The first musical instrument invented was the human voice.
And when used properly, it has the uncanny ability to outshine a musical arrangement and steal the spotlight. This is why a great a capella chorus can be so refreshing.
With a burning desire to shower the community with vocal pleasantry, Milford-based barbershop choruses, the First State Harmonizers and Pride of Delmarva Chorus, will deliver old-school a capella at the Milford Senior Center on Sunday. The Pride of Delmarva will headline the concert.
Enter the barbershop
The concert will feature a mix of traditional barbershop tunes and contemporary songs that have been arranged into four-part harmonies. An example of a contemporary that audiences might recognize is Frédéric Chopin’s "I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” which has since been recorded by respected performers like Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, Alice Cooper and Bing Crosby.
Another melody listeners might be familiar with is “Hello Mary Lou,” a classic written by Gene Pitney and Cayet Mangiaracina. That song has been recorded by the ever-popular Led Zeppelin and performed by Queen. A few Beach Boys songs could also make its way into Sunday’s concert, said bassist Mark Butala, who doubles as the president of the Harmonizers and a member of the Pride of Delmarva.
“I suspect anyone who comes to this show on Sunday will hear a sound that probably hasn’t been heard in the Delmarva Peninsula for more than 50 years,” said Butala, 53, of Dover.
Lead singer Chuck Culotta, a member of both choruses, says one of the greatest aspects of a barbershop chorus is the harmonies create a magical effect that audiences adore.
“When you ring the chords, you’ll actually hear the overtones,” said Culotta, 67 of Milford. “In other words, [it’ll produce] a note that hasn’t been sung.”
For bassist Harry Humes, there’s nothing better than sharing the stage with his barbershop brothers because it creates a stronger bond between the guys and himself, similar to playing on a sport’s team.
“It’s like an athlete being able to play with his teammates,” said Humes, 80, of Milford, a member of the Pride of Delmarva and the Harmonizers. “These guys are like teammates, but we sing together.”
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While the Pride of Delmarva and the Harmonizers are both barbershop choruses, they’re not quite the same. The Harmonizers were established 13 years ago and are comprised of a talented bunch of approximately 30, of which most of the guys aren’t trained vocalists, Butala said. The chorus is dedicated to mostly performing for the local community, but it also performs in an annual spring competition held by the Mid-Atlantic District of the Barbershop Harmony Society. The event is typically held in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the Pride of Delmarva solely exists to compete. It’s made up of approximately 35 of the best harmonizers in the Delmarva Peninsula. The chorus also competes in events held by the Mid-Atlantic District of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Similar to the Pride of Delmarva, the Harmonizers also rehearse in Milford at Avenue Methodist Church. In addition, both choruses are chapter members of the Barbershop Harmony Society, which is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
IF YOU GO
WHAT Pride of Delmarva Chorus and First State Harmonizers in concert
WHEN 2 p.m., Sunday
WHERE Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., Milford
INFO Visit MilfordSeniorCenter.com or call 422-3385