NORWICH – Members of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) recently made their way to Norwich with hopes of forming a local chapter of their organization.
BHS began in 1938 when Owen Clifton Cash, an Oklahoma attorney, hosted 26 men at a rooftop garden who shared his love for singing four-part harmony. By the third week, 150 men were attending the events, and today there are more than 20,000 BHS members, making it the world’s largest all-male singing group.
BHS Seneca Land District Vice President of Membership Art Zelesnikar and Executive Vice President Bob Conant both stated there was a barbershop harmony chapter in Sidney from 1949 to 1954.
“A capella singing has had a huge resurgence recently and it has been almost 50 years since a barbershop group has been in the Norwich area,” said Conant. “It’s about time there was singing going on again.”
Chapters take part in many activities. During weekly chapter meetings members rehearse for both public and private shows, charitable events for churches, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and additional community functions including singing the National Anthem at sporting and community events.
Zelesnikar added the various members of BHS chapters refer to themselves as “barbershoppers” and take great pride in being community oriented.
“Our local chapters reach out to school music programs by working with teachers and music educators along with boys and girls at all grade levels to enrich their existing musical programs,” said Conant, who added barbershoppers offer free coaching, and free music and teaching materials to teachers. “Local barbershop chapters often have joint concerts with elementary, junior and senior high schools and college performing groups.”
Another outreach effort on which the men commented regarded community outreach. Programs to better assist the community include “Singing for Life,” which is organized around community blood drives, and “Singing Valentines,” where quartets go to homes, businesses, nursing homes and hospitals to deliver Valentines greetings – fully equipped with roses, candy and a card.
On a global level, barbershoppers donate time and money to provide programs for education, Harmony Explosion Camps, and the Youth Chorus Festival each January at the organization’s mid-winter convention. This year, the Harmony Foundation – the charitable arm of BHS – funded registrations, room and board for 576 young men at a convention in Las Vegas...