Award-winning quartet makes appearance in Bremerton

The Kitsap Chordsmen and Cleaver Gals performed barbershop-style songs last Saturday.  - Seraine Page
The Kitsap Chordsmen and Cleaver Gals performed barbershop-style songs last Saturday.
— image credit: Seraine Page

Barbershop-style music was back in style this weekend in Bremerton.

The “Puget Home Companion: A Tribute to Americana in Music” on Aug. 10 showcased musical talent from around the county and included a special appearance by the Ringmasters, a Swedish award-winning barbershop quartet.

The overall show was hosted by the Kitsap Chordsmen, an a cappella group dedicated to presenting barbershop-style music and featured a variety of acts including The Jaybirds, Agate Passage, Aspire!, Under Wraps and the Cleaver Girls. The Kitsap Chordsmen moved their annual concert up a little earlier to match the Ringmasters tour to allow the quartet to make a special appearance, said Robert Weschler, a group member.

Singing to a crowded auditorium at Bremerton High School, the choral groups treated the audience to songs like “Moonglow,” “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die,” and popular hits like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “If I Only Had a Brain.”

Mayor Patty Lent also made an appearance, commenting on the catchy factor of the barbershop music.

“I’ve noticed you can’t listen to this without having a smile on your face,” she said.

The mayor offered her gratitude to Ringmasters for making Bremerton their last stop in the United States on their eight-month long tour.

“The four young men are marvelous. I’m very impressed. It’s like having a gold medal,” she said of the group’s appearance. “We’re pretty excited that Bremerton is on the docket.”

Upon entering the stage, the group’s baritone, Emanuel Roll, took front and center to offer information and appreciation to the audience.

“It’s a very big crowd. This is amazing,” he mused. “It’s been a very eventful year. We’re happy to make a grand finale for you guys.”

The group went on to sing “I Love Being Here With You,” “Blackbird” by The Beatles, and “All Shook Up” by Elvis. Between songs, each group member stepped forward to talk about their experiences in barbershop music, how they produce their own songs and their hopes of returning to the Seattle area again. The group has been performing since high school and were recently introduced to barbershop music. Seven songs total were sung by the quartet, including a Swedish anthem about their love of coffee.

“We think barbershop has really changed our lives,” Roll said.

The group has traveled to 20 countries, according to their website.

“Only five months after Ringmasters had formed in the fall of 2006, they placed third in the Nordic Barbershop Contest. The same summer they placed 10th at the International Collegiate Quartet Contest in Denver. With the coaching of barbershop legend Doug Harrington, they won the same contest in Nashville the next year,” states the Ringmasters’ website.

“In 2009, they placed fourth with the big boys in Anaheim. A year later they shook Philadelphia with the mind-blowing arrangements by David Harrington, and they climbed to third. Finally in Portland in 2012, after working together with David Wright, Ringmasters was recognized as the best barbershop quartet in the world.”

Each song ended with a loud applause from the audience, including standing ovations. The group concluded their portion of the show with Charlie Chaplin’s famous song, “Smile.”

“I was really impressed,” said Lloyd Crawford, an attendee. “It was nice the way they put it together.”

His wife, Paula Crawford, who sings barbershop, agreed with her husband.

“It was fabulous,” she gushed, holding a newly purchased CD by Ringmasters. “I was really impressed. The Ringmasters were beyond compare.”

In addition to being the final act of the show, Ringmasters also offered up their time during a Youth in Harmony workshop on Friday that allowed youth in the community to get a lesson for free from the 2012 International Barbershop Harmony Society Champions.

“The Ringmasters were great,” said Weschler, who also acted as the workshop’s coordinator. “The kids could relate to them so well.”

Community youth weren’t the only ones to glean information and get inspiration from the Ringmasters. Brothers and The Jaybirds members Jaymes and Will Dunlap admired the work of the quartet from afar and were equally impressed with the show’s finale.

“Their blend is amazing. They won for a reason. That’s how we imagine we’re singing when we’re up there,” joked Jaymes Dunlap.

His older brother agreed, but made it clear he knows that they’re not quite on the same level as the 2012 International Champions.

“We’re like the local bar band,” he said. “And they’re like U2.”


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