Stevens Point Barbershop: Part 2
By Kris Leonhardt
“The singing style is what really makes barbershop unique. It’s a cappella, which means no accompaniment. It is four-part harmony. You have bass, baritone, lead, and tenor. The bass is at the low end, the tenor is at the upper end. The lead sings the melody, and then the other three parts are harmonizing with typical chord structure,” explained Bill Jenkins, of the Stevens Point Barbershoppers.
“It’s just listening to the other three parts and fitting your part in, so that it sounds good and not out of tune.”
Back in the 1930s, in its formation, the musical styling was not only performed in barbershops, but also in parlors, social events, and on street corners, which may have given way to its other name – curbstone – in today’s society.
Over the next two decades, barbershop singing made its way to the Midwest, and in the 1950s a local chapter was formed in Stevens Point.
“In the early years of the national (barbershoppers) society, our headquarters were in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and only in 2007, did they move headquarters down to Nashville. Nashville is now our international headquarters,” Jenkins recalled. “But the international headquarters were in Kenosha for a good 60 years almost. So, there was a lot of interest in barbershop singing in the Midwest, in the state of Wisconsin.
“So, a bunch of local citizens here in Stevens Point decided to start up a local chapter. That was done in 1953. So, we’ve been around since then.
Over the years, Jenkins has seen the number of participants fluctuate.
“The numbers have been as high as 50-60. Right now, we have about 30,” he stated.
Jenkins said that the typical members are “guys that just like to sing.”
“You have to have a fairly good voice. There is no audition. When somebody comes in and says they want to find out about barbershop, they come and sing with us on our Monday night rehearsals; and you can usually tell, sometimes somebody will have trouble reading music or whatever. We help them,” he added.
In addition to performing in concert and competitions, the group runs an outreach program for youth through a yearly festival, with monetary donations going to winning schools.
Jenkins explained that the group wants to encourage harmonization and barbershop-style performance, which could possibly aid in keeping the local group vibrant.
“We’re an older group. I’d say that we have a couple of guys who are in their 50s. We’ve got a couple of guys maybe in their 30s. Most of us are in our 60s or 70s,” he explained. “Maybe the voice sounds better as you age.
“It’s also that younger men have families and they’re busy with other things. It seems that as your kids grow up and they move away, a man may find that he has more time for a hobby. Typically, we see men joining probably in their 40s.”
For more information on the group, contact Bill Jenkins at 715-340-1970.