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July 25, 2005

An interview with Realtime

Bellingham Herald (WA):

Fresh from an interview with CBC Radio that had him crooning "Come Fly With Me," Lynden resident Tim Broersma grouses good-naturedly about having to stretch the vocal chords so early in the day. Especially since he's a tenor. "I have to sing really high in the morning and it's not fun," says the 25-year-old Broersma, who works at Lynden Floor Design.

But the attention, which includes four radio interviews so far, seems fun - ever since Broersma and other members of Realtime, an a cappella quartet, won the international barbershop harmony competition in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Going into the three-day competition, Realtime was ranked second among quartets, "so we knew we had a good chance of winning or being close to winning," Broersma says. Still, it was a "little overwhelming" to hear their names announced, he adds. "A lot of men strive their whole lives and never get it," Broersma says.

"We're definitely on cloud nine," says Realtime member Tom Metzger, 34, who sings bass and lives in Vancouver, B.C. Other group members are John Newell (lead), an Australian who now lives in Canada and Mark Metzger (baritone), brother to Tom. The Metzgers and Broersma had fathers who sang barbershop, so they grew up surrounded by four-part harmonies. "I've known nothing but barbershop growing up, so it's second nature to me," Broersma says.

Barbershop singing had become associated with four old guys in striped suits and straw hats singing, well, boring tunes. That's not the case these days, if Realtime members and other barbershop enthusiasts have their way. "One of the things we're trying to do is shatter some old stereotypes about barbershop and let (people) know what the barbershop scene is like in the 21st century," says Metzger, who's a software executive for Make Technologies. The striped suits of old? Forget about it.

For the international competition, Realtime members made like the Rat Pack and decked themselves out in sharp suits, singing tunes like "Come Fly With Me," made famous by Mr. Cool himself, Frank Sinatra. They also sang "Birth of the Blues " "Yesterday I Heard the Rain" and "Keep Your Sunny Side Up." They dove into jazz with "Cry Me a River" and a traditional barbershop standby, "Heart of My Heart," that was rearranged. All to give barbershop a more contemporary, more hip flavor. "We try to maintain a good spectrum of songs," Broersma says. As for the old guy thing, that's not entirely true anymore. "All of the top quartets are basically young guys," Metzger says.

What's next for the group? Members will continue singing in competitions - their next one is an acappella matchup - and for events to which they've been hired. Still, they want to keep their singing a hobby, partly because they want to devote their energy to their young families, and partly because they want to keep it fun. "The more fun we're having," Boersma says, "the better we're probably going to do."

Posted by acapnews at July 25, 2005 10:12 PM