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Country cabaret

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 11/13/19

Music is an integral part of any culture, often defining the very spirit of a community. In our very regional community, i.e. the Delaware River valley region, there is so much culture collectively …

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Country cabaret

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Music is an integral part of any culture, often defining the very spirit of a community. In our very regional community, i.e. the Delaware River valley region, there is so much culture collectively pooled from its inhabitants that we often have the luxury of setting the tone for whatever venue requires melodious nourishment. Folks in and around Narrowsburg, Callicoon and even Honesdale hail from New York City and beyond—even from other countries. With them, they have brought their own tastes and influences that have shaped their musical palates. My grandfather comes from the not-so-far-away Lancaster County area; and throughout his life, barbershop music has always been a major part of his experience. As a result, each generation after him has had at least one young man to join the ranks of the Barbershop Harmony Society, including yours truly.

As God would have it, I currently sing in a barbershop quartet with my grandfather. For those of you who have never heard of barbershop music, quite simply it is the a capella singing of four men in harmony, each with a respective part: bass, baritone, lead and tenor. I sing tenor, which is the highest part, and my grandfather sings baritone, which is a middle-to-low range part that is primarily there to help complete the harmony of chords. Lead is typically the melody of a song and bass is the lowest notes.

If you’ve ever seen the musical or movie “Music Man,” you will have seen four town gentlemen who would break into song at the prompting of the stories’ lead character, Professor Harold Hill. Although I share Mr. Hill’s initials and last name, I can most assuredly declare that it was not his influence that began my barbershopping career. That honor would go, as you might imagine, to my grandpa Krieder, with whom I proudly sing as a part of the Northeasters Barbershop chorus.

By now you may be asking why I have gone into so much detail about barbershop and its presence here in the New York/Pennsylvania area. We sing at a number of events throughout the year including Christmas caroling, concerts in the park in Honesdale, Valentine’s Day songs for loved ones in February, and even an annual concert in the Honesdale High School every fall. But in between all of these regularly scheduled sing-outs, we receive invitations to perform in new places, as was the case with this past Saturday’s Logging Days Festival in Narrowsburg, NY. Two of our quartets were able to make it to the event and share a little bit of what we love with the crowds that made the event such a success.

Now typically, barbershop music gets a bad rap as being an old-people’s kind of music; however, as passersby at the festival proved, barbershop music can still get your feet to tapping no matter what your age. Several children hopped up and down as our quartet, the Noteables, sang “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad.” Several more experienced and discerning ears cued soft smiles of recognition as we moved on to songs like “My Coney Island Baby” and “Hello Mary Lou.” As much fun as we had singing out in the crisp November air, the crowd’s interest seemed to be piqued when we began to sing “Cabaret.” Jonathan Charles Fox of The River Reporter made a point of noting that he had never heard cabaret music in a classic barbershop style, and was surprised and delighted to hear it.

Prior to the barbershoppers, there were other musicians, including Poison Love, who wowed the children with their musical stylings. All in attendance seemed to have gotten the memo to wear buffalo plaid, which added logger ambiance to the rustic country affair.

One might not have anticipated a barbershop quartet at a logging festival to perform in tandem with the acoustic Americana of Poison Love, but the resulting mix of entertainment perhaps defined a new old-fashioned culture of its own. The way out here is filled with music for every occasion. In keeping with tradition and community we get the opportunity to share a bit of what we have to offer with others around us.

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