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Sarnia’s longest performing singing group

When you wear flashy suits and sing in four-part harmony you’d think people would pay more attention.
Musical director Ian Crosbie leads the Bluewater Chordsmen in a rehearsal of Yes Indeed! coming to the Imperial Theatre on April 6. Glenn Ogilvie

When you wear flashy suits and sing in four-part harmony you’d think people would pay more attention.

But the Bluewater Chordsmen often fly below the radar in Sarnia’s arts community, despite an illustrious history and high standard of “a cappella” shows sung in barbershop style.

“We do, and I don’t really know why,” president Douglas Doull said of the Chordsmen’s relative anonymity.

“We get 300 to 400 people at our shows, but we’d like more and we’d like to get more people involved.”

Sarnia’s longest performing singing group began with 22 men in 1945, the same year London and Toronto launched their own barbershop chapters.

A 70-member local chorus formed not long after, as well as quartets with names like the Harmoniacs, the Racket Squad and the Promissary Notes.

A contest was held in 1961 to select a new name for The Sarnia Chorus and the Bluewater Chordsmen was unanimously accepted.

The group, which celebrates its 70th year in 2015, has an archives containing more than 25 scrapbooks of photos, newspaper articles, meeting minutes and programs, as well as old music books and trophies.

That history runs deep. The Chordsmen performed at the official openings of the rebuilt Imperial Theatre, the Blue Water Bridge’s second span, and when flags were raised in Point Edward to honour emergency workers killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

They’ve sung personal Valentines and the national anthem at countless hockey games, worked with thousands of children, and given both volunteer and financial assistance to local schools and the Lambton County Music Festival.

They even sponsored the founding of the Lambton Youth Choir, which consistently places first at the festival.

On average, a Chordsmen rehearsal draws two dozen members, about the same number it began with almost 70 years ago.

Barbershop has been defined as music with songs that have understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies. Retired and soon-to-retire men make good recruits, Doull said.

“Anybody who likes to sing and can carry a tune can sing barbershop. And it’s so much fun because you’re unencumbered by music and books. You can perform your song.”


WHAT: Bluewater Chordsmen Spring Show: Yes Indeed! The Magic of Harmony. With special guests, the Forest City Fire Chorus

WHEN: Sunday, April 06, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

OTHER: Tickets $17, students and seniors $15, available at Theatre Box Office, 1-877-344-7469

- George Mathewson

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