- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

The Singing Capital Chorus of the District of Columbia is hoping that its four-part harmonies will help heal a wounded city. Today the group presents its 55th Harvest of Harmony concert, "Barbershop, Then and Now," at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.
The organization is the local chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America and the D.C. area's oldest barbershop chorus. It was established in 1945.
Art Sabin of Falls Church, producer of the Harvest of Harmony program, says the concert is dedicated to those affected by the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon the victims at the military complex and those on the hijacked plane that crashed into it, their families, the rescue workers and courageous survivors. The families, rescuers and survivors will be admitted free.
"There is one man, named Mike Middleton, who happens to be my next-door neighbor, who was injured," Mr. Sabin says. "He is a state law enforcement officer. He breathed in a lot of fire and smoke. He burned his lungs. He spent eight days in intensive care. At my invitation, he's going to be at the concert."
Mr. Sabin says the performance will include a medley of patriotic songs, such as "America the Beautiful," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "God Bless America." Other barbershop standards, such as "Lazy River," "Sweet Adeline," "Let the Rest of the World Go By" and "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," also will be part of the program.
"'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' is our opening number," Mr. Sabin says. "It's one of the best shows we have ever put together."
Guest quartets are joining the lineup for the performance. Razzmatazz from Blue Ball, Pa., will present its comedy of songs and antics. One Handed Catch, a local quartet, will soothe the audience with their female voices. The Federal City Four, another local group, perhaps the oldest performing quartet in the world, will bring character to the show. Troubadours, an ensemble from GW, also will lend their voices to the program.
"Everywhere we go when we sing, we have a lot of fun," Mr. Sabin says. "We don't have any major goals, like persuading people to vote Republican or Democrat. We persuade them to hit the notes right."
Mr. Sabin, a baritone who has been singing with the organization for almost 51 years, says one of his favorite memories is performing at the White House for President Eisenhower.
"He asked me what part I sing," Mr. Sabin says. "I said, 'I sing baritone, sir.' He said, 'I sang baritone at [West] Point. All true gentlemen sing baritone.'"
Fred A. Coffey Jr. of McLean, public affairs director for the Singing Capital Chorus, says the group performs about 15 shows a year. The organization frequents retirement homes, hospitals and festivals. Approximately 40 people belong to the organization, ranging in age from 20 to 92.
"Our motto is to keep the whole world singing," Mr. Coffey says. "We have sponsored other chapters in the area, such as the Alexandria Harmonizers."
Mr. Coffey says anyone can join the group, which counts lawyers, administrators, foreign service officers, military personnel, other government workers and college professors among its members. The only requirement is the ability to carry a tune.
"We have rehearsals once at week on Mondays," Mr. Coffey says, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Ave. NW. "We leave our outside cares at the door and have a good time singing. You don't have to know a lot about music or be a great singer to take part."
Lew Sims of Bethesda, director emeritus of the Singing Capital Chorus, is the chapter's oldest member. He is also a member of the Federal City Four quartet. The 92-year-old baritone says singing keeps him young.
"I've been around a long time," Mr. Sims says. "We sing from memory so this keeps our minds as well as our spirits going. It's good for your health. You're breathing well and standing up a great deal. It's also good for your emotions. Most of the songs we sing are happy songs, funny songs, love songs or patriotic songs."
Mr. Sims says he has participated in every Harvest of Harmony concert except one. "I missed the sixth one," he says. "I was teaching at UCLA. I've been in every single other one. Of the 55, I've been in 54, which is a record, I suppose. I've been a member for 54 years. I'm not quite a charter member, but I would have been if I'd have known about it. I've always been in a quartet."
Chuck Hunter of Georgetown, musical director of the chorus, has been directing the group for almost two years.
"I hope they watch me so we can start and stop together," Mr. Hunter says. "Beyond that, I try to stay out of the way of the song. I encourage the guys to not only sing words and notes, but also to communicate what they're singing."
Mr. Hunter says barbershop singing is similar to other a cappella music, but barbershop vocalists blend close harmonies.
"There are no instruments," he says. "The melody is sung by the lead voice. There is always a tenor above it, and a bass below it. The baritone fills in either above or below, depending on what's missing from the chord. There's a characteristic sound for barbershop that can't be misunderstood for anything else.
"It's a hobby, but there is more to it than music," he says. "There is a great fellowship that goes along with it. Certainly, when we are going through a trying period as a nation, something like this that brings us together for the good is all the more important."


WHAT: "Barbershop, Then and Now"
WHERE: George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW
WHEN: 3 p.m. today
TICKETS: $10, $12 and $15 at door, with reduced prices for students
PHONE: 703/827-2254


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