Jim Clark will have you know that music can save the world. Also, barbershop is not dead. Barbershop is alive and can save the world.
There’s something about the togetherness. Something about “the more insular we become as a society ...”
But rather than have him explain, watch him. Watch him direct them.
They file into the little church on the corner, across from the unkempt park, beside the overgrown neighborhood with American flags that don’t wave this still, quiet night. Quiet but through half-cracked windows, yellow light spilling and voices rising.
For this weekly practice, they are 35 strong.
They are bald or balding, white and wrinkled. Except for the teens in the first row. Clark brought them from Denver because their voices are needed.
Ten years ago, a director was needed. A barbershopper since childhood, Clark had directed many groups and sung in many others, including a world-champion quartet, and he wasn’t about to let the America the Beautiful Chorus down the highway be left behind.
They are mostly retired military. Which brings Clark to another point: Did you know the Barbershop Harmony Society formed around World War II? Would you believe it? Amid the worst of humanity?
There was something about the togetherness, about the need for that, Clark says, “about bringing joy into the world, rather than destruction.”
Something about this new task, this impossible pursuit of perfection: blending the highest tenors with the lowest basses, the leads and baritones in between.
Watch them try now.
Their eyes drift, searching for the right note, the invisible chord. Voices rising, falling, rising.
“Heeaarrtt of my heeaarrtt, I loooove yoouu ...”
They lean forward, hands to chest.
“Too many frowny faces! Dead eyes! Light up!”
More hands reaching, more eyes softening, more emotion to make you believe.
“I caann forrgeeeet you neeeeverrr ... Saaayy you’ll be miiinnee forreeeevverrr ...”
“That’s all the pain and anguish,” Clark says. “Now we have hope!”
The crescendo, then the hushed end. “Only yoouuu ... Only yoouuu ...”
They got it just right. Together.
Smiles. Satisfaction. Joy.
And as you turn to leave, they insist you come back.
Won’t you sing with them? Please, won’t you sing with them?