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Barbershop quartet convention May 17 in DL

Gerry Schlueter, who is serving as convention chairman for the upcoming barbershop chorus and quartet competition, is checking out his competition.

As a part of a quartet out of Fargo, Schlueter has been going through the registrations to see who will be up against his quartet. A quartet from Thunder Bay, Ontario -- which is coming the farthest distance -- also has the oldest competitor -- 108.

Schlueter said he's not sure whether he should have a doctor and gurney ready or encourage the emcee of the show to have a little fun with the mistake.

For the first time since the 1980s, a barbershop competition is coming to Detroit Lakes.

Competitors stretching from Winnipeg to St. Cloud, Thunder Bay to Bismarck, will be joining together May 17 to compete for Land O'Lakes district titles.

Having been a part of the competitions for quite a few years, Schlueter, of Lake Park, is taking on the role of convention chairman for the Detroit Lakes-hosted event.

Choruses and quartets will perform for judges and audience members throughout the day.

"It's really very, very structured," Schlueter said, who will also be serving as stage manager.

Singers will be judged on three things -- music, singing and presentation.

"None of us really knows what the music judge does," he said with a laugh, although he said he thinks it might be the way singers interpret the barbershop style.

The singing judge will be listening to make sure everyone hits each note and is in tune, and the presentation judge will be watching for "how entertaining we are." Smiles count.

"It is really a big thing," he said. "It's structured, but it's fun."

Schlueter said he and his wife have been going to barbershop singing conventions for years, and it's like a reunion, seeing long distance friends each time.

He said he's hoping the competitors and judges will be impressed with the Detroit Lakes location enough to get it on the circuit and have the show in town every few years.

"Rather than Appleton, Wisconsin," he said dramatically. "Or Janesville, Wisconsin. You can see Chicago from Janesville, but we went to Janesville."

Not only has it been about 20 years since Detroit Lakes has hosted an event like this, it's been six years since local folk have competed, too. Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls have joined forces for the chorus section, to have a larger number of participants, he explained.

When he started with a barbershop chorus himself, Schlueter said he was part of a group in Detroit Lakes and one in Fargo. It got to be too much, so he had to make a decision between the two. He said he felt he was learning more with the Fargo group because they were in more competitions.

Now he'll be competing against Detroit Lakes.

"I sing with Fargo, but I'm not out to beat the pants off Detroit Lakes," he said, adding that he wants everyone involved to do their very best.

"We're just trying to see how to sing better so we can perform for audiences better. When we have (a score of) 450, I want a 451 the next time."

And even after all of his performances and competitions, Schlueter says his knees still get rubbery and he forgets the first line to songs when he gets on stage with his quartet, Good Vibrations.

"I'm so nervous I wonder 'why am I doing this,' but I love it. I have to force myself to do this," he said with a laugh. "It's just a hobby, but it's a great, great hobby." On Saturday, May 17, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with the chorus contest in the Historic Holmes Theatre, the public is welcome to come hear the perfect bending of barbershop singers from across the region. At 1:30 p.m., the quartets will take the stage in competition.

That evening at 7:30, the Detroit Lakes/Fergus Falls barbershop singers will perform their annual spring show that was canceled a couple weekends ago due to snow.

Cost to attend all three concerts is $10, and audience members can come and go between performances.