SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 9, 2013

Celebrating 65 years of harmony

Northshoremen's annual barbershop show Saturday

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Every Wednesday night, a group of men get together in Beverly to sing barbershop.

They range in age from 20s to 80s, work in a wide variety of fields and come from all across Northeastern Massachusetts. The one thing they have in common? A love of singing barbershop, the a cappella style known for close harmonies, popular tunes and quartet groupings.

In addition to performing locally — from clinics with local high schools to an annual “singing valentine” fundraiser — the Northshoremen barbershoppers travel throughout the U.S. for singing competitions and conferences. This year they’re celebrating 65 years of singing.

The Northshoremen will perform their annual spring show Saturday at 3 p.m. at Beverly High School. Three of the Northshoremen’s quartets will perform, along with Downtown Crossing, a quartet from the Concord area and G20, a youth chorus from Fall River.

Saturday’s concert will be family-friendly and fun, said chorus member Paul Arnone. The Northshoremen will perform a nostalgic trip through barbershop’s beginnings to the current day, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Barbershop Harmony Society. The Northshoremen are members of the society, a national group devoted to preservation and promotion of barbershop singing.

Arnone, a retired college professor from Malden, has been singing barbershop for more than 50 years. He was first invited to a barbershop rehearsal by a work colleague while he was in his 20s, just out of the Air Force.

Arnone was skeptical of the invite, he said, but agreed to come when he heard they’d have coffee and doughnuts.

“I went and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I just loved the music,” he said. “I joined three weeks later and the rest is history. ... My life wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun as what it has been barbershopping.”

It’s more than just singing, said Arnone — it’s a social outlet and a chance to travel for competitions and conferences. Arnone is headed to an international barbershop convention in Toronto, Canada, this summer.

“We say it’s the music that draws people to the style, but it’s the friendship and camaraderie (that keeps them singing),” he said.

Throughout the year, the Northshoremen organize local workshops, fundraisers and educational events for local youngsters, including an annual summer camp. Membership fluxuates between 30 and 40 people, said Arnone.

“We want to share the harmony and introduce people to what the harmony really is,” he said. “... If they can carry a tune, they can sing barbershop harmony.”

Barbershop singing was originally learned by ear, without reading music, he said. That’s where the name “barbershop” comes from — groups would hang out at the local barbershop, singing and learning tunes from each other.

“We don’t use anything beyond a pitch pipe,” said Arnone.

In singing, barbershoppers are always looking for a chord to “lock and ring,” he said — when the notes of a chord come together so perfectly you can hear overtones of additional notes that aren’t being sung.

“That’s when the hair on the back of your neck stands up,” he said, “and you know, ‘oh yeah, we did it.’”

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Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.

IF YOU GO What: Northshoremen annual spring show When: Saturday, May 11, 3 p.m. Where: Beverly High School, 100 Sohier Road Tickets: $20, available at the door. Pre-purchase tickets by calling 978-927-7894 or 978-374-8865, or email northshoremen@verizon.net Information: www.harmonize.com/northshoremen