Peninsula barbershop quartet seeks a fourth

Clockwise from center: Wilma Frankovich directs Dale Shoemaker, John Huffman, Harold Hughes and Doris Shoemaker during a recent practice of their barbershop style singing group, the Columbia Harmonizers. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

SEAVIEW - Old tunes such as, "My wild Irish rose" and "Let me call you sweetheart," can bring back memories of men in white suits with white hats harmonizing in the old barbershop style. A local group is trying to continue that tradition here on the Peninsula.

"'Sweet and lovely,' shall we give that a try? Give us an F," said Wilma Frankovich as she directed the Columbia Harmonizers barbershop singing group at a recent practice. The group, which was created a little over two years ago, enjoys singing in the old style of harmonizing in a cappella. Since their inception the Columbia Harmonizers have had a variety of members come and go, at one point boasting over 10 singers. They now, however, are operating with a skeleton crew of three or four, with the group president Dale Shoemaker's wife, Doris, singing tenor during practices.

"We had 10, 11 guys here and then we've lost a few," said Dale Shoemaker. "They move or lose interest or have other interests."

"Or move south for the winter," Frankovich interjects.

"For every one that we lose, there's about three or four more that we could pick up," said Shoemaker.

The Columbia Harmonizers have a strong base, in original members Shoemaker, Harold Hughes and John Huffman. They also have something they didn't have before, an accomplished music director for their group in Frankovich.

Frankovich claims that she is completely untrained in the barbershop style, though she holds a degree in music and recently came out of retirement to teach music at Hilltop Elementary School. She's been with the singers for almost a year.

"I knew nothing about barbershop, absolutely nothing," said Frankovich. However, she said it didn't take long for her ear to tell her that she could do it. Frankovich went on to say that there is no need for experience in singing or music for people to come try out with the group.

"If they can carry a tune, that's is about all they need," said Frankovich.

"Well, we'll give them a bucket to carry the tune in." said Huffman. "Anybody who wants to sing or thinks they want to sing or just likes music. They're more then welcome to come down and give us a listen and see if it's something that they would like to try. We're more then happy to take on people that don't know diddly about barbershop and teach them about it."

But the group isn't just about singing. Part of their mission is also the preservation of the old songs and the old style of music that barbershop represents. The Columbia Harmonizers are also a part of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, an international organization that works to raise awareness of barbershop singing as well as money for music programs in schools. The Columbia Harmonizers have donated the money made at their various performances to the society to be used for scholarships. They have sung at many local functions including; The American Legion, the Kiwanis and at the Peninsula Church Center. They also had the opportunity to sing for the Grand Madam of the Eagles at the Long Beach Eagles Lodge during her recent national tour.

The Columbia Harmonizers have no future engagements planned at this time, mostly because their group is in flux, but plan to perform locally again.

"We could be singing on stage, the National Anthem, during the Fourth of July parade or the Loyalty Day parade next year if we get enough singers," said Shoemaker. "This is my dream."

The Columbia Harmonizers invite anyone interested in singing with them to come and sit-in on a practice, which takes place every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Peninsula Church Center in Seaview.

"We'll take singers, non-singers. You know, warm bodies that want to stand in the corner and listen!" said Huffman.

Though barbershop is traditionally a men's singing group Huffman says that wives and girlfriends who want to "tag along" are more than welcome. He also mentions that the female counterpart to barbershop is a style called "Sweet Adeline's," which has a local chapter in Seaside.

Interested singers can call Dale Shoemaker at 642-2205 for more information.

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