By Muriel J. Smith |
RED BANK – The smiles are infectious, the apparel crisp and colorful, and the resounding tones and harmony a cut above spectacular. But don’t let their easy-going manner and casual comfort in their work fool you. It takes hours of practice for the Chorus of the Atlantic, the Red Bank Area Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, to present the top-quality musical presentations that have made them popular throughout the Two River area.
Established more years ago than anyone can remember, there are members today who have been active for close to 50 years; there’s even one member who’s been active for 60 years! The chapter is part of the society founded in 1938 with the purpose of preserving and promoting barbershop harmony among men of all ages. With an international headquarters in Tennessee, the society has more than 25,000 members. The local chapter has approximately 35 members, ranging in age from mid-20s to early-90s, men who come from all walks of life and professions – police officer, electronic engineer, retired military, newspaper publisher, teacher, football coach. What they have in common is their insatiable desire to sing and make people happy when listening to their harmony.
Herbie Van Note, a retired captain in the West Long Branch Police Department and a tenor in the society, has been a member 38 years and shows no signs of giving it up. He’s been singing since he was in the church choir as a youngster at St. James Episcopal Church in West Long Branch and says he still shows up every Tuesday night at the Red Bank Middle School auditorium for close to three hours of practice because “it’s the best hobby in the world.” Although none of his three children, grandchildren or great grandchildren sing, Van Note said he and his wife, Gloria, enjoyed the hobby together until her death in 2004. Gloria was a member of the Sweet Adelines, the women’s group of harmony lovers affiliated with the society. Van Note is a member of not only the evening group, but also the Matinee Idles, a spin-off of the main group that practices during the day and presents programs at nursing homes, hospitals, club meetings and schools.
Craig T. Page of Brick is the director of the chapter and lives music night and day. Professionally, he is the music director at CPC’s High Point Schools based in Morganville and sees firsthand with his students how music helps people relax and enjoy life just a bit more. He’s been with the society 20 years and puts in anywhere from five to eight hours of volunteer time each week with directing and associated paperwork and design. He enjoys being director, he smiles, because “I like to lead.” As a music professional, he said he “can hear it, and feel it, and fix it if it isn’t perfect. More importantly, I like to see the smiles from the audience.”
Kirk Thompson of Middletown is assistant director and warming up his singers before a few hours of intense practice begins with having them bend, stretch and loosen up, followed by “relaxing those smiling muscles and getting your face involved,” he said. He urges each singer to “just be the best you can be. You’re surrounded by talent.”
Dave Murch of Eatontown is a lead singer, a high school football coach and a retired Marine Corps officer who has seen duty in both Korea and Vietnam. He writes the scripts for the chapter’s productions, and coordinates with the music coordinator to put the program together. He also sings lead, both with the evening group and the Matinee Idles.
The Chorus of the Atlantic is busiest during holiday seasons and will be appearing at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Ocean Township High School auditorium to present a holiday show featuring the chorus, the Matinee Idles, chapter quartets as well as the high school chamber choir. Their renditions of the “12 Days of Christmas” and “Rudolph” will not only make you sit up and take notice but will put a song in your heart and a smile on your face.
This article was first published in the Dec. 7-14, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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