After 50 years, men’s chorus becomes Grand HarmonyThe Valley Chordsmen, the Grand Forks area men/s barbershop chorus, is taking a big step to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. It’s getting a new name — Grand Harmony — to go along with a new, young director and a fresher songbook.
The Valley Chordsmen, the Grand Forks area men/s barbershop chorus, is taking a big step to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. It’s getting a new name — Grand Harmony — to go along with a new, young director and a fresher songbook.
“Barbershop suffers from that image of four guys standing around the street corner singing ‘My Wild Irish Rose,’” said Mark Magness, who has been interim director of the men’s chorus since Mark McLaurin left the position.
“There’s a lot of music, especially from the ‘50s and ’60, that can be harmonized,” he said. “We got caught in a trap of singing the old songs instead of saying, ‘Are there new songs we can sing?,’ and of course there are.”
The chorus still loves the old, traditional barbershop songs, and its new songs, including ones by the Silhouettes, the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and the Beach Boys, are from the 1950s and 1960s, and not exactly “new.” But times change, tastes change, and for these guys who love to sing, this music is certainly better known and appreciated by them and their audiences than, say, “Wait for the Sunshine, Nellie.”
Grand Harmony recently hired Nathan Weisz, a 21-year-old music major from Hazen, N.D., as its director. Weisz said he hit the ground running with the group. The men of Grand Harmony had already pretty much determined their set list for their upcoming concerts (Thursday at Stephen, Minn., and April 10 in East Grand Forks) when he arrived. But he said he’s looking forward to tweaking Grand Harmony’s repertoire.
Magness, who teaches in the UND integrated studies program, moved to Grand Forks in 1994 when he retired from the U.S. Air Force. He’d been singing barbershop since 1971 when he graduated from college.
“I’ve been told I got here after the golden days of barbershop,” he said. “We used to fill the Chester Fritz. As time went on, people became more interested in other things.” The Valley Chordsmen were the first group to perform to a sell-out crowd at the Chester Fritz Auditorium not long after it opened
Currently Grand Harmony has about 30 members ranging in age from early 20s to the 70s. Its members come from all sorts of backgrounds. What unites them is that they all love to sing a cappella four-part harmony, Magness said.
The names the Grand Harmony roster and the parts they sing are:
Tenors: Kevin Cushing, Duane Evenson, Mark Magness, Mark Solberg.
Leads: Rex Rupert, Roger Birkholz, Scott Halstead, Mark Diers, Josh Lindenberg, Matt Pfeiffer, Pete Nenow.
Baritone: Rich Derrick, Ed Olson, Dwight Wigness, Josh Moen.
Bass: Kevin Dean, Tony Grainger, Chris Larson, Barry Lentz, Jim Amundson, Tom Robinson, Dale Spicer.
The history of barbershop music goes back to the Tin Pan Alley days, from 1890 to 1930, but the Grand Forks group got its start in 1961.
Over the years, they’ve often partnered a cappella harmony in performances with the women’s barbershop ensemble, the Sweet Adelines, including for their annual Sing for a Supper Christmas benefit concert. Grand Harmony has delivered singing Valentines and given an annual concert each April.
Grand Harmony will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Stephen (Minn.) Arts Center. Tickets are $10. The group will perform its annual spring concert at 4 p.m. April 10 in the East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets will be adults, $10; students, $5; and family tickets, $25; available at the door or from any Grand Harmony member.
If you’re interested in joining Grand Harmony, contact president Kevin Dean, or another member of the group. Grand Harmony rehearses on Tuesday evenings.
Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
First concert: Grand Harmony (formerly Valley Chordsmen) and Fallcreek Quartet perform for the Stephen (Minn.) Arts Center Concert Series.
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Stephen Arts Center, Stephen, Minn. Doors open: 7 p.m,
Second concert: Grand Harmony annual concert
When and where: 4 p.m. April 10, East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center.
Tickets: Adults, $10; students, $5; family tickets, $25; available at the door or from any Grand Harmony members.