Record-breaking harmony

HUMBOLDT – Enough students from Humboldt and several other area schools attended the annual Youth In Harmony workshop Tuesday afternoon to form about 50 quartets.

Del Brandt, a member of the Fort Dodge-based Harmony Brigade Barbershop Chorus, said it was a record.

“We have the largest group of students we’ve ever had,” he said while watching the students check in and get name tags – which they ran out of after using up the 200 they brought along.

Brandt likes working with the students.

“They’re always fun to work with,” he said.

He said the large turnout is a good sign that barbershop and harmony music has a future.

“This shows that the kids are interested in this music when we get this many out,” he said.

He was a few years younger than the students streaming through the door when he began. Brandt is now 81.

“I sang Barbershop when I was in eighth grade,” he said.

He got back into it as an adult.

“My wife wanted me out the house,” he joked.

Mike Blair, vocal music instructor at Humboldt High School said the workshop gives students an important exposure to a genre of music they might not experience in their standard course work.

“We try to keep it alive,” he said.

Blair also enjoys having a role beyond observer.

“I sit in and sing with them,” he said.

About 50 of his Humboldt students participated, a number he said has been growing each year. The day includes the workshop and then a concert in the evening where the students perform.

Blair is grateful for the Harmony Brigade Barbershop Chorus, which sponsors the event.

“It’s free to the students and schools,” he said.

Andrew Wotherspoon, vocal music instructor at Webster City brought along a group of 36 students. Two-thirds of his students were girls.

“The interest was pretty good,” he said. “It’s a relaxed atmosphere, anyone can participate.”

One of the highlights of the day, he said, is getting to listen to the Barbershop and Harmony groups who attend and teach the students.

“They can be a lot of fun,” he said.

This year, 3 Men and a Melody, from Kansas City, Mo., and Medallion, from the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., area, were on hand.

Brian Bellof, who sings bass for the 3 Men and a Melody group, said he not only enjoys working with the students but that it also helps the group get its own creative juices recharged.

“Whenever they have that ah-ha moment,” he said. “It reminds us of why we do this.”

Fellow group member Brad Stephens offered the students another reason to like the music as he introduced the group to them.

“This is something you can do the rest of your life,” he said.

Jenifer Bentz and Carlee Peyton, both Humboldt High School seniors, had to sit behind an instrument, the vocal music room was packed and most of the seats were taken.

Neither seemed to mind, the four year veterans of the annual workshop just sang where they were.

Both said it was a fun event and they were looking forward to the evening’s concert.

As to the larger number of girls attending the workshop than boys, Peyton offered a simple theory.

“The boys just don’t sign up as much,” she said.