Mountain Barber Fest brings harmony to high school |

Mountain Barber Fest brings harmony to high school

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Fitting in can be challenging during high school. Cliques thrive, hormones rage and finding your place can prove frustrating. Thursday evening’s Mountain Barber Fest is a return to simpler times, when men sang outside barbershops and being accepted meant harmonizing with the people around you.

Barbershop’s a capella, four-part harmony can be sung by almost any level of vocalist. There are four roles: Tenor, lead, baritone and bass. The greatest challenge of barbershop is listening, not singing.

“You have two ears and one voice, and you should use that in proportion in the barbershop style,” said Tony Pranaitis, Barber Fest event organizer.

In Thursday’s show, the Summit County High School Concert Choir has been divided into the four barbershop sections. They will perform familiar songs in a chorus.

“Barbershop is a great base for the kids,” said Cathie Hill, vocal music director at SHS. “It is the basis for being able to tune a chord, find a pitch and hang on to a part.”

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Silverthorne resident and SHS senior Andrew Vawter-Beaird participated in the Mountain Barber Fest last year.

“I was surprised that so many different parts can sound so good,” he said. “You sing your part as an individual, but it really comes together with the group.”

The Denver MountainAires and the Sweet Adelines women’s chorus will conduct an afternoon workshop preceding the show. The adult and student choruses will sing alongside each other in the evening performance.

“The adult quartets have a way of helping us get our parts nailed down,” said Silverthorne resident and SHS sophomore Brittany Moore, who participated in the Barber Fest last year. “It’s amazing how quickly we can pull it together.”

The audience will have a chance to try the barbershop style in the popular sing-along. Hill will play piano as music lyrics are projected on a screen.

“This is always a crowd favorite. We try to include it every year,” Pranaitis said.

Both the workshop and the show are done in the true spirit of barbershop. During the World War II era, people at home were looking for ways to entertain themselves. Men would go down to the barbershop to sing and converse.

“A very relaxed, non-classical style evolved from this,” said Debbie Jackson, director of the girls’ chorus.

The SHS chorus will dress accordingly in bright T-shirts and casual pants.

“The usual long skirts and tuxedos just didn’t seem to fit this style,” Hill said.

The boys especially benefit from barbershop’s debonair style, according to Hill. In the turbulent world of high school, men’s singing is “not always cool,” she said. The Mountain Barber Fest exposes male students to older men with a passion for vocal music.

“It’s so great for the boys to see the older gents who love to sing,” Hill said. “The guys sometimes feel isolated in the choir, but seeing older men enjoying singing is a great boost for them.”

Vawter-Beaird agreed: “The best part is seeing the older guys. They showed us what we could do in the future.”

Male students often struggle with voice changes. Barbershop accommodates for this by blending voices to a familiar melody.

“There are no screaming high or low notes,” Pranaitis said. “A garden variety voice can sound really nice.”

The harmonizing must be authentic and sincerely enjoyed.

“Lots of emotions are brought out in barbershop,” said Jackson. “The singing must come from the heart.”

Thursday’s show will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Summit County High School auditorium. The Summit County Concert Choir, Denver MountainAires and the Sweet Adelines women’s chorus will perform.

Admission to the event is free.

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