By Muriel Smith
RED BANK – The Red Bank Area Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society is offering a unique Valentine’s Day gift for those who like the unusual……arrange for a trained quartet to sing a couple of love songs to that special someone!
Established more than half a century ago, the local Chapter is part of the international Society founded in 1938 to preserve and promote barbershop harmony among men of all ages. Its 35 members., ranging in age from mid-20s to early -90s, like the more than 25, 0000 members in the organization headquartered in Tennessee, come from all walks of life and professions…police officer, electronic engineer, retired military, newspaper publisher, teacher, football coach, all with one thing in common… a strong desire to sing and make people happy with their harmony.
They’re particularly popular around Valentine’s Day, when they offer a special, low-priced opportunity to appear in home, school, office, hospital, nursing home or street corner, harmonize a couple of love songs, and present the honoree with a long-stemmed rose and a photograph to memorialize the event.
For the most part, the local chapter’s members are not professional singers in that they do not make their living in harmony. Many, like Herbie Van Note, a retired West Long Branch police captain, simply love to sing and have been doing it since signing up for a church choir as a younger. Valentine’s Day is particularly special to Herbie; his wife, Gloria, who died 14 years ago, was also a singer, and sang with the Sweet Adelines, the women’s group of harmony lovers affiliated with the Society. They shared the musical hobby together, and Herbie continues to carry on her memory, singing both with the evening group and the Matinee Idles, a spin-off of that group that regularly presents programs at club meetings, care centers and schools.
The dedication to professionalism and excellence of the harmony can be attributed to Craig T. Page of Brick, the Director who lives music night and day. Professionally, he is the music director at CPC’s High Point Schools based in Morganville and sees first hand with his students how music helps people relax and enjoy life just a bit more. He’s been with the Society 20 years and puts in anywhere from five to eight hours of volunteer time each week directing and completing associated paperwork and design. He enjoys being director, he smiles, because “I like to lead.” As a music professional, he “can hear it, and feel it, and fix it if it isn’t perfect. More importantly, I like to see the smiles from the audience.” Assistant director is Kirk Thompson of Middletown, and his enthusiasm in warming up his singers for their two to three-hour practice sessions is reminiscent of intense cardiac training sessions. “It’s important to be able to bend, stretch, move your muscles and breathe correctly,” he explains, to stage the vibrant music for which the society is famous.
During January, in addition to tuning up for their Valentine’s specials, the singers turn their attention to practicing for planned patriotic ceremonies throughout the year, including Flag Day in June and a Sept. 11 Memorial ceremony. Practices are held weekly, and the singers wear casual clothes and sit, stand, or wander around the auditorium throughout the session. But come showtime, they’re splendidly arrayed, in either their Class A or Class B uniforms. Class A attire is a blue Blazer trimmed in gold, white pants and a red bow tie; Class B uniforms include blue collared shirts with the Society emblem, black or white pants, depending on the season, and white shoes with white pants. The Matinee Idles, the smaller group of members who meet during the day and perform at daytime gatherings of clubs, at nursing homes and hospitals, also have a red vest with black trim, a red bow tie, white shirt and red armbands.
The Valentine’s specials, offered at $60, include a uniformed quartet, two love songs, the rose and photo memento. They are available Saturday, Feb. 10 through Wednesday. Feb. 14 and can be arranged either by calling 732-784-7343 and leaving a message for a return call, or by filling out the order form on the chorus website at https://www.redbankchorus.org/.
The Chorus of the Atlantic, a 501c (3) non-profit organization, also welcomes visitors to their rehearsals, held Tuesday evenings from 7:30 – 10:00 p.m. at the Red Bank Middle School, Harding Road, Red Bank.