Midlothian, Virginia (just outside of Richmond) is home to Larry Kellogg and his sweet wife Linda, two of the most hospitable and wonderful people that I have ever met. They were so kind to put me up this past Sunday and Monday nights. I enjoyed some very stimulating conversation, a very comfortable queen sized bed, coffee and two blueberry muffins for breakfast on Monday morning and 9 holes of golf with Larry.
Monday evening I had the pleasure of visiting Larry’s chorus, Soundworks. Of coarse it’s not just Larry’s chorus, there are about 16 other guys who also call it their chorus. I was very impressed with this unique group. Their rehearsal and performance format is very different than all of the other chapters I have visited. They don’t use risers, every man in the group has a voice and is expected to provide regular input regarding song choices as well as how the ensemble is performing. They don’t end their rehearsal by singing “Keep The Whole World Singing”.
They have a different philosophy about how a barbershop chorus should operate. I was intrigued. They certainly sing very well! Their audition process is rigorous and only very good singers who are able to sing multiple parts are admitted. They are not looking to expand their numbers.
I’ll be very frank, I am still processing the experience that I had last night and the dichotomy between this group and the average chorus. There were several men there last night that have been Barbershoppers for a long time and there were guys that have been singing other genres of music in other groups. Soundworks is a delightful combination of several styles of music, including some four square barbershop. The basic concept of singing in a Cappella four part Harmony was the common thread. I certainly understand the appeal of what they are doing.
Of coarse anytime someone starts putting a twist on what has come to be accepted as the “norm” eyebrows are raised. Just as there are some men within the BHS that are skeptical and not in favor of what the Brigade guys are doing there are skeptics of Soundworks. It seems to me that there is plenty of room within the BHS for groups like the Brigade and Soundworks to do their thing and still contribute to preserving Barbershop. In my humble opinion the people who are raising their eyebrows now are gonna have a coronary when the next generation of Barbershoppers come into their own.
I’ll be thinking more about what I experienced last night and will have more to say. Stay tuned!