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Barbershoppers strike a chord with local audiences

Originally posted at Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Barbershoppers from across Atlantic Canada and as far away as Baltimore will descend on Cape Breton Friday for a weekend of concerts, competition and camaraderie.

It’s been 11 years since the island last played host to the Sunrise Division Competition of the North Eastern District of the Barbershop Harmony Society. And members of the local barbershop group — the Cape Breton Chordsmen — are eager to put on a great event.

“We’re really looking forward to showing some Cape Breton hospitality and getting a chance to see all the other groups,” said Dennis Gillis, who is among a new wave of members who have joined the Chordsmen over the past couple of years.

The event will kick off Friday at 7 p.m., with a first-of-its-kind show featuring performances from choruses from across the region. The concert, in support of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation, will be held at Sydney Academy and a goodwill offering will be taken.

“It’s never been done before,” explained Gillis. “Usually with these competitions we get together and we have a public sing-out and we get a chance to try a few numbers and that’s it. We’ve never had a chance to do a fundraiser for the community like this before and it’ll be the first time that all the Atlantic provinces’ barbershop choruses take the stage together for the same cause. Beyond the singing and beyond the camraderie the biggest thing that we’d like to do is be able to give back to the community.”

Saturday, the official competition will get underway at noon at Sydney Academy. Choruses, quartets and VLQs (very large quartets) will take the stage to compete for top spot within the division in front of judges from New England and Wolfville, N.S. The competition is open to the public and tickets are $15.

Gillis said this will be his second such competition since joining the Chordsmen.

“My first competition was last year and that was an eye-opening experience, just a chance to see so many others who’ve taken to this passion like I have,” he said. “And the idea that we get to host has got me really excited for this year as well.”

The Cape Breton Chordsmen now boast more than 40 members, triple what it was just a few years ago when the Chordsmen made a concerted effort to raise the profile of the group and recruit new members. Last year the Chordsmen landed on the cover of an edition of “The Harmonizer,” the official publication of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

For more information on the Chordsmen, go to www.capebretonchordsmen.com.