HARMONISING: Soundwaves Chorus, at their last barbershop convention in Sydney, are seeking new members.
HARMONISING: Soundwaves Chorus, at their last barbershop convention in Sydney, are seeking new members. Peter Delahunty

Riding the soundwaves

LISTEN to the harmonies that a barbershop chorus produces, and it's easy to think 'I could never do that'.

But the secret, according to Soundwaves Chorus musical director Gary Kirk is that all you really need to be able to do is "carry a tune".

"We don't look for solo voices," Gary said.

"In fact, it can be detrimental to have that standout voice because you have to be able to blend your voice with the other singers - be part of the team."

Gary has been involved in Soundwaves Chorus since its inception some 30 years ago.

Starting out as a quartet after seeing a 90-strong American barbershop chorus touring as a Rotary Club fundraiser, the Central Coast group gradually grew to boast 65 members at its height.

Numbers have ebbed and flowed to about 30 currently, and Soundwaves Chorus is holding a membership drive and four-week training course from Monday, April 9 in hopes of growing once more.

Most members today are over 60 years old, but in other states younger men are joining a cappella groups "in droves", according to Gary (perhaps spurred on partially by movies such as Pitch Perfect), and Soundwaves Chorus has made it its mission to spread the word of a cappella and "get more guys singing".

As part of that push they have helped to establish an a cappella group at the Wadalba Community School and plan to hold a training day later in the year to which all Central Coast schools will be invited.

There are 12 core barbershop songs which every chorus around the world learns - and Gary recalls singing with a Japanese chorus who could not otherwise speak English - but any song can be given a barbershop treatment, from Pharrell Williams' Happy, to the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and modern musicals to songs 200 years old.

"I just love the harmonies," Gary said, when asked the attraction of barbershop.

"Whether it's in a big group or a quartet, it's a real thrill when it works properly... an adrenaline rush, the same as in any sport."

And while this may at first seem like a strange juxtaposition, Gary pointed out that singing is actually quite a physical thing, particularly involving good breathing techniques.

"Plenty of studies have shown that particularly in older groups, joining a club is good for you, but joining a choir is by far the best way to improve your health and well-being," he said.

If you are interesting in finding out more about Soundwaves Chorus and perhaps giving barbershop a go, the new training course starts at 7am on Monday, April 9 at the Central Coast Leagues Club and runs for four weeks, at a cost of $5 per night (which goes towards a reduced membership fee if you choose to stay on).

To find out more, go to the website www.soundwaveschorus.org or phone Gary on 0416152290.

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