Bob Brooks has spent his Tuesday evenings singing with the Cumberland Bay Chorus for 50 years. The men-only group will offer free voice lessons with local voice coach William Verity at their 7 p.m. Tuesday meetings from Feb. 28 to March 20. Visit CumberlandBay.org for more info.
Even if you just like howling in the shower, the Cumberland Bay Chorus is offering free vocal lessons from a well-known local singing coach at a men-only crooning camp for the next month.
Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the Northern Alliance Church annex from Feb. 28 to March 20, the chorus will have William Verity on hand to give free singing lessons to what long-time member Dave Hurd said will be a low-pressure learning environment.
Verity's headed choruses for Plattsburgh City Schools, SUNY Plattsburgh, All-County ensembles in Clinton and Franklin counties and conducted the North West District Music Festival in Vermont.
Chorus treasurer Tom Maglienti said getting the word out about the group and increasing enrollment can be tough. He was one of those tough recruiting targets until seven years ago. His neighbor, Dave Hurd, encouraged Maglienti to join up for years, but he always declined — until he retired.
“I couldn't come up with more excuses not to join,” he said.
And he's happy he couldn't. There's something unique about barbershop, he said. The tight harmonies of that a cappella style really get him.
“It's very gratifying, very satisfying to hear those chords ring,” he said.
Hurd said aside from Maglienti, he's recruited five or so more members for the group, and the time demands of group membership, though modest, can be a hard sell.
“They're concerned about whether or not they can sing, but if they can carry a tune, they'll do just fine,” said Hurd. “You're putting your voice out there for examination, and you're never sure it's right on.”
He, too, was slow in coming around to full-fledged membership. The group piqued his interest in the late '70s, but his kids were too young for personal pursuits like that. When they were off to elementary school, he joined up for awhile, but high school came along for his kids and he again had no time. Since they graduated though, he's been able to do his own thing.
And, he said, being in the chorus keeps him young.
“Singing's healthy. Many times I'll go to rehearsal and I'll just be dead tired. But after 45 minutes of singing the energy is just pumped up,” said Hurd.
All the oxygen pushed in and out of his lungs is invigorating, he said. Many of the chorus men are able to participate as long as they're able to walk.
Those who come to rehearsal don't have to join, unless they want to go out to perform at venues with the chorus, like singing for the Irishman of the Year ceremony for the Chamber of Commerce or the county fair.
The chorus is a source for quartets, though they only have one quartet right now, said Maglienti.
Even one is a generous estimate, said Hurd. The lead for their quartet bought a home in Arizona, though he comes back once in awhile. When he does, there's a functioning quartet.
In the '60s and '70s whentheir enrollment was at its largest, they drew on the population from the Air Force. The Nashville-based parent group of the Cumberland Bay Chorus, The Barbershop Harmony Society, hosts international competitions. At their peak enrollment, the local chapter placed high in the Eastern Seabord district.
All men are welcome to come by and sing for pleasure or to see if they're interested in joining up. For rehearsals from Feb. 28 to March 20 they'll have guest instruction. Find more info at CumberlandBay.org.