Written by Betsy Abraham Saturday, 08 February 2014 00:00
Looking for a gift outside of the heart-shaped chocolate box? Something beyond the sappy sentimentality of a Hallmark card? The Nassau Mid-Island Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society delivers sweet romance with just a few notes.
The local chapter of the Society has been bringing couples together through its Singing Valentines program for over 20 years. This year, four tuxedo-clad barbershop quartets from the organization will go all over Nassau and Western Suffolk to sing “Heart Of My Heart” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to love targets at workplaces, homes, schools, care facilities and other locations.
“It’s been a successful and rewarding program,” says the Nassau Mid-Island Chapter musical director Maurice Debar. “You never know who you’re going to sing for, but we always get an emotional reaction.”
The unsuspecting recipients, who include women and men of all ages, are usually pleasantly surprised. Responses range from smiles to tears. This year, the chapter expects to deliver anywhere from 30 to 50 singing valentines from Feb. 12 through 14.
Not only does the Valentine’s Day program delight lovers and their beloveds, it’s one of the group’s most highly anticipated events. For chapter president and Westbury resident George Seelinger, the program even changed his view of Valentine’s Day.
“I never thought much about Valentine’s Day, I just thought it was a day for Hallmark to make money,” he says. “Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve changed my mind. It’s very rewarding when you make someone’s day just a little bit better. ”
The Nassau chapter has been around for 64 years and, with a chorus of almost 40 voices, has grown to be the largest of its kind on Long Island. The repertoire includes everything from oldies, to patriotic songs to more recent numbers — all performed a capella in a four-part harmony. Because barbershop quartets rely on each individual voice, singing in tune is especially important.
“In barbershop, our goal is to create at least one more note, so you have five notes with just four singers,” says Debar. “It’s a phenomenon of physics, that if you put two tones together, the two tones will add up and produce a third tone. But it only works if you sing perfectly in tune.”
Jon Ayers has been a member of the chapter for five years and has sung with other chapters of the Barbershop Harmony Society for over 40 years. He lends his wide-ranging voice to both the chapter’s chorus, in which he sings bass, and one of its quartets, in which he sings tenor. Ayers says singing with the Mid-Island Chapter allows him to bond with others in a special way, as the group has to blend their voices to make them all come together harmoniously.
“I love the fellowship and the responsibility of making my voice blend,” Ayers said. “Singing in harmony gives me a real kick. I can’t imagine singing any other way.”
And the society isn’t just for experienced singers. Ayers says they spend a lot of time teaching new members how to sing better, not by criticizing but with helpful tips.
“The only requirement is that you have to like to sing. If you like to sing we can teach you the rest of it,” says Ayers. “We try to make singing tomorrow better than it was yesterday.”
But more than just singing, the society is about bringing people together. Seelinger says that while the group may not be comprised of award-winning singers, it is made up of great people.
“There are a lot of wonderful people. It’s a great social circle, and it’s like an extended family,” Seelinger says. “Before I retired, I worked strange hours and my wife and I had very little social life. But since I got involved with this, it’s like a whole other life for me.”
The Nassau Mid-Island Chapter rehearses Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. in Winthrop Hall, Church of the Advent at 555 Advent St. in Westbury. Find out more at www.longislandharmonizers.org. To book a Singing Valentine, call Joel Fairman at 516-521-8462.
Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
Westbury High School students are teaching younger children from Park Avenue Elementary School valuable life lessons about money and business skills through the High School Heroes program.
In this program, high school students that are taking Renate Johnson’s Junior Achievement class will go into first grade classrooms to teach 45-minute lessons.
“It is a program that gives high school and younger students confidence and teaches them about business and financial literacy,” said Johnson.
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
The Westbury Historical Society will host Dr. Natalie Naylor, professor emerita at Hofstra University and author of Women in Long Island’s Past: Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives at their next meeting on March 9.
Naylor’s presentation will focus on the place of women in Long Island’s history, including several prominent women from Westbury’s past.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Albertson resident and Kellenberg sophomore Gabby Schreib qualified for the Millrose Games in New York City. Schreib qualified as a member of the Sprint Medley Relay along with Danielle Correia, Bridget McNierney, and Jazmine Fray.
The Kellenberg relay’s close second place finish in January’s Millrose Trials has moved them closer to defending the title they won in the same relay at last year’s Millrose Games. Schreib and her teammates time is currently second in the United States for girls track and field performances.
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
Congratulations to Westbury athletes Michael Esposito, Eileen Harris, Brett Harris, and Michael Going, each of whom won awards in Race # 1 of the Jonas Chiropractic Run Nassau Series co-hosted by Nassau County and the Greater Long Island Running Club.
Michael Esposito, age 15, took home the second place award in the 15-19 age group with a time of 23 minutes, 6 seconds. Eileen Harris, age 42, earned the first place award in the women’s 40-44 age group. She completed the race with her 45 year old husband, Brett Harris, who was the third place award winner in the men’s 45-49 age group. Michael Going, age 41, scored third place honors in the 40-44 age group with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds.