Area youths participate in Youth in Harmony
JACKSON -- The halls of the Jackson County Central Performing Arts Center were not quiet this weekend. Instead, they were filled with students and adults practicing barbershop, a style of music not often heard.
This weekend marked the ninth annual Youth In Harmony concert in Jackson. More than 50 students from four schools plus area adults active in barbershop groups gathered in Jackson for a day of learning, teaching, singing and fun.
Barbershop is traditionally a cappella and is a uniquely American musical art form. It is known for its four-part harmony, and the "expanded sound" created by consonance, unique chord structures and vocal placement.
Jay Imker has sung with the Windom Chordhustlers for more than 20 years and volunteers his time coordinating the event.
Imker said Youth in Harmony was originally a suggestion from national organizations that thought kids should be able to be involved "so they could get a taste of barbershop."
The students spent the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon working with a clinician to smooth out their sound and learn the choreography.
"They come to this day already knowing the music, but what we're trying to do is make it gel and get them to sing as more of a unit and sell the story, sell the song," said Judy Weipert, the girls chorus guest clinician.
Weipert has been singing barbershop for 36 years and is music education coordinator for Sweet Harmony in Spirit Lake, a chapter of the Sweet Adelines.
Weipert was thrilled to see the students' interest and excitement for the songs and was surprised when three students even offered to choreograph some of the music.
The students were a bit tentative at first, Weipert said, but as the day wore on, they became more comfortable with the music and were able to enjoy themselves more.
"They are letting it fly a little bit, and I think they are having a good time," she said.
After rehearsing, a concert was held in the afternoon, ending with a mass chorus of more than 100 participants.
Weipert said with the rise of popular TV shows, such as Glee, people are beginning to see the benefits of a capella (music without Instrumentation accompaniment).
Even the lunch break was a time for the students to be exposed to more barbershop. As the students ate, the two quartets, both from the Twin Cities, performed a few songs.
Lance Mattison and Alex Evans, both from Red Rock Central, said they participate in the concert simply because it's fun.
"I like all the harmonies," Evans added.
This is Evans' second year participating in the Youth in Harmony concert and Mattison's fourth year. They said barbershop is a nice change from the songs and style of music they usually sing in their high school's concert choir.
"The songs are fun, plus, you get to goof around a little," said Mattison, as the students around him began clapping a repetitive percussion-style rhythm on the table to pass the last minutes of their lunch break.
Imker agrees that barbershop is a way to bring students and adults together.
"It's something that we can all do. It isn't just a high school thing, it's something you can do all your life," Imker said.
Imker and Weipert both said they hope more schools and students will be involved in the event in the future.
"I think students learn so much. It's a great ear training experience; they learn how to sing as an ensemble. It's a new way of thinking about things" said Weipert.
Also participating in the evening's concert were Brent Graham, Minneapolis, the boys chorus guest clinician, the Windom Area Chordhustlers, S.A.S.S, a female quartet and Vocality, a male quartet, both from the Twin Cities.
Included on the program were popular songs such as Swing Down Chariot, Come Fly with Me, One Fine Day and Hello Mary Lou.
"We never know how many students to expect but how ever many show up; it's always a fun time for them and for us. The kids that come to this, they really enjoy singing," Imker said.