A cappella chorus gearing up for Christmas show at Lyric Theatre
Written by Emily Sparacino
If the walls of Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Vestavia Hills could talk, they would probably sing instead.
Every Monday night, members of Voices of the South men’s a cappella chorus rehearse at the church for an hour-and-a-half, singing songs they will perform at an upcoming concert or competition.
More than 20 men from Shelby and Jefferson counties and other Alabama cities comprise the all-volunteer group, the performing chorus of the Central Alabama Chapter of Barbershop Harmony Society.
“Voices of the South, as we know it, probably first formed in 2000,” President Ed Wharton said. “We are open to anybody that wants to come sing with us.”
Wharton, of Alabaster, said he has been involved in “barbershopping” for nearly 35 years. As a student, he was a member of the Warblers group at Woodlawn High School.
Wharton defined barbershopping as a four-part male a cappella harmony. The four basic parts are: lead voice (second tenor), bass (underlying roots of harmony), tenor (above melody) and baritone (whatever is left over).
“Barbershopping in Birmingham started in the mid-1960s,” Wharton said. “The national group is made up of chapters in different cities.”
Voices of the South encompasses a chorus and quartets that perform at various events and competitions each year.
“We participate twice a year in competitions against other choruses in our district, a four-state area, for bragging rights,” Wharton said.
Voices of the South also performs twice at Christmastime and on Valentine’s Day, in Singing Valentines. On Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., the group will perform at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Birmingham.
“The one at the Lyric is the first of a long tradition we hope to continue at the Lyric,” he said.
The group also sings at the Riverchase Galleria on Friday nights close to Christmas.
Wharton said members are “all very amateur” in their training, and anyone who loves music and is interested in joining the group is urged to do so “as long as you can still sing and feel proud about your singing.”
“A high degree of music training is not a prerequisite,” he added. “We really don’t have an unreachable standard for people wanting to sing with us. We love music and we love performing.”
No age limit exists for the group, either. The youngest member is 17, and the oldest gentleman, Frank Buttler, is 86
Matt Powell, 28, from the Hoover area, is currently serving as director for Voices of the South. He joined the chorus about a year ago.
“I’ve been director for seven months, since April,” Powell said, adding he was honored to receive the opportunity despite how sudden it came.
Powell has a church music degree from Samford University and served as director of music at a small church prior to Voices of the South.
“I’ve just enjoyed learning and getting my feet wet (with) the basics of leading a chorus,” Powell said. “I love learning from some of the guys as well. They give me a few pointers here and there. It’s a great fellowship. We all love one another.”
The group is trying to spread the word about its ongoing recruitment of new members.
“We’re here to give music to the community and show that guys from all walks of life can come together,” Powell said.
Those wanting to find out more about membership may attend a Monday night rehearsal at Saint Mark UMC or visit VoicesOfTheSouth.com.
“It is very much a family-oriented thing,” Wharton said. “People are more than welcome to sing with us.”
Voices of the South’s Christmas at the Lyric show will feature Christmas and non-Christmas music. The first half of the show will feature non-Christmas favorites, and the second half will include religious and patriotic favorites, along with a special telling of the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke.
Christmas at the Lyric marks the 17th consecutive Christmas show for Voices of the South.
The song list includes: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Happy Holidays/It’s The Holiday Season, Home for the Holidays, Tennessee Waltz, I’ll Walk With God, The Prayer, God Bless The USA, Temptations Tribute, Hallelujah, We Need A little Christmas, White Christmas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child Is This, Angels We Have Heard On High, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night and Silent Night.
Tickets are available at Lyricbham.com/events/.
The Lyric Theatre is located at 1800 3rd Ave. N. in Birmingham.