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July 8, 2011

A cappella extravaganza brings 5,600 barbershop singers to KC

Kansas City Star:

Oh where, oh where, are the handlebar mustaches?

You’d think they’d be easy to spot at a gathering of barbershop singers, but it turns out long, twirly ’staches are as rare as a barbershopper’s straw hat.

At the 73rd annual Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention, in town through this weekend, a ballroom at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown has been turned into a store for the conventioneers, but there’s nary a straw hat (they’re called skimmers) in the place.

Stop a singer or two — 5,600 are here for the all-male “a cappella extravaganza” — to ask about fancy mustaches or some such and you’ll quickly be set straight about modern barbershopping.

“We don’t hang out under streetlamps, either,” says Don Fuson of Leawood, a member of the local Heart of America Chorus.

“We try to keep it cool,” says Oliver Merrill of Manchester, Conn., who at 29 is one of the younger barbershoppers outside the collegiate competitors. Zoot suits are an example of cool, he says. Skimmers or armbands? Not so much.

“We want to show people that this is groovy,” Merrill says

Judging from a couple of hours of quartet competitions this week at the Sprint Center, barbershoppers appear to favor suits, often dark, often with ties, when trying to impress judges. Still, you hear stories about foursomes coming out in bright red or purple duds. A Nashville comedy quartet called Lunch Break, which harmonizes about food (of course), has been known to perform in pajamas.

Wednesday morning, the non-collegiate quartets sang about trundle beds, throbbing hearts, crowing roosters, a fat kid named Roly Poly and a gal (as in “Where’s my gal?”). Each quartet performs two songs.

Typically with quartets you don’t see “Glee”-style choreography, but there is movement. The four men stand close to each other in front of a single microphone, their faces full of expression and their arms often in motion. They might bob up and down. Some groups use props, such as a drawing pad on an easel.

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I'm not attending the competition this year but in previous years mustaches have been in abundance and mighty specimens they were to. It seems some must make fun of barbershoppers but, hey, leave the mustaches alone! No mundane mustaches these but rather marvelous, majestic constructions of masculinity! Wear them proudly my friends.

Posted by acapnews at July 8, 2011 9:50 PM


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