Niles-based barbershop chorus coming to Brandywine

Published 6:14 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Lighthouse Chorus will perform Oct. 12 at Brandywine. Submitted photo

The Lighthouse Chorus will perform Oct. 12 at Brandywine. Submitted photo

When 78-year-old Don Irwin was asked to join the Niles-based Lighthouse Chorus two years ago, he was skeptical.

“I told the guy I couldn’t sing,” said Irwin, who lives in Niles. “I’m glad I gave it a try anyway. I’m a lot better than when I started and I really like it.”

Irwin is one of about 25 members of the Lighthouse Chorus, an all-male barbershop chorus that practices once a week at Grace Methodist Church in Niles.

The chorus will be presenting a special event, “Celebrating Harmony” Oct. 12 at Brandywine Elementary School, 2428 S. 13th St., Niles. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance for general admission and $12 for seniors and students. Call (616) 836-4881 for advance tickets. Tickets purchased at the door are $17.

Chorus member Bill Ropp said the audience can expect a variety of musical selections from spiritual numbers to be-bop to barbershop. Several quartets, including The Reveliers, Old Mills Dream, and the 2013 District Senior Champions, Harmony Road, will join Lighthouse Chorus during the performance.

“It’s a lot of fun for the whole family,” said Ropp, who estimated between 220 and 250 people attended last year’s show at Brandywine.

The history of the Lighthouse Chorus is not long, but it has been eventful. Founded in 1999 with a mission to become the premier men’s barbershop chorus in Michiana, the Lighthouse Chorus won the Best Small Chorus Award for the entire state of Michigan for three consecutive years. In 2004, they represented the Pioneer District in the Small Chorus Contest at the world-renowned and prestigious Buckeye Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. The Chorus has over 25 members who come from all walks of life, including teachers, doctors, engineers, retirees, management and labor.   Some members have more than 50 years of barbershop experience and others have just a few months.  All of the members share one thing — the love of this art form as a hobby.

Ropp said any man with an interest in singing could join. The group meets once a week for practice at Grace Methodist Church, 501 Grant St., Niles.

As a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society and SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America), the Lighthouse Chorus is dedicated to the preservation of barbershop singing.  Barbershop harmony is a uniquely American musical art form that is known for its four-part harmony and the “expanded sound” created by its unique chord.  The simplicity of a cappella—singing without instrumental accompaniment—is in the midst of a revival driven, in part, by several popular reality shows that celebrate unembellished vocals.