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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 26, 2000. All rights reserved.
Harmonious Regards to Broadway
Harmony, in every sense of the word, is the stock in
trade of the Princeton Garden Statesmen. This membership organization
of 21 men meets weekly to cultivate blending their voices in heartfelt
music. Using no accompaniment, the singers respond directly to each
other as they revel in the rich sounds of the human voice. In addition
to the musical product, the group enjoys the fellowship and solidarity
that come from sharing an activity that is both intense and intimate.
Furthermore, the Statesmen show their harmony with the world by inviting
outsiders to join their group, and by contributing to institutions
that treat speech problems.
On Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, the Princeton Garden Statesmen
Barbershop Harmony Chorus teams up with the Bucks County Dance Conservatory
to present its 31st annual show, a gala vaudeville production at Lawrence
High School in the genre of George M. Cohan.
"Give My Regards to Broadway" is a two-act tribute to the
flag-waving composer and performer. Cohan’s featured songs will include
"Over There," "All Aboard for Broadway," "Ring
to the Name of Rosie," and, of course, "Give My Regards to
Broadway." Spokesman Joe Lazar calls this "one of the group’s
biggest shows ever." Lazar is a retired patent attorney for RCA,
who now works as a consultant on intellectual property law.
Set in New York’s Broadway of 1905, the show is a musical revue, stitched
together by an impersonator of Cohan who relates elements of his life
story with musical acts of Cohan song and dance.
William Laurie, vice-president of music and performance for the group
and a Garden Statesmen member since 1985, stresses the accessibility
of singing in the group. "We assume that members do not read music.
We give them learning tapes so they can learn their parts." The
audition for the group, he explains, consists of matching pitches,
and singing a song that the candidate already knows. Laurie gives
"Happy Birthday" as an example of a typical audition song.
Laurie’s choral training came primarily at Princeton High School,
where he was a member of the well-disciplined high school choir. He
was part of the Princeton Choir delegation that went to Vienna in
1984 to participate in an international competition, and returned
with a second prize. As a student at Rider College, Laurie continued
his choral activities. He sang with the Rider choir at the unveiling
of the refurbished Statue of Liberty. Laurie also sings with barbershop
choruses in North Brunswick and Rahway. A Trenton resident, Laurie
works as a computer programmer for Wakefern Food Corporation.
The Princeton Garden Statesmen is an official chapter of the Society
for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing
in America (SPEBSQSA). The national organization with the exotic acronym
has of more than 35,000 members. In addition to its singing, the national
organization has chosen "Heartspring," in Wichita, Kansas,
as a national service project, and gives a portion of the fees it
collects for performances to the institution.
"Heartspring" is dedicated to helping those with speech disorders;
the clientele ranges from children with speech problems to stroke
victims whose ability to speak has been compromised. SPEBSQSA has
adopted as its motto, "We sing that they shall speak." In
addition, the motto has been transformed into a song that has become
a national anthem for the group, and it is sung at the closing for
each of the meetings of the Princeton Statesmen. To date, barbershop
singers from around the world have raised more than $12 million for
The Princeton Garden Statesmen also offices its support services to
the Rock Brook School in Skillman. The non-profit school serves children
ages 3 to 12 with learning, communication, and developmental difficulties.
The Garden Statesmen performed at the dedication of the school’s new
8,000-square-foot facility last June.
The Princeton Garden Statesmen’s website, www.menwhosing.org, contains
photos of the upbeat group in their natty performance dress of white
trousers, black jackets, and yellow vests. Even in this virtual setting,
the group displays a special mix of enjoying themselves, entertaining
others, and serving the less fortunate. Feeling good, and doing good
are well-integrated in the Statesmen’s harmonious scheme of things.
— Elaine Strauss
Chorus , Lawrence High School, 2525 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville,
609-252-1515. $12. Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, 8 p.m.
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