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Mid-Atlantic Fall Convention Coverage at LancasterOnline.com News

Originally posted at http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/296646 By STEPHEN KOPFINGER, Correspondent

Four-part voice male quartet Touchstone takes top honors at barbershop convention where the crowd yelled, cheered and barked.

It was Crunch Time in the big room.

Plus a whole lot of people threw Frank the Dog a bone.

Did we mention the guys in the pajamas?

It sounds like chaos, but it all added up to something as disciplined as four-part harmony Saturday night at the Lancaster County Convention Center. That’s where the 2010 Mid-Atlantic District Fall Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society filled the cavernous Freedom Hall with sweet sounds, of, well, barbershop harmony.

As in quartets, and choruses. As in, that’s it. No orchestras. No studio re-mixes. Just vocal talent, blended as smooth as butter.

Yes, the words “barbershop quartet” conjure up images of older guys in striped blazers and straw hats crooning lyrics such as “I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad.” That was there — right down to those very lyrics — at the convention center, but the guys who were delivering them were born long after Adm. Dewey came home from the Spanish-American War.

Just ask Brett Thomas, 26. There’s nothing staid about barbershopping to him, even if he and his teammates from the Crunch Time quartet were turned out in smartly-trimmed blazers.

“It’s a blast. I love these weekends,” said Thomas, of Pottstown.

What’s the attraction?

“That’s a loaded question!” Thomas said. He summed it up as “good people, great music.”

And he’s been into it since he was 9.

“My grandfather got me into it,” Thomas said. “I’ve never let go of it.”

“We’re essentially part of a fraternity,” agreed Matt Fellows, 27, who sings alongside Thomas with Shawn Thomas and Eric Wallen. Fellows, too, has been into barbershop since he was a kid. For him, it’s “making music and the thrill of competition.”

As it turned out, Crunch Time took second place among the final top 10 quartets who wowed a room filled with an estimated 2,500 people. Touchstone, a group whose members hail from Maryland to Virginia to Harrisburg, took top honors.

To the audience, pretty much everyone on stage was a winner.

They cheered, football-style, the way people do at a Penn State game. They yelled words of encouragement, as if at a high school graduation. And they barked. Yes, barked, when Frank the Dog took to the boards.

Frank and friends, who hail from the Philadelphia/New Jersey area, enjoy tweaking tradition, but their rendition of “In the Cool, Cool, Cool Cool of the Evening” was strictly old school. That wasn’t the case with another act, Up All Night, in which the guys stepped into the spotlight in pajamas, where they serenaded a delighted crowd about the joys — not! — of sliding into middle-age manhood.

But barbershop harmony, as mentioned, is for all ages, even in today’s jaded age. Frank the Dog, for instance, raised some $400 at the convention for Youth in Harmony, an organization which keeps the tradition alive among young people.

That doesn’t surprise Dick Powell, vice president of the Mid-Atlantic District. A cappella singing, he noted, is on the rise on college campuses.

“They don’t want to play poker,” he said. “They don’t want to go bowling. They want to sing.”