Harmony society reaches 75

Published Apr 17, 2013 at 10:57 am (Updated Apr 17, 2013 at 10:57 am)

I love to sing! Whenever I sing, my worries disappear, the stress is gone! Our members have many similar interests and our friendships are welcoming.”

I listened to these comments over and over during my visit with members of the South Hills Keystone Chorus last week as the men blended their voices at rehearsal in Bethel Park. Their pleasure was evident as the men entertained this Canonsburg girl with a few bars of the hit song “Melody of Love,” made popular by Canonsburg’s Polish Prince, Bobby Vinton.

Known for its membership of male singers, ages 20 to 92, Keystone’s roster is made up of your neighbors and mine, residing in Bethel Park, McMurray, Upper St. Clair, Washington and Whitehall. Harmonizing together since 1957, the South Hills Keystone Chorus is a division of the Barbershop Harmony Society, celebrating its 75th year.

Members embrace audiences interested in diverse performances. Choose from country, jazz, rock, ballads and patriotic shows fitting each organization’s timeframe, including holiday parties and corporate events. They also sing at retirement centers, community events and fairs as well as the group’s annual show in November and our country’s National Anthem at seasonal events.

“I’ve always liked to sing,” said retired surgeon Dr. Keith Apelgren. “I’m semi-retired now. Since moving to Upper St. Clair from Michigan, time opened up. I joined the group in October 2011.”

“More than six years ago I saw a Keystone Chorus announcement posted on the TV community calendar. I called the number and I’ve been singing with the group since then,” said Dick Siebert.

“Our members love barbershop harmony. We hope to keep it alive generation after generation,” said Bill Smith. “The Keystone Chorus sponsors quartets from high schools to enter competition. It’s the only truly American form of music. We’re happy to have W&J student Brandon Rauch singing with us now.”

Barbershoppers are known to be dedicated singers. Visiting from Erie, barbershopper Clark Pease stopped by to join the South Hills men in singing a few tunes. “I’ll be missing my group’s rehearsals, so I’m happy to do a little harmonizing with the Keystone group. I hope to join the Cranberry barbershoppers and possibly the singers in the North Hills while I’m in Pittsburgh.”

Upcoming Keystone Chorus events include:

April 23 – Rehearsal and guest (men who love to sing) night, Hamilton Church, Bethel Park

May 11 – Sing Out, The Galleria, Mt. Lebanon

June 5 – Sing Out, Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Nov. 9 – Celebrate 75 years of Harmony, St. Thomas More Family Life Center, Bethel Park

Barbershop harmony spawned in the 1840s, the beginning of the entertainment and recording industry. Minstrel shows and traveling concerts popularized the harmonizers, who reached their peak during the glorious days of vaudeville and burlesque.

The Barbershop Harmony Society was founded in 1938 in Tulsa, Okla., by a group of men who wished to rejuvenate the art of barbershop harmony after the decline of vaudeville and the growth of radio. The largest all-male singing organization in the world has its headquarters in Nashville, boasting 800 chapters and additional barbershoppers in affiliated organizations around the world.

Nashville is also home to the Old Songs Library, said to hold the world’s largest privately-held collection of sheet music.

Singing and music are fun for kids of all ages and great enjoyment to listeners. So often we have friends or even family members whom we think we know well and never realize the vocal talent they harbor. For details on the SH Keystone Chorus, visit www.pghkeystonechorus.com

Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention will be held June 30-July 7, 2013, in Toronto, Canada. Pittsburgh will host the international convention in 2015.

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