Sunday Afternoon Entertainment

70th Barbershop Harmony Parade to showcase key ingredients of a strong quartet

Members of the male quartet group The Praetzel Brothers Aaron Praetzel, left, Brian Praetzel, Gray Cullen and Sean Praetzel perform “What a Day for a Daydream” during the Barbershop Harmony Parade on Sunday, August 20, 2017 in the Amphitheater. PAULA OSPINA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The recipe for a barbershop quartet is simple: one lead singer, a pinch of tenor, a dash of baritone and a scoop of bass.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, Chautauquans will be treated to the Barbershop Harmony Parade. Now in its 70th year, the annual event will feature performances by some of the top barbershop quartets in the region and will culminate in a patriotic finale that will feature over 100 singers on stage.

George Jarrell, Chautauqua show chairman, said the best barbershop quartets have three key ingredients — perfectionism, comradery and stellar song choices.

“We’re ear singers, basically,” Jarrell said. “Most barbershoppers are just guys who hear it and that’s what they follow. They have good intonation and they can produce some really good music.”

Sunday’s performance will include songs like “Cheer Up Charlie,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Sweet Caroline” and “Bare Necessities” from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” Jarrell, who sings baritone for Harmony Production Company, said that while many barbershop tunes are from the turn of the 20th century, the genre is expansive.

“For instance, my quartet does a lot of gospel songs. They’re not barbershop, but they’re arranged in the barbershop style,” he said.

Jarrell said the harmonies are barbershop’s greatest appeal.

“We’re not allowed to say ‘ring,’ that’s not a technical name,” Jarrell said. “When the four notes in a barbershop chord are done as perfectly as possible, there’s an overtone or other tones, some of them under, too, and that’s amazing. That’s why when people hear barbershop, their ears perk up.”

Jarrell said this year’s quartets, which include Barbershock and The Harbor House 4, vary in age.

“Since there are four in a quartet, they all have to get along together. If you’re going to produce harmony, you’ve got to have harmony in the whole thing,” Jarrell said. “They’ve got to enjoy each other’s company. That’s what makes a quartet experience really great.”

Sunday’s performance will also feature larger choirs alongside the quartets. The Seneca Statesmen and Harmonic Collective will sing a number of songs, as will the women of Buffalo Gateway Chorus, ensuring that female voices will also be heard in songs like “Wee Small Hours” and “Somewhere Out There.”

The Barbershop Harmony Parade began in the 1950s with a performance by the Buffalo Bills of The Music Man fame. Jarrell, a longtime barbershop devotee, first fell in love with the style 35 years ago in the Amp.

“I know it has been an important ingredient in my life. It’s the only thing I do other than work,” he said. “I don’t bowl, I don’t golf, I don’t do those other things, but I do sing.”

Jarrell said he is grateful for the a cappella Renaissance in the age of Pentatonix, and that the music creates a shared experience between singers and audiences.

“You feel the music in your heart that goes to the other person, and it just is a unique experience and makes the connection between the people, and that’s what life is all about,” he said. “And I love all kinds of music; I just happen to enjoy the harmony.”

Chautauqua audience keeps Brass Band coming back to Amp



The Brass Band of the Western Reserve. Submitted photo.

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

The term “Western Reserve” refers to a patch of land in northeast Ohio previously owned by the state of Connecticut in the 18th century. Members of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve picked that name over, say, “Brass Band of Akron,” to highlight the group’s diverse geographical makeup.

“It just seemed like a good name,” said band director Keith M. Wilkinson. “We didn’t want to pinpoint the name to any particular city, because that’s not the band.”

Though it has rehearsal space in Akron, players from Youngstown, Sandusky, Columbus and other Ohio cities comprise the group, which will play at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.

Wilkinson resides in Columbus, where he teaches mathematics at Capital University. He was a successful brass band director in England before moving to Ohio in 1996. He first took a position as music director for the Salvation Army, which ended after funding dried up. He then sought out local musicians for a new project, one that would eventually become the Brass Band of the Western Reserve.

Since its genesis in fall 1997, the band has performed in venues both large and small, including multiple visits to the Amphitheater. Wilkinson said it’s the audience that keeps the group coming back to the Institution.

“We’ve always found that the Chautauqua audience likes what we do, the variety of music we perform and the quality of the band’s performance,” he said.

That quality comes from camaraderie among band members, Wilkinson said. They play what they like to play, but they also play what audiences respond to and enjoy.

The band has seven recorded albums, and most are usually available to purchase at shows. The latest album, “Without Reserve,” is a play on the band’s name but also serves as a mission statement of sorts, Wilkinson said.

“When we play, we give our everything in terms of making music,” he said. “We play high quality, and we play good repertoire, so we don’t hold anything back.”

Sunday’s show is one of the band’s farthest destinations for a concert. Members travel from the Akron area, where the band played some “fireworks events” last weekend for the Independence Day holiday, Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said audiences can expect the big brass sound the band has become known for — glamorous show tunes and marches — as well as some guest soloist performances and sectional ensemble items.

The band chooses this type of set list, above all, to keep the audience entertained and engaged.

“We’re not out to educate; we’re out to entertain and send people home enjoying music we’ve played with a spring in their step,” he said.

The band has played Chautauqua almost every year since 2004, and Wilkinson said he hopes this collaboration will continue.

“We just love the venue for all sorts of reasons,” he said. “It’s a lovely place to play.”

Award-winning Legion Band returns to Amp

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Seen here in 2010, the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Post 264, performs on Sunday afternoon in the Amphitheater. Daily file photo.

Nick Glunt | Staff Writer

The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Post 264, will perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. The award-winning concert band, established in 1929, draws its membership from various musicians in western New York.

“(Chautauquans will) get a chance to hear a band that is a special band, really,” said Jim Scott, personnel manager and 50-year member of the band. “We have a handful of professional musicians, and we have some good band music that you’re never going to hear from any other band at Chautauqua.”

The band draws its membership from a great variety of people. The roster includes people involved in management, engineering, medicine, government, sales and education. Scott said diversity is an advantage for the band because members get the chance to work with musicians who are just as talented as they are.

No one in the band is compensated for the work they put forth. Scott said people stay involved because of the opportunities the group offers.

“The band just keeps getting better and better because we just keep getting better musicians,” Scott said.

The band, he said, has a good reputation in the area simply because people like to hear the members play. The following even extends beyond New York because people who move away join other bands all around the country. At national competitions, they encounter former members on a regular basis.

At the band’s past performances, many Chautauqua residents came from beyond the grounds to see the group, Scott said.

“We get a variety of people coming to listen to us that live in Chautauqua,” he said.