When the curtain goes up Saturday night at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, have no doubt that the singers revealed belong there as much as any symphony or band that's ever taken the stage, despite preconceptions to the contrary.
"I think a lot of people see barbershop as four drunk guys standing on a corner singing "Sweet Adeline," joked Carroll "Pete" Peterson, a founding member of the Durango Barbershoppers in 1968.
Barbershop singing is more complex than it may appear on the surface. Each voice represents part of a four-part chord; the lead vocal carries the melody while a tenor harmonizes on the high end and the bass and baritone complete the chord on the low end. The result is a full, rich sound in the eponymous barbershop quartet, and it's magnified to near-symphony quality in a larger chorus when multiple voices substitute for orchestral instrumentation.
That's the sound the audience will hear when the 25 members of the Durango Barbershoppers, under the direction of Amy Barrett, take the stage for Saturday's "Yesterday All Over Again" concert, the group's 41st annual fundraiser. It's the only concert for which the Barbershoppers charge admission, but the group performs year-round and rehearses every Tuesday with just one week off at Christmas.
"It's very much an act of love. We even pay to do it," Peterson said.
"And Amy's not just a director, but a teacher - she teaches us to sing better, so it's like getting a lesson for $3 a week," he said.
Barrett, who also directs the Durango Children's Chorale, is a 1996 FLC graduate with a degree in Music Education and makes sure her singers stay true to the music even if the music isn't necessarily true to the barbershop tradition.
Most of the songs that will be performed in "Yesterday All Over Again" are of the doo-wop variety of the 1950s and '60s - "Under the Boardwalk," "Yesterday," "The Banana Boat Song" (aka "Day-O"), and even Billy Joel's "The Longest Time," offer a sampling of what Barrett has slated to try to modernize the barbershop sound and draw in a younger audience.
"It's kind of seen as a dying art, so we want to get the next generation involved," said Barrett,If classifying songs from the last century as "modern" strikes a dissonant chord, consider that the barbershop sound can trace its origins as far back as the Ulysses S. Grant administration. And while many of the members can remember when The Drifters were topping the charts, Saturday's show proves that the barbershop sound isn't lost on the youths.
Guests for the concert include Bromance, a Durango High School barbershop quartet, and McPhly, a Denver outfit of 20- and 30-somethings who recently won top honors at the Rocky Mountain District of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
The international organization's membership is indeed global, with chapters in Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, China and Japan, to name just a few.
Vocal ranges won't stop at the high tenor, either, as the Durango Lady Barbershoppers, A Woman's Prerogative, also will be on hand to add some female voices to the program.
Proceeds from "Yesterday All Over Again," like all money raised by the Barbershoppers through its annual concert and now-famous singing valentines, will be donated to a local Durango school for its music programs.