BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — Those who like holiday tunes can hear them all in one sitting — from “Auld Lang Syne” in January to “White Christmas” in December, and every month in between.
The Danville Barbershop Chorus will present “Enjoy the Holidays” at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Bremer Theater at Danville Area Community College. Every significant calendar event — except Groundhog Day — will be featured in song.
Director Jim Beebe said, “I’m pleased we’ve included traditional songs with Christmas and Easter, as well as Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah.” Plus, there are patriotic songs, such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and fun tunes, like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Other favorites are “You’re as Welcome as the Flowers in May,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Let’s Get Away From it All,” “Please, Mr. Columbus,” “Feast of Lights,” “McNamara’s Band” and “My Wild Irish Rose.” A rendition of “Happy Birthday” will mark the 75th anniversary of the International Barbershop Harmony Society.
In the second half of the show, the North Ridge Middle School Red Coats will perform, under the direction of Jennifer Woodrow. The program ends with “America the Beautiful.”
Twenty-four of the 32 members will take the stage, and four quartets will perform — Buffalo Chips, St. James Infirmary, First Time Around and Four on the Floor.
Jeff McMorris, a member for two years, and Mike Westphal, a longtime member, are show chairmen.
McMorris is excited about this year’s production, as it shows improvement from last year, when the singers stood on the raisers and just sang. This year, there’s choreography and the show is more dynamic, he said.
In fact, McMorris said, “Barbershop in Danville is a success story in the last couple of years.” The chorus was struggling, but has managed to attract new members and bring back former ones lately, he said.
Not only that, but Beebe is a perfectionist, and the quality of sound and blend of voices have improved, he said, adding, “It is a phenomenal difference in sound.”
McMorris also stressed that barbershop music isn’t just tunes from the 1920s. Rather, barbershop refers to a sound and a style, and any type of music can be rewritten to fit the barbershop sound.
Barbershop is marked by four-part harmony and a lack of instrumental accompaniment, he said, adding, “It’s a warm, rich sound.”
Beebe also is happy with the chorus now, saying, “I’m so pleased with the voices that have returned or joined and the quality of singing.”
Anyone who likes to sing and have fun is invited to join, and you don’t necessarily need a strong voice.
The chorus members’ ages range from a high school freshman to 90-year-old Bill Smail of Covington, Ind., and his 88-year-old brother, Lenny. The members’ professions vary, including businessmen, farmers, students, retired men and professionals, Beebe said, and they come from across Vermilion County and western Indiana.
“We’ve never had such a diverse membership,” Beebe said, “and they all come together for the love of music.”
McMorris, who is an insurance agent, gave his reasons for joining: “It’s good fellowship. I enjoy the good vocals.”
He is one of five people from St. James United Methodist Church who make up the “quartet,” St. James Infirmary.
Appeal to students
Beebe, who has been director a year and a member of the local chapter since August 2011, has been involved with barbershop music since he was in college. As a music teacher in Danville schools, retiring in 1988, he said he has always appreciated the barbershop style, and tried to relay that to his students.
In fact, he’s excited about a workshop on Oct. 22 to introduce the musical style to students. Youth in Harmony is the educational arm of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and it’s the first time Danville has sponsored the workshop. There will be a male quartet to work with the boys and a female quartet to work with the girls.
Sweet Adelines will be involved with the workshop, as well.
Also, Beebe said, the Danville Barbershop Chorus will be featured in the Sweet Adelines’ cabaret show on May 4.
The Danville chorus has been singing in the Illiana area for more than 50 years, and is available to sing at community events.
“Enjoy the Holidays” will be presented at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Danville Area Community College’s Bremer Theater. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door, from any member, or by calling 759-7367.
If you’re interested in joining the Danville Barbershop Chorus, the group meets from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday at Bethel Lutheran Church, 901 W. Fairchild St.