Harmony fills halls of Washington church

Published 12:24 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The combined voices of members of three barbershop choruses resonated through the Family Life Center at Washington’s First Baptist Church on Saturday. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

One expects to find harmony at a church, but Washington’s First Baptist Church was home to four-part harmony for a few hours Saturday.

Three barbershop choruses — Brotherhood of Harmony from the Greenville-Washington area, Southern Gentlemen from the New Bern area and Albemarle Sound from the Edenton area – came together for food, fellowship and, of course, song.

“I’ve been barbershopping since 1954 in high school, and started listening to it on 78 (rpm) records when I was 10 years old,” said Bartow Houston, a Washington resident and one of the event’s attendees. “The catch, the hook, is four-part harmony in barbershop chords. Once you learn to hear that, it’s a real enticement. The fellowship that goes with it is probably just as important. You can’t overemphasize that. Barbershop, for some people, is not a hobby, it’s a calling.”

Houston said there’s a bond of camaraderie among the leads, tenors, baritones and basses who participate in barbershop musical groups, from a full chorus to quartets to other numerical combinations of singers.

“If my singing was as good as my enthusiasm, I’d be a pretty good barbershopper, but I’m not nearly as good as I used to think I was,” Houston said.

The get-together was organized by Bob Paciocco, a Washington resident, retired Baptist minister and president of the Brotherhood of Harmony.

“Well, basically, I’ve always sung in church choirs, and then my cousin in Pennsylvania was singing barbershop in a chorus up there,” he said. “I’d go to his shows, and I just really fell in love with singing without recorded music, just a cappella singing. It was beautiful. You get a bunch of men’s voices together in four-part harmony, and I really enjoyed that. So, I knew if I got involved with it, it takes a lot of time. I wasn’t ready to do that for a long time. Then, about four years or so ago, I decided this was the time to do it. Since then, I’ve been pretty active with it and enjoying it.”

Paciocco explains the motivation behind Brotherhood of Harmony hosting Saturday’s event.

“I had the idea we needed to fellowship with some of the guys that I would see at conventions and different competitions,” he said just before the luncheon began. “We thought, well, we’ve got the Edenton chapter to our northeast, and we’ve got the New Bern chapter to our south, and both are very active chapters. I’ve been to visit their chapters, and some of their folks have been to visit our chapter, so I though let’s have a luncheon and get our wives together, get as many of the guys together that can come and see what happens. So, that’s what were are doing.”

Although most of the singing occurred after the luncheon, a spontaneous round of singing burst forth before lunch was served. Such bouts of spontaneous singing are frequent when barbershoppers get together, according to Paciocco.
The barbershoppers, by way of various-sized groups, sang barbershop-chorus classics such as “My Wild Irish Rose,” patriotic songs like “Follow the Flag” and their version of pop tunes such as “Under the Boardwalk” and “Mary Lou.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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