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Barbershop a cappella goes al fresco

The Victoria Village Squires Barbershop Chorus, seen here with former director  Renee Michele Walrafen, will be performing on the front patio garden of Carlton House, 2080 Oak Bay Ave., on Saturday, July 26.  - Photo contributed
The Victoria Village Squires Barbershop Chorus, seen here with former director Renee Michele Walrafen, will be performing on the front patio garden of Carlton House, 2080 Oak Bay Ave., on Saturday, July 26.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Well, Hello Mary Lou, the Victoria Village Squires Barbershop Chorus will be performing on the front patio garden of Carlton House, 2080 Oak Bay Ave., on Saturday, July 26.

Residents and their guests are also welcoming the public to this outdoor event featuring the popular barbershop chorus.

The Squires, who until recently were led by Renee Michele Walrafen, have been in existence for close to 50 years.

“We had one old guy who was one of the organizers of the group, who just passed away a couple of weeks ago. … Bud Simpson, he was a great guy. He was the last founding member still with the chorus,” says Walter Benson.

The group sings four-part a cappella. “It’s nice tight harmony. It’s the nicest form of harmony,” says Benson, who sings lead.

“I’m lead. I’m lazy,” he says with a laugh.

In barbershop music generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead.

“Most people think it’s old fashioned, but we sing rock and jazz and a little old stuff – it’s a mix of numbers,” Benson says.

There are about 30 regular members of the Village Squires, who hail from across Greater Victoria. “We have guys from Sidney and some from Langford and Colwood. … We have one from Sooke. We practise once a week at the Centennial United Church on Gorge Road.”

The group is always looking for new members as well, those who can carry a tune, that is. “Pure, is the operative word. Someone who holds pitch,” he said.

Benson sang in high school then stopped as he went into the working world. “(I) became an engineer and travelled all over the world. When I came back and retired, I went to one of their concerts and I thought, ‘I need to start singing again.’”

Benson’s favourite barbershop tune? “Hello Mary Lou, it has a nice rhythm and words.”

There should be something for everyone to enjoy at the Carlton House concert says Benson, after all: “We’re just a bunch of singing fools,” he jokes.

Did you know?

If you would like to join the Victoria Village Squires, you are welcome to attend a practice on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Centennial United Church, 612 David Street, Victoria. Go to villagesquires.com for more information.

 


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