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Barbershoppers sing for top honors

Good-natured competition took place at the Holmes Historic Theatre during the Red Carpet and Barbershop Chorus and Quartet contest for the Barbershop Harmony Society on May 17.

Besides bragging rights, the contest also served as a qualifier for the fall contest held in October in Appleton, Wis.

"There's a lot of work," said contest chairman and competitor Gerry Schlueter. "There's a lot of stuff to do before the contest."

Sound Image out of Willmar nipped Wireless, a quarter out of Fargo and Grand Forks, by five points -- 434-429. Quartets sang two songs each and each piece was scored by a panel of three judges on a 100-point scale.

What seemed to put Sound Image over the top was Kevin Kiffmeyer's voice standing out amidst the harmony of the others in the his group.

"There's a lot of good singing going on," Kiffmeyer said.

Kiffmeyer said, though, that singing isn't everything in the contest. Presentation and the mood of the piece itself is a component with the judges scoring music, presentation and singing separately.

He added that the music portion is more widespread than the other two categories.

Getting a perfect score is tough. While getting a 100 in a category is the goal, it's not a reality.

"Not too many quartets do that," Kiffmeyer said, laughing at the suggestion. "They take little bits and pieces off here or there."

The best quarters usually are in the upper 80s, Kiffmeyer said. "We as a quarter look to the mid-70s."

And Sound Image came close with a 72.3 average.

One group out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, came just for the chance to sing, even though the quarter couldn't compete for a title.

"This is the first competition we've been to," said Paul Kamo, member of 4 on the Floor. "But we love this stuff, so we'll go anywhere."

Traveling is a concern for some groups, Kiffmeyer said. He lives in St. Cloud and another member of his quartet lives in Benson. Getting together twice a month is a goal.

When it comes close to competition time, they practice more often. "When it gets close to a competition like this, it's probably more on a weekly basis," Kiffmeyer said.

Schlueter's own group, Good Vibrations, also moves on to Appleton as the novice qualifier.

A college quartet was on hand for a chance to go to the international college competition in Nashville, Tenn., in July. Fresh Blend, though, didn't receive the marks to automatically qualify.

The chorus competition was held earlier in the morning, and Great Plains Harmony from the Fargo-Moorhead area came away with a 27-point win over its closest competitor.