the art. Imagine being a young singer invited to a chapter
      meeting and meeting four recent or imminent champs. That's what Dave and
      Clair found when Dale Sylvester took them to the Chicago No. 1 Chapter:
      stepping out for a song or two that night were Frank Thorne's Elastic Four;
      The Misfits; The Four Harmonizers; and future champs The Mid-States Four.

      Memorable friends and mentors like Marty Mendro, Hal Purdy and others
      surrounded Dave's quartets through the years, weaving a rich tapestry of

      Dave closed with a heartfelt performance of the "afterglow closer" of his
      old Main Street Four quartet, "Thanks For The Memories." (Coincidentally,
      the same hour marked the passing of entertainer Bob Hope, also remembered
      for this song..),

      Thanks the memory
      Of scores of chapter shows
      Of noisy afterglows
      The time we did "The Music Man"
      And sang of Lida Rose

      Ah, thank you. so much.
      And thanks for the memory
      Of all the folks we met
      The times we won't forget
      The show in Kokomo
      When we out-sang the Big Quartet
      How lovely it was..

      We'll treasure the sense of elation
      That follows a hearty ovation
      That wonderful warming sensation
      With which we are blessed
      when we've done our best.
      And thanks for the memory
      Of being on your show
      You've been magnifico
      We'd love to keep on singing
      But we really have to go.

      So thank you, so much.

      Opening general session highlights.

      Our past and our future met, shook hands, and decided they could get along
      just fine at Sunday night's opening session.

      Dean Greg Lyne recognized barbershoppers from around the world, from all
      stages of experience (lookit all them freshmen! Lookit all them first-time
      directors!), then led the assembled throng in a chestnut arrangement from
      pen and heart of the late, great Lou Perry: "Smiling Through," as sweet and
      sentimental a barbershop ballad as anyone could ever sing. "Challenge
      yourself to approach your rehearsal like a professional singer," suggested
      Lyne, "every time, and see if you don't like the result better." His "think
      system" worked: those 600-some voices made some beautiful sounds.

      And isn't that what the week is about? Ranging from our good old cornball
      sense of humor epitomized by the constant appearance of Don Kahl, to our
      passionate reading of old ballads with "modern" interpretative style and
      ever-improving vocal technique, to the youthful energy of Larry Ajer quartet
      scholarship winners Smackdown. our future and past are on very good terms

      The national anthems sung the way they ought to be sung

      Every heart leaps up when "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "O! Canada!" are
      sung with passion and conviction. Doesn't your national pride swell when you
      sing those in the barbershop arrangements?

      Thank Val Hicks and Joe Liles for each, respectively. And thank Bob Johnson
      for causing their creation.

      As Val tells us, "Harmony College, 1971, Birmingham. It's Friday night, and
      Bob wants us to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at closing session. 'Val,
      write me a chart,' he commanded. That's how he was: just do it." Val sat
      himself down, and next morning handed Johnson a chart to copy.

      Chuckles Val, "I was out busy woodshedding when they sang it. Later, Bob
      asked me, 'So? What did you think?" I told him I hadn't heard it."

      He'd hear plenty of it in the years to come. Val's one-off chart has become
      the de facto "standard" barbershop arrangement, sung a conservative
      bazillion times for audiences numbering in the multi-gazillions.

      A similar story stands behind Joe Liles' chart of "O! Canada!" published
      under authorship credit of SPEBSQSA. "Bob told me to write it, and I did. We
      labeled the author SPEBSQSA because we wanted it to be the Society's chart."

      How a party became an institution

      To celebrate the Dapper Dans of Harmony's second-place finish at the 1966
      convention in Chicago, chorus member Hal Purdy threw a party for the chorus
      at The Saddle Room in Chicago's famous Palmer House. Sitting on a
      saddle-topped barstool, gazing at the cowhide stretched above the bar, Hall'
      s son Mal remarked to his pop that the place ought to be called Purdy's
      Corral. The name stuck, and was for 35 years the name borne by Hal's
      hospitality rooms at conventions.

      Why does a district champion quartet need Harmony College?
      by Overdrive, Northeastern

      District Quartet champ in 2000, is making its fourth trip to Harmony
      College, but this is their first time with new lead Al St. Louis. They
      attribute much of their success to the

      coaching they received in their first two years at Harmony College.

      So why come back?

      "We're looking for that boost from 72.17 to 76," said tenor Jason Woolf. "We
      've reached a pretty good level, and won a district championship. but
      getting to the next level means getting coaching from the best."

      In their case, "the best" means coaching from Jim DeBusman, singing, Kevin
      Keller, music, Steve Plumb, presentation, and Marty Lovick, performance.

      Overdrive is one of 24 quartets participating in Quartet College this year.
      "It's more than just the coaching," said bass John Sinclair. "It's the fun
      of spending a week with really good friends, making new ones, and building a
      quartet into a family."
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