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July 07, 1994
Thursday (Specials)

Barbershoppers' Performance Glitters at Indiana

By now I'm sure most people understand that the point of this column is to extol the virtues of live musical performances. These virtues, however, are not limited to just the bar bands I usually cover.

Quality live music in this area takes many shapes and forms, from the Terre Haute Symphony to musical theater, to the many fine vocal ensembles on the scene. I caught one such performance recently and am looking forward to at least two more this weekend.

l The Banks of the Wabash Chorus brought its barbershop style music to the wonderfully restored Indiana Theater with its June 18 production of ``The Golden Days of Radio.''

This live portrayal of a radio program featured a mystery show, complete with a comical sound-effects man as well as musical commercial jingles and several numbers by the 80-plus member chorus and three of its top quartets.

Four Hire, which is Andrew Kirkman, Pat Killeen, Vince Winans and Bob Montgomery, led the way among the Valley quartets, including the Highland Express (Gregg Durr, Bob Kihlken, Art Palfrey and Keith Kent) and Lost and Found (Dick Hughes, Jack Newman, Harry Shetter and Jeff Bounsall). Adding a little variety to the otherwise all-male show was the female barbershop quartet Allspice (Phyllis Hughes, Kathy Hill, Dorothy Goodwin and Jeanine Whitehead). Capping the evening was a high spirited set by the St. Louis based foursome The Gas House Gang, the reigning international champion barbershop quartet. The Gas House Gang formed in 1987 and took its name from the nickname of the fiery, fun-loving St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams of the 1930s. After winning the 1988 Central States District Competition, the Gang began a steady climb up the international competition ladder, which culminated in the 1993 championship at Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Terre Haute show was the group's last public performance before a new champion quartet is named for 1994. These guys were funny, very professional and, man, they could sing! They performed numbers from their two albums including ``Sixteen Tons,'' ``K.P.,'' and ``My Old Man'' and showed the same crisp pizzazz that made the group a hit in Carnegie Hall.

Our Indiana Theater and our strong BOW chorus provided a solid backdrop for this rare treat. Even for those that may not share my fondness for barbershop music, to see the world's best at anything is almost always worth it. It sure was that night.

l Not all of the area's good actors and musicians are found among the adult ranks of Community Theatre. Middle school and high school students make up the cast for the performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical ``Oklahoma!'' at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Deming Park's Larrison Pavilion.

The free shows come at the conclusion of the third annual Vigo County School Corp.'s Performing Arts Workshop. The musicals ``The Sound of Music'' and ``The King and I'' were presented the first two years.

These students, who earn a high school credit while learning their craft and honing their talents, have been reporting to the workshop at 8 a.m. almost all summer. If they can perform this show outside in the heat, surely a lot of us can sit in the shade and watch them.

As a special treat, the country theme of the musical will allow us to watch them perform some high-stepping country line dance numbers in their post show.

l Once again it is time for the annual gala performance to benefit the Indiana Historical Society. This year's show, ``The Romance of the River - Life Along the Wabash,'' will be presented Saturday in Indiana Theater beginning with the pre-show at 7:30 p.m. and the main event at 8:30 p.m.

Director Bunny Nash and writer Greg Stump, who teamed on last year's ``Fads and Fins - The Fabulous Fifties,'' are at it again this time around as well. This year's period piece spans the time from the 1880s to the 1930s and features such songs as ``Down By the Riverside,'' ``Ain't We Got Fun,'' ``Here Comes the Showboat'' and ``Wabash Blues.''

Music director Doug Brooks will be behind the keyboards and Community Theatre of Terre Haute veteran Jim Walker will narrate the affair that will incorporate slide presentations, vignettes, and, of course, lots of musical numbers. The Banks of the Wabash Chorus will be there, as well as the Sycamore Strummers to go along with soloists, small singing and dancing groups and the full chorus.

It should be great fun. And, who knows? You might even learn something interesting about our history.