by James Rada, Jr., photography by Phil Grout
Maybe you don’t think you have much of a singing voice. No problem. You can still have your sweetheart serenaded on Valentine’s Day with a quartet of singers from the Hanover Barbershop Chorus, which has been performing in Hanover for 51 years.
On Valentine’s Day, quartets will spend the day serenading women (and men) in the area with a rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart.” Following the sweet melodies, the group will present your loved one with roses. The chorus has been doing this as a fundraiser for more than 10 years. It still remains a popular and memorable Valentine’s Day gift.
Last year, only one quartet could do the singing. They began at 6 a.m. in a cemetery serenading a grave and finished up 10 p.m. that night. They sung 27 times throughout the day.
“They were about as hoarse as could be at the end of the night,” said Dick Weaver, one of the chorus members.
Despite the long day in 2015, serenading “is fun,” said chorus member Don Meyer. “Sometimes “it can feel a little weird singing love songs to a man,” Weaver added jokingly.
Remember the old movie musicals that show a quartet of men with large handlebar mustaches dressed in straw hats and striped vests with white shirts singing around a lamppost? That image captures many people’s visions of a barbershop quartet.
“It took us a long time to break away from that mold,” said Myers.
Barbershop singing is vocal harmony where the singers voices are unaccompanied by instruments. It consists of four parts: lead, tenor, baritone, and bass. Leads generally sing the melody. Tenors harmonize above the melody while basses sing below the melody. Baritones complete the chords.
Hanover Barbershop Chorus
The Hanover Barbershop Chorus formed in 1965 when Earl Bittinger, Bob Carthew, Dave Landis, and Gary Forry formed a quartet to sing barbershop-style music in Hanover. When they decided that they wanted to become a chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, they sent letters to men they know whom they thought might be interested in joining a chorus. About fifteen men attended the first meeting held at the Utz Potato Chip Co.
The all-male chorus meets every Monday evening at Homewood at Plum Creek to practice singing in the tight harmony that barbershop singing is known for.
The chorus has been around 48 years and John P. Fike, Sr., has been singing with the group for 20 years.
“I like the harmony,” he said. “I was invited to sing and I got hooked right away.”
The Barbershop Chorus performs 20 to 30 times each year; its biggest show unfolds at Hanover High School on the fourth Saturday in September each year.
Earl Erb has been singing barbershop style for 31 years. “The son of a friend of mine invited me to come sing with them and I wound up really liking it,” he said.
The Hanover Barbershop Chorus has around three dozen members on its roster and around two dozen men show up at each practice. All of the members are men, although there is a local women’s barbershop chorus called the Sweet Adelines.
They sing a wide variety of songs, ranging from the 1950s through the 1990s.
The group is always looking for new members, especially since its members tend to be on the high side of 50 years old. The oldest member is “Doc” Ehly who is 94 years old and has been singing with the Hanover Barbershop Chorus for 44 years.
“We are trying to get the music out into the community and let them know what we do,” Erb said. “One of the groups we work with is the Drop the Octave an a cappella group at Gettysburg College.”
The barbershop singers also hope that their performances will show aspiring singers how much fun singing barbershop can be. You don’t even have to audition. If you enjoy singing, they will find a place to fit your voice within the chorus.