Archive for Thursday, November 5, 2009

Singing for joy

Leavenworth County’s Cody Choraliers take hobby to the next level

The Cody Choraliers perform to “Sweet Georgia Brown” during a Tuesday evening rehearsal. The chorus formed nearly 40 years ago and raises money for music programs in Leavenworth County Schools.

The Cody Choraliers perform to “Sweet Georgia Brown” during a Tuesday evening rehearsal. The chorus formed nearly 40 years ago and raises money for music programs in Leavenworth County Schools.

November 5, 2009

For the men of the Cody Choraliers, singing is more than a hobby.

The group finds joy, solace and vitality in carrying on the 40-year-old traditions of this Kansas barbershop chorus.

“These guys are my second family,” singer Rick Hershey said of the chorus. “I love coming here and spending time with them.”

Made up of about 30 men with an age range of 14 to 85, the chorus practices for two hours every Monday night in Leavenworth, preparing for shows and competitions that benefit schools in Leavenworth County.

Cody Choraliers is part of the international Barbershop Harmony Society, which originally began in 1938 with two Kansas City traveling salesmen who had a passion for music. Originally, these men named their group the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Singing in America, but the name fell in favor of a shorter, more user-friendly title. Today, the group includes more than 30,000 men in the United States, as well as several sets in Canada and Europe.

Throughout the year, the barbershop quartets that comprise Cody Choraliers travel around the state performing at various events, many of which raise money for Leavenworth County school districts.

“We sing around town at everything,” director Jerry Garrard said. “About every week, there’s a quartet somewhere.”

Garrard said the choraliers gave more than $2,000 to schools each year to help maintain music programs within the county. The money is distributed based on need, and Basehor-Linwood High School’s music program has in the past received a boost from the chorus’s melodious performances. The barbershop men have also been known to surpass monetary donations and help renovate education buildings, as they did when they replaced all the seating in the auditorium at the Nettie Hartnett School in Leavenworth.

About twice a year, the quartets all come together for full shows that feature the talents of the quartets and the entire chorus. One such occurrence is Saturday, Nov. 7.

The chorus will perform two shows that day, one at 2 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. in the Nettie Hartnett School auditorium on Third Avenue and Congress Street in Leavenworth.

Cody Choraliers’ members have been practicing diligently for this weekend’s show, putting in many extra hours to iron out the kinks in their performance. Despite the late nights, Hershey says he is having the time of his life.

“People at work can tell if I haven’t been to practice,” Hershey said. “It puts me in a better mood. This is my release from the entire day and the entire week of work. For many of us, it’s saved our lives.”

Tickets for Saturday’s show are $12 at the door for adults and $5 for children under age 5. Tickets can also be bought for $10 by calling (913) 651-7464.

Garrard said the choraliers were always looking for new members, and any man interested can become part of the group, regardless of experience or training.

“If you love to sing, you’re in,” Garrard said. “Less than 5 percent of our guys have professional training. We all share a love for music, and we learn from each show. Anyone can join us.”

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