By Julie Horner
Late night at Jeffrey’s in Santa Cruz who would expect the eight-or-so diners at the back table to rise up singing in perfect four-part harmony? In a fanfare of gratitude, a gesture of thanks for good food and good company, they stood drawn close around the table and sang their version of the familiar Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
The Gold Standard Chorus of Santa Cruz is the local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, the umbrella organization for the proliferation and preservation of barbershop singing in America. Known for doing things a bit differently, the Santa Cruz group features voices in “mixed harmony” (both men and women singers), a rarity in the barbershop world. All-female barbershop quartets are called, Sweet Adelines, and barbershop singers of all genders refer to themselves as “barbershoppers.” Innately good natured, welcoming, and bubbling with wisecracks and whacky anecdotes, barbershoppers are as much a family to each other – their art a way of life – as bluegrassers and Irish tune-heads, participating in workshops, festivals, competitions, and camp-outs anywhere the fun might be.
Barbershop is a style of singing characterized by simultaneous four-part harmony (tenor, lead, baritone, and bass), sung a cappella with utmost clarity. According to Music Director, Jordon Johnson, because the notes must be sung with an ear to perfection, “There’s nowhere to hide.” He calls it, “the advanced martial arts of the a cappella world” and stresses that it all depends on which side of the pitch you naturally sing on and how are you breathing. Creating harmony is an art form. Singers must always be listening carefully to one another to keep the sound as pure as possible, to achieve that “lock and ring.” He says with the world’s top quartets, “the precision is insane.”
Organized in October, 1989, the Santa Cruz chapter is active all over the county with regular appearances along the route of the Wharf-to-Wharf race, their annual Cabaret 1st Saturday in June at Felton Hall, Scotts Valley’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, and caroling at Boulder Creek’s holiday festivities. Their youngest member is 14 nd their oldest is 92. “We love helping ensure that young people get exposed to music and singing in our schools,” so membership dues go towards funding scholarships for local high school music students, helping local school music departments pay for sheet music, hire accompanists, and organize field trips, among other things.
The chorus also presents a popular fall show. Since 2013, “Our fall shows are themed productions held in November each year. This year we’re proud to present an evening of Irish songs, including some exciting new music.” Director Johnson says, “We’ll be singing The Parting Glass, Molly Malone, Wild Irish Rose, and other favorites as well as pieces you may never have heard. We’re even singing a song from The Pogues!” There will be humor, and some special surprise guests like Boulder Creek Irish group, The Crooked Road Céilí Band, joining the magic at the evening show. At the end of the night, everyone is invited to join in singing.
The fall show, Songs of Ireland, is on November 5, 2016 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm at the Mid-County Senior Center 829 Bay Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010! Tickets for the 2:00 matinee are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The 7:00 show with The Crooked Road Céilí Band is $18 at the door.
Tickets and more information: www.scbarbershop.org/
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/GSCSantaCruz/
The Gold Standard Chorus welcomes visitors to their rehearsals to listen or to sing. They meet every Wednesday from 7:00 – 9:30 pm at Georgina Bruce Kirby Preparatory School, 425 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz. Call or email Bob Folker for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org | (831) 297-3246 Associate Music Director, Dale Summer, calls barbershop singing an athletic endeavor. “Singing is good for you mentally, emotionally, physically – and singing in harmony with other people is amazingly good for you. It exposes participants, especially young people, to spatial reasoning, and you learn how to breathe and stand better, stay in motion, not be static.”
“Almost all barbershoppers will tell you, they never stop…they’ll be doing this ‘till the day they die.” Director Johnson is sure that “barbershop would stop the wars.”
This article was originally published by Julie Horner in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, Boulder Creek, CA.