Harmonies to abound at jamboree

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brotherhood of Harmony, shown here with director Jo Broadway, will perform at the Harmony Jamboree on Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Washington. Three eastern North Carolina choruses will harmonize together in classic barbershop style. (Contributed Photo)

They are four parts, divided. On their own, their voices are melodic and rich. Together, they are a seamless blend of sound, a melody surrounded by three-part harmony that, through song, recreates the days of yore.

They are the singers of Brotherhood of Harmony, a barbershop chorus with members from Greenville, Washington, Rocky Mount and Belhaven, and Saturday, they’ll be blending their voices with those of two other eastern North Carolina barbershop choruses — Edenton’s Albemarle Sounds and New Bern’s The Southern Gentlemen — for the Harmony Jamboree.

Nearly 60 voices will harmonize such classic American oldies as “Hello, Mary Lou” and “Under the Boardwalk,” along with more traditional barbershop songs from the World War I-era like “So Long, Mother,” a haunting melody of a boy gone to war.

Splinter groups — the three quartets, along with quartets from within the larger choruses, like Edenton’s 2#2Bb (Too Sharp to be Flat), The Usual Suspects and Four-Tune Cookies from Greenville, and Washington’s Men ’n a Chord — fill up the rest of the Saturday’s program.

“People love to hear four-part harmony,” said Jo Broadway, Brotherhood of Harmony’s director. “It’s so melodic, very pretty. The specialty of barbershop is that it does not have vibrato. The singers sing very straight tone so the chords really gel. It’s almost like an organ.”

For Broadway, who in the past sang with the ladies’ quartet, The Sweet Adelines, barbershop is a passion. A year ago, when she was asked to become Brotherhood of Harmony’s director, she jumped on the opportunity to conduct the chorus of 20, some of whom have been singing together for three decades. These are part of the core group of singers who’ve been the Brotherhood of Harmony’s mainstay as participation has waxed and waned through the years.

“Six or seven years ago, we were down to three members,” said Don Wigent, who sings bass with the group.

The remaining members had to make a decision: let the endeavor go or get out and really start promoting the group.

“We decided we weren’t going to let it die,” said Wigent.

Promotion paid off — Brotherhood of Harmony’s membership went from three to 13 almost immediately and continues to grow. Now, its members rehearse Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at the Jaycee Park Recreation Center in Greenville. And in the course of it, said tenor Bob Hanrahan, “we’ve gathered our former enthusiasm.”

Their enthusiasm is regularly shared at church events, nursing homes and private parties, though it’s been 12 years since the group last performed in an event comparable to the upcoming Harmony Jamboree.

But if the sweet sounds of “I’ll Fly Away,” sung at rehearsal Thursday, are any indication, Brotherhood of Harmony is more than ready to take the stage.

You can hear Brotherhood of Harmony at the Harmony Jamboree at 2 p.m. Saturday at Frist United Methodist Church, Washington, and at 7:30 p.m. at the First Christian Church in Greenville. Advance tickets are $10 each. Tickets are $12 each at the door.