Fred Rapson’s voice seems to carry a tune even when he’s speaking.
Whether he’s serenading folks on Valentine’s Day as part of a tuxedo-clad quartet, or he’s singing in a chorus, Fred has a passion for a cappella music and performing. He belongs to the Aces of Harmony, a male-based barbershop-style group, that is keeping a cappella alive and well in Peterborough.
While the type of music has a rich history, the group is always trying to expand its repertoire and put a new spin on the songs.
“A lot of (the draw) is the cool sound, the camaraderie and the teamwork — and we have a lot of fun.”
“It’s not strictly straw hats and 1920s tunes,” Fred says.
“We certainly have some nostalgia in there but we want to make sure we expand.”
One of the recent songs the Aces of Harmony has been practising is “Sweet Caroline,” which is played at every National Hockey League game.
The group is gearing up for a Christmas concert Nov. 23 in Cobourg and a bus tour of Peterborough’s seniors’ residences Nov. 30.
The Peterborough chorus is part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, an organization established in 1938 in Oklahoma.
The Aces of Harmony itself was founded in 1967 in Peterborough and has been performing the four-part harmony on Monday nights for many years at Northminster United Church on Sunset Boulevard.
“We always welcome people to come on in and hear us and see if they want to eventually join,” Fred says.
The chorus, which includes various quartets, is comprised of about 25 members, ranging in age from a person in his 20s to one in his mid-90s.
A cappella’s popularity has grown in recent years in part because of TV shows featuring singing, such as Glee. It’s the base sound of many genres of music, even rock.
“Barbershop is a melting-pot product of African-American music and the European hymn-singing culture from way back,” Fred explains. It was also, literally, sung in barbershops.
A cappella also has an appeal because it doesn’t necessarily require using any instruments beyond the voice. “It’s great when you have the four parts and you ring those chords. It’s an amazing sound.”
The camaraderie of being part of the quartet and the chorus is something Fred also enjoys. “A lot of (the draw) is the cool sound, the camaraderie and the teamwork — and we have a lot of fun.”
In addition, there are health benefits of singing. “It really does help the mental and physical well-being and helps breathing capacity and memory. All of those things come into play at any age.”
Aces of Harmony raises money for an organization called Sing Canada, which provides youth who can’t afford to take music lessons with the opportunity to participate.
The community can support Aces of Harmony by attending an upcoming show or hiring the group for Valentine’s Day to serenade a loved one or a co-worker.
“It’s great showing up at a home or a restaurant or a business and singing a couple of love songs. We wear tuxedos, present a rose and a card, and, of course, provide a lifetime of memories,” Fred says.
The concert in Cobourg encompasses four choruses within a geographical division — Oshawa, Belleville, Port Hope/Cobourg and Peterborough and features both male and female singers.
The Christmas show runs from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fellowship Baptist Church at 469 Elgin St. W.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students or $45 per family. For more information or to purchase tickets, e-mail Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are also available at the door on the day of the event.
For more information about the Peterborough bus tour event, contact Max at 705-740-4573.
Visit the Aces of Harmony on Facebook here.
Photos courtesy of Aces of Harmony.
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