HARMO-ssourian Monday July 28 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."