Barbershoppers get set to play ball

Two truly American pastimes will blend together on stage when the Fort Dodge Harmony Brigade Barbershop Chorus presents its 47th annual show at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Dodge Middle School Auditorium.

Titled “Who’s on First,” the a capella music concert combines the nation’s love of baseball with the harmonies of barbershop singing to create an up-beat program designed to recall the comedic entertainment of Vaudeville while also striving to hook the next generation of possible harmonizers.

“It’s a nostalgic show, but it should also be a fun show,” said Jack Weber, music coordinator. “It’s one the whole family can enjoy.”

The script for the local production stems from the comedy routine of “Who’s on First?” made famous by comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, he said. The premise of the original sketch is that Abbott is identifying players on a baseball team for Costello, but the other player’s names can be interpreted as non-responsive answers. Frustration and confusion then ensues.

In the version penned by Weber for Harmony Brigade’s show, the exchange between the two men serves as introductions to samplings of songs performed by the chorus.

“That was the challenge,” Weber said. “Once we get the music we want to sing, we have to fit the introduction into the script and keep it in line with the theme of the show.”

Additionally, this year, he had to also come up with a few skits worth of original humorous material.

“That was hard,” he said, “coming up with a little comedy of our own.”

The score the comedy was weaved into includes arrangements of “Cabaret,” “You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine,” “Moments to Remember,” and of course “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Quartets from the chorus will also perform, harmonizing in songs that include “In My Room,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”

In addition to featuring the local chapter of barbershoppers, the show will include performances by Lunch Break, the top comedy quartet and a semi-finalist at the International Barbershop Convention in 2013. From Nashville, Tenn., the group was also voted audience favorite for its funny parodies. Also on the program for the second half of the show is the quartet GQ, from Minneapolis, Minn., a 2013 International Quarter Finalist.

Proceeds from the show will be used to support Harmony Brigade’s singing engagements and its Youth in Harmony Festival, an a capella event for students from across the state. Youth outreach is a big part of the show, said Glen Larsen, quartet coordinator, not only in terms of raising money, but also in exposing young adults to the sounds of barbershop.

“When the four parts come together, the cords ring,” said Greg Larsen, quartet chairman.

“It’s so neat. It will give you goosebumps. That’s why we do it. It’s a fun hobby for us, but a lot of kids don’t know about barbershop. Once they hear that sound, though, they say it’s awesome. We want to get them hooked and keep barbershop going.”

Assistant director Del Brandt agreed.

“A capella is a type of music that has been around for years,” he said. “Our society is really good at getting youth involved so it continues.”