Barbershop group hopes for 100 voices

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | 9:48 p.m. CST; updated 7:51 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Editor's note: This event, scheduled for Thursday night, has been canceled because of poor weather conditions.

COLUMBIA — The four-part harmony of barbershop music will reverberate from First Baptist Church on Thursday night, but it won’t be from a quartet.

For the Boonslick Chordbusters, the goal is a group of 100 voices.

To meet that goal, the Chordbusters, a barbershop chorus based in Columbia that meets weekly at the church and performs around Missouri, is inviting the public and mid-Missourians involved in music to its fourth annual 100-Man Night on Thursday.

Singing will begin at 7 p.m. and will continue until 9:30 p.m., with a break for refreshments and socializing. The group will focus on learning new songs in the first half, and in the second half, they will stand on risers to sing as if performing.

“Part of the reason that we exist is to provide opportunities for the community to get out and experience a cappella singing, whether it’s through actually participating in something like this or coming to one of our shows,” said Greg Grote, a Chordbusters member from Jefferson City.

The Chordbusters sent out invitations to vocalists in mid-Missouri and expect to have singers from Moberly and a chorus group from Jefferson City, among others.

One of the farthest travelers will be guest director Jim Bagby of Kansas City, who recently retired from directing the Heart of America chorus, which has been internationally ranked among barbershop groups.

Chordbusters member Chuck Bay of Columbia said Bagby is an annual guest and brings exciting material to 100-Man Night.

“Last year, he introduced what they call ‘woodshedding,’ which is sort of how barbershop got started,” Bay said. “A guy sings the melody and the other three kind of harmonize around that. It goes back to the roots of the style. Believe it or not, you can actually do that with a big group.”

Bagby is also bringing a quartet from Kansas City to help teach new material to the Chordbusters.

The group usually has about 20 or 30 men in attendance, Bay said. He said that along with getting the community involved in the fun, 100-Man Night is a chance for the group’s regulars to see what it’s like to sing in a larger chorus.

Bay has been around barbershop music for most of his life. His father, Park Bay, was in a Columbia chorus years ago, and after that group disbanded, the two joined a group in Boonville. In 1997, Park Bay was one of the founding members of the Chordbusters. One of the group’s goals is to preserve barbershop’s chord-based style of music and down-to-earth lyrics.

Chuck Bay said the group means a lot to its regular members.

“Some of our guys like to joke that it’s cheaper than therapy,” Chuck Bay said. “It’s kind of stress relief. If you’re singing songs, it’s hard to be angry. It certainly puts people in a better mood.”

MU student Patrick Lockwood has been involved with the group since fall of 2006, and at age 20 is the youngest member of the Chordbusters. He agrees that for men of all ages, the activity is relaxing and one he hopes more people will join.

“The whole purpose of barbershop is to have fun and enjoy singing with other guys,” Lockwood said. “It’s not about performing, It’s not about competitions. The focus here is just to enjoy four-part harmony with at least four guys, if not more.”

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