ST. MARYS — The local chapter of Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), the “Allegheny Harmonizers,” has seen many changes throughout the past year.
Under the direction of Thom Hoffman, this group of dedicated singers has changed its name, voted to allow women to participate and now has a new home for meetings and rehearsals at the St. Marys Youth Center at 20 Erie Ave. in St. Marys.
Previously known as the “Spirit of the Alleghenies,” the St. Marys barbershop chapter has been around since the early 1990s and used to put on an annual show with guest quartets, who were national champions. The local chorus and quartet attended BHS conferences and participated in competitions. In the last year or so, BHS decided to permit women to join the all-male ranks, but each local chapter could choose to include or exclude women.
The transition began last spring when the chorus was invited to perform at the spring concert of the Concert Choir of Elk County. More singers were needed, though, even after recruiting some volunteers from the Concert Choir, so it was finally decided to allow a few women to sing tenor — and the rest is history.
Always looking for new members who love to sing, BHS now has three women singing tenor and several new men at lead, baritone and bass. Between losing older members to illness and others to general attrition, the group is in a rebuilding stage. Members encourage anyone interested in singing to come spend an evening at rehearsal to see what it’s all about. Some singing experience is preferred, as well as the ability to read music.
Since reorganizing early last summer, the chorus has sang at the Elk County Fair, the Bavarian Fall Festival in St. Marys, the Veterans Day Ceremony on the Diamond and Light Up Night for Christmas. Most performances include the Fireside Quartet, who have performed separately at other local events.
While it will always sing traditional songs, BHS expanded its repertoire to include more contemporary songs that have been arranged in barbershop style. This will hopefully draw in younger members, and be more appealing to a larger audience.
Weekly meetings are held from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the youth center. For more information, contact Hoffman at 814-594-8464 or Michele Ford at 814-598-3967.