November 8, 2012

Barbershopper racks up half century of singing

Barbershopper racks up half century of singing


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Lois Ann Brooks and her children attended a Cumberland Bay Barbershoppers’ show in the 1950s while her husband, Robert “Bob” Brooks, was away in Albany for a meeting.

“She said, ‘I just attended an a cappella four-part harmony group,” Bob recalled. “‘They have 30 members. Guess what? They’re going to be 31 because you’re going to join it. There’s no question about it, I want you there.’

“I lived happily ever after. I had a great time over the years.”

This year, Bob celebrates his 50th anniversary with the ensemble that performs its 53rd-annual show, “Memories Are Made of This,” under the musical direction of Diane Brooks on Saturday.

Yes, there is a familial connection. Diane is his daughter-in-law.

Saturday’s show is a musical jaunt down memory lane. Classics by artists including Frank Sinatra and Bobby Vinton will be covered.

Featured guest is Downtown Crossing, a spin-off of the Sounds of Concord Chorus champions from Massachusetts. Two years ago, Downtown Crossing was crowned Northeastern District Quartet champions. On stage, the quartet will be joined by Minor Adjustments of SUNY Plattsburgh and the Champlain Valley Sweet Adelines.

The show’s finale honors Veterans Day. Bob served during World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy. He was a fire-control man on a Topeka Cruiser.

“I was in the South Pacific off Okinawa. We were in two major battles off the island of Japan before they surrendered. I was just a young whippersnapper. I got in, and I came home, thank God. I was more fortunate than a lot of people,” Bob said.

His unit still pulls together for reunions. The last one was held in Syracuse.

“In our show, we pay tribute to veterans of various wars,” he said.

During his tenure with the Barbershoppers, he has joyous and real sad times.

“I look around, and I don’t see anyone there who sang with me 50 years ago. Many have gone to other areas of the country, and many have passed away. We’ve had as many as 70 in our chorus over the years. We did quite well. We attended division contests.”

During his first 15 years, Bob served as a member of the Board of Directors, president, area counselor and division vice president.

“I’m 86 now,” he said. “I’m not as sharp as I used to be.”

In the late ‘60s, he was in a quartet, the Impromptones, with Warren Chase (bass), Charles Dilzer (tenor) and Shelton Hagar (baritone).

“I sang lead,” Bob said.

Without Lois Ann’s insistence, Bob would not be singing today.

“I think it’s a nice thing to do. I don’t know how good a singer I am, but I like to do it. We have a lot of fun over there, but we also take it serious. It’s hard work. Diane doesn’t take anything but on target every time,” Bob said.

Now, there are just more than 20 members in the group.

“It has improved,” Bob said. “Diane is helpful. We’re a small group. It’s a great group. People who attend this show will be very, very happy they did. The sound is great.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: The Cumberland Bay Barbershoppers presents "Memories are Made of This" with featured guests Downtown Crossing, SUNY Plattsburgh's Minor Adjustments and the Champlain Valley Sweet Adelines. WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday. WHERE: E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium, SUNY Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: $12 adults and $10 seniors/students at the door. CONTACT: 561-0545.