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Barbershop singers convention weekend a harmonic success

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

It was quite an affair! Twenty-five quartets and 10 choruses hailing from Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and western West Virginia competed in the Huntington High School Auditorium on Friday, April 12 and 13. The occasion? The 2013 Johnny Appleseed District (JAD) of the Barbershop Harmony Society's International Preliminary Quartet Contest, District Chorus Championship and Convention. Beside the regular quartet competition in which quartets sang two songs each to qualify for the international competition that will be held in Toronto, Canada, in early July, there was college and seniors competition.

A deserving surprise of the convention was the award to Ted Rose of the Charleston, W.Va., chapter of the coveted Director of the Year award. A melodious highlight of the convention, and the event which caught the attention of cameras and pens of the media, was the Flash Mob held Saturday afternoon on the Pullman Plaza lawn when more than 100 barbershoppers gathered to harmonize to some of their favorite songs. Yet, another highlight was the welcome before the convention attendees Saturday morning by Mayor Steve Williams, who gave permission to harmonize wherever folks wanted, and who, in a humorous yet serious way, invited all to call him personally about matters pertaining to their experiences in Huntington. Considerable laughter arose when someone in the audience immediately rang him on his cellphone to make sure the number he gave was indeed correct.

One of the largest events to come to Huntington in 2013, the Pullman Plaza Hotel was completely filled. It was also the location of hospitality rooms on the first and second floors that rang with barbershop harmony far into the wee small hours of Sunday morning. Sixteen of the competing quartets entertained in the Johnny Appleseed District's first-floor Chordatorium. The second floor parading of quartets and woodshedding continued almost to dawn. O.C. Cash and Rupert Hall, the initial hosts 75 years ago of what became the largest men's singing society in the world, would have been in their glory. The involvements in formal barbershop singing and woodshedding unquestionably had a significant economic impact upon the city of Huntington.

A very visual aspect of the convention/competition was the flock of bright jerseys worn by all the hosts who enabled the affair to operate effectively and efficiently. On the front was Huntington, WV, Convention Team while on the back was Staff. Many favorable comments by out-of-town visitors, district officers and judges were received. This was evidently a first in the annals of JAD spring and fall competitions.

At the risk of leaving well-deserving folks out, the ThunderTones thank all those who pitched in to make the affair manageable and successful; the JAD District for selecting Huntington and for organized things from the top, including contracting for the competition site and headquarters hotel; the Cabell County Board of Education, especially the administration, staff, and teachers at Huntington High School, who came to the fore on every need and who were most courteous in extending classrooms, gymnasiums, bandrooms, auditorium and other spaces for the choruses, quartets and spectators; the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau for tirelessly affording assistance for weeks leading to the event and helping to sponsor it; the Pullman Plaza Hotel, who as the host hotel worked tirelessly to accommodate the convention in every way possible, and who deftly had to work around other uses; the city of Huntington, especially the mayor and his office, for proclaiming the week "Barbershop Harmony Week" and the city police and work crews who along with volunteers had the streets and sidewalks spic and span, and who also accommodated a race on Saturday morning; Pullman Plaza for accommodating the Flash Mob; the Charleston, W.Va., and Ashland, Ky., chapters of JAD for their participation as part of the staff, filling numerous and critical roles; Hometown Sportswear, Inc. for the conspicuous shirts they made for the "team;" etromay for its creative mobile guide for downtown; all those who advertised in the program whose kindness went a long way in helping the ThunderTones afford being the host chapter; the Marshall University and St. Joe's Key (Kiwanis) Clubs for their volunteer work as doorkeepers: the Huntington High school students who volunteered behind the snack bar thereby raising funds for school musical programs; and, of course, the men in the quartets and choruses, most of whom traveled significant distances, who rendered the utmost in ringing those barbershop chords.

As the well-used saying goes, "It takes a family" to pull together and make things successful. No question about it, the 2013 Spring barbershop harmony weekend in Huntington was made possible by a close harmony family affair.

Jim McClelland is the ThunderTones' program and public relations VP.