Barbershop Chorus for Christmas Program

Check it out!  Play the Video!

See if you recognize one of our members who is also a member of this Barbershop Chorus for Christmas Program.

Barbershop Chorus delivers Christmas gift to Pensacola
Written by Troy Moon
Dec. 12, 2013 |

A melody of melancholy melted through the room, as the old men sang a sad song of innocence lost long

bilde (4)

“When you’ve grown up, my dears

You’ll laugh and ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears…
Childhood’s joy land…
Once You pass its borders
You can ne’er return again”

bilde (3)

You could see the pain of memory on their faces. A few old eyes misted up a bit as they sang the sad song. It was only practice. But the men meant every word of the Christmas classic, one of 10 Christmas songs that the Fiesta Barbershop Chorus will perform at the group’s annual Christmas concert Saturday at Gateway Church of Christ. The performance, titled “Our Christmas Gift To Pensacola,” will feature guest performances by the Choral Society of Pensacola, BELLissimo! (a bell choir), and other vocal groups such as Off the Hook, Completely Youthless, The Pensacola Sound and That Other Quartet.


Admission is a non-perishable food item for Manna Food Bank or a cash donation to ARC Gateway, two non-profit organizations the Chorus annually supports.

bilde (1)

The Fiesta Barbershop Chorus began in 1958, and though no current members have been with the group since the beginning, many have given decades to the chorus. Bill Gwaltney, 85, the oldest of the 23-member male chorus, has been with the group for about 20 years, leaving for a spell only to return. “I couldn’t stay away,” he said. “I was born and raised around music in North Carolina. We didn’t have radios, so we sang. I had a gospel quartet when I was 11 and had a little session at the Grand Ole Opry.” Now, he sings with the Fiesta Barbershop Chorus, a group dedicated to preserving the old time barbershop music, characterized by a cappella performances consisting of four part harmonies — lead, tenor, bass and baritone.

For many of the men, the Chorus is a tie to their own distant pasts.
Musical director David Doheny, 73, grew up singing with his brothers as a child, performing in church or around the home. He joined the Navy and served 22 years, before retired in 1981. He has been in the Fiesta Chorus for 23 years. “I was invited,” Doheny said. “But when I heard the harmony, that was it. I knew I wanted to be part of it.” And the chorus is still luring men who want to sing the songs of old.
Rick Rogers, 61, a retired Marine, recently moved back to Northwest Florida from Alaska, where he was singing in a barbershop chorus in Fairbanks. About a month before moving back to the area – he is a former teacher at Pace High School – he made contact via email with the Fiesta Barbershop Chorus, inquiring about joining. He got to town on a Saturday. On Tuesday, he was at the chorus’ regular weekly practice at Northminster Presbyterian Church on Nine Mile Road. “It’s a fun group of guys,” Rogers said. “It’s very similar to the group I was with in Fairbanks. An eclectic
mix of backgrounds and personalities. I just wanted to join in the camaraderie.”

Soon, the Chorus runs through a practice of “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” complete with goofy
hand gestures and funny faces. Members bounce and point and knee-slap and use physical movements
to help bring the song to life. Other songs live and breathe just on the strength of the chorus’ cascading harmonies. “I saw them at Evenings at Olde Seville for years,” said Dale Bragan, 59, Chorus vice-president and a “lead” vocalist. “They were singing all these songs I grew up singing with my family. It brought back old memories. My family, there were nine of us and seven played the piano and one or two other musical instruments. I just remember standing around the piano at the house. It’s the same kind of feeling with the Chorus.”

The chorus members do love what they do. In fact, after each Tuesday practice, the group heads up to a
nearby restaurant to sing for patrons. But the group also tries to spread goodwill, performing at fund-raisers for various non-profits. Last week, the group held its annual Tannenbaum Express, where they traveled to local nursing homes to perform for residents. (Many who probably misted up when hearing ‘Toyland.’) By the way, what was going through the old fellas minds as they sang songs about long-ago childhoods. “Old toys.” “Family memories.” “You have to really feel the words,” Doheny said. “If you don’t feel them inside, it will show.”


Worth Mentioning

For those who missed the announcement in the November newsletter and didn’t see the post on FB, this is a REMINDER: December meeting and party is scheduled for 5:30 pm on Thursday December 12. Bring a covered dish, yourself, and be ready to socializing and enjoy some good food!

I am still working on the December newsletter. I am still deciphering Ned’s lengthy handwritten Musings and a book review for this month. I’m not complaining because bless his heart, Ned is a faithful contributor to our newsletter, and I’m thankful for that because he is the only other member contributing articles regularly besides myself.

I have one request of everyone, to help Mitzi and Maggie (myself) …if you are planning to renew membership for 2014 at the party, PLEASE fill out the renewal slip that you can find in the back of any of the newsletters and have it ready at the party to hand in with your check. If you don’t have renewal slip PLEASE write all your information on a piece of paper because that helps me and Mitzi keep records straight. I will also bring some applications to the party for others who don’t use the internet.