Spreading the harmony: Barbershop Parade to give 71st annual Chautauqua performance

Members of the Seneca Statesman perform during the Barbershop Harmony Parade Aug. 26, 2018 in the Amp. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

For more than seven decades, the Barbershop Harmony Parade has been a cherished event at Chautauqua Institution. George Jarrell personally enjoys the harmonies created by barbershop quartets — he said it’s what first attracted him to music as a child. But Jarrell also pointed to another aspect of barbershop that keeps him singing.

“The other part that really is wonderful to me is the friendships that I’ve made — the fellowship and camaraderie with the guys,” said Jarrell, a barbershopper of 38 years and Chautauqua show chairman. “And I’ve been fortunate to have three other guys that I’ve been singing with for a good many years; as a matter of fact, I’ve been singing in the same quartet for 33 years.”

The 71st annual Barbershop Harmony Parade will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, and will feature four award-winning quartets: ColdSnap, The Harbor House 4, Fast Forward and Group Therapy.

The quartets will perform songs that are typical of the barbershop style, but their repertoire is in no way limited. “Jeepers Creepers,” “In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening” and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” are just a few of the featured selections for Sunday’s performance. The Parade will culminate with a group sing of “Keep the Whole World Singing” and “God Bless America.”

Jarrell, who has been performing in the Parade for more than three decades, said the Parade is appreciated at Chautauqua. He’s as excited as ever for this year’s event, but in particular, one feature stands out compared to previous years.

“This is the first time at Chautauqua that we’re going to have a mixed quartet,” Jarrell said. “It’s two men and two women, and they’re called Group Therapy. … I don’t think there’s been a mixed group quartet (as part of the Barbershop Harmony Parade) before.”

Group Therapy is the 2019 Seneca Land District Mixed Quartet Champion. Having a mixed quartet perform isn’t just unique for Chautauqua — mixed quartets are just now becoming a part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, according to Jarrell.

The group will be singing alongside three other regional quartets with numerous accolades. ColdSnap, an award-winning quartet from Buffalo, is the 2014 SLD Quartet champions and 2019 BHS International Quartet Contest Qualifiers. The Harbor House 4, which took the stage as part of last year’s Parade, is the 2018 SLD Quartet champions. Finally, Fast Forward is the 2019 Sweet Adelines International Region 17 5th-place medalists.

Those who share their talents as part of the Parade do so for the love of barbershop — the barbershoppers are not paid, and perform extensively off the grounds to spread the harmony.   

“One of the things that I might say (barbershoppers) do, other than sing and enjoy the harmony, and spread the harmony with nursing homes and other events, … (is that) we do a lot to promote music education, especially to youth,” Jarrell said. “We want to encourage (the youth) in all kinds of music, and especially vocal music.”

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The author Matthew Steinberg

Matthew Steinberg is a rising senior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, studying communication arts, journalism, and Spanish. He will be copy editing for the Daily this summer, and in his free time enjoys spending way too much money at TJ Maxx, longboarding on roads that he shouldn’t and ranting about politics.