Tag Archives: Total Vocal

Loving that old barbershop style

A quartet, formed out of the joy of barbershopping

COOL CATS ON POLECATS: One of the cool quartets that came together to sing some Polecat numbers during my visit to East York Barbershoppers rehearsal. From left are Barry Tripp (baritone), me (tenor), Wally (bass) and Doug Morrison (lead). Sheer happiness.


My friend Grant Orchard and I paid a visit to the East York Barbershoppers this week. Grant, a fellow tenor singer in newchoir, has been intrigued by the close, four-part male harmonies particular to this style of a cappella singing, and I have been waxing nostalgic lately about a musical form to which I once enjoyed a very close connection. So we took advantage of the Barbershop Harmony Society’s open door policy of letting the curious drop in on their regular weekly rehearsal night to see it all in action.

I had arranged earlier with Barry Tripp, VP Chapter Development, for us to visit on a Tuesday night in June at Harmony Hall, the Gower Street rehearsal facility the chapter owns. Somehow, our wires got crossed and we showed up a week earlier than he was expecting. Bonus for us, it turned out, because we got to take in their final rehearsal before a Saturday show and see director Pat Hannon vigorously working the 40-something member chorus: ironing out wrinkles and fluffing up nuance in their repertoire as he tweaked his wall of sound. Continue reading

New life found in breathtaking Carnegie Hall experience


Carnegie Hall will take your breath away. Standing on the storied old stage and looking out at 2,800 expectant concert goers in one of the world’s most prestigious venues is a dividing line in the history of any performer.

Georg and I backstage at Carnegie Hall

READY TO GO: From newchoir in Toronto, Georg Bjarnason, right, and I waiting to take the stage at Carnegie Hall.

It is a transformational experience, duly noted by a flood of emotions that well up seemingly out of nowhere, not only in the heat of performance but also during dress rehearsal — where before you, filling every one of the red cloth-covered seats, is history — and afterward, too, once you’ve climbed back up the staircase to your dressing room.

There is admiration of history and architecture, the way the grand auditorium’s multi-tier seating arrangement sweeps around you. There is a keen sense of destination and of destiny too, and in the midst of the storied opulence, no matter how politely stated, one is moved to acknowledge his own beginnings and the steps that led him here. Along with surges of elation and a sense of musical elevation comes a soaring joy, but also sobriety.

I got to experience this firsthand on March 29, as part of the Distinguished Concerts International New York presentation Total Vocal. Continue reading