- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The Flint Arrowhead Barbershop Chorus is trying to prove that barbershop-style singing isn’t just an old man’s game.

But so far, that’s proving tough.

“The problem we have is young blood, getting younger guys interested in barbershop,” said Bill Karas, who handles marketing for the group that this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

He has been charged with getting the word out on an upcoming open house that will hopefully spark interest in some newcomers. It’s May 20 at the Courtland Center Mall in Burton.

Anyone is welcome to the club, but what the chorus is really looking for are younger guys who can carry the Flint barbershop torch.

“If we don’t do something in the next five years, there’s a big chance that we won’t be around another five,” Karas told The Flint Journal ( https://bit.ly/1n6PeVN ). He said that the average age of the membership is probably about 70. They do have a few younger members in high school and college, but they’re outliers, he said.

Barbershop singing is a style most known for its a cappella singing quartets with four-part harmonies and ringing chords. The Flint chorus has about 35 members who sing the barbershop classics.

It was made more popular when the 1962 movie, “The Music Man” came out, in which a foursome of minor characters - school board members who hated each other for 15 years - bond over learning that they can harmonize.

That’s what did it for Doug Lynn, the group’s vice president of membership, a job that entails training and keeping members as well as recruiting them.

“It’s a struggle,” he said of recruitment. “I think getting younger guys is vitally important for the health of the organization. We’re an aging organization. … We are interested in keeping people singing and getting young men wanting to sing.”

John Noteware, the club’s president, thinks that part of that struggle is due to what he calls a diversified entertainment culture - things just aren’t what they used to be.

“You don’t have people sitting around the piano at home singing Christmas carols … they’re more engrossed in their video games and phones,” he said.

Lynn said recruitment efforts are done largely through referrals (the younger members are family members of past singers in the club) but added he wants to get the chorus in front of more people to make them aware.

And Lynn worries that barbershop singing might not appeal to a younger crowd who don’t find it “cool.”

But, he and Noteware argue, it is cool.

Noteware pointed out that a barbershop chorus is comparable to show choir, a style of singing popularized by the hit TV show, “Glee.”

“I think people need to know, it’s not your grandfather’s barbershop society anymore. It’s a society that focuses on good singing techniques, proper breathing, all of that, … and it’s become much more achievement - and singing well - oriented,” Lynn said. The chorus competes in two competitions each year and performs several times throughout the year.

But there’s something even more at stake, Lynn said. He just wants to know, perhaps ensure, that young men in the world continue to sing.

“We just want young men to sing, regardless of what they sing. We want people to sing. Singing is like water, you can’t do without it,” he said. “You need music in your life if you’re going to be happy.”

The Flint Arrowhead Barbershop Chorus will perform May 10 at 5 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Family in Grand Blanc. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.


Information from: The Flint Journal, https://www.mlive.com/flint



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