About The Sons Of The Severn
The Sons of the Severn is an award-winning men's choral ensemble based in Annapolis, Maryland. We are proud members of the Barbershop Harmony Society (officially the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of BarberShop Quartet Singing in America, Inc., or SPEBSQSA).
Barbershop harmony is old-school a cappella singing, a purely American folk music art form that harkens back to a simpler time, when when real men sang from the heart, songs were written for the people, and families made music together. Our mission is to capture and preserve that spirit of fellowship, while pursuing musical excellence and advancing the cause of vocal music in our community.
The chorus performs a diverse repertoire of American popular music, including Tin Pan Alley classics, pop standards, novelty songs, and seasonal favorites. We complement our singing with innovative staging, movement, and dialogue, to create a unique and memorable experience for our audiences. All of our music is arranged for four voice parts and sung a cappella (unaccompanied). The male singers in our group come from various musical backgrounds, having sung in high school and college a cappella groups, madrigals, church choirs, opera, musical theater, and even heavy metal bands. We are a volunteer organization. The men who sing with us are regular guys from all professions...executives, teachers, engineers, physicians, military, skilled laborers, and more. They come from Baltimore and Washington, DC, and everywhere in between.
The Sons of the Severn name is an homage to the Severn River, which runs through Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland and home to the United States Naval Academy. The chorus represents the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Our chapter was founded in 1949, the third chapter to charter in the Society's Mid-Atlantic District.
From Anne Arundel Chapter J-003 history project, researched by Jay Bansbach
Here in Anne Arundel County, the barbershop story begins with George B. Woelfel of Annapolis, who organized the first chapter meeting on October 25, 1949. After attending a barbershop show in Washington. D.C., Woelfel was captivated and asked for sponsorship for a new chapter from the Singing Capital Chorus. The Society and the Mid-Atlantic District board authorized the new chapter, and on November 3, 1949, the "Annapolis Chapter" was born under the presidency of F. Peyton Fuller.
In September of 1958, in an effort to appeal to the entire county, the board of directors voted to change the chapter's name to the Anne Arundel County Chapter, and permission was granted by the Society on November 24 of that year. By this time the chapter had grown to 33 members. In the early 1960s, with chorus membership now over 50, the chapter decided to adopt the name "Sons of the Severn" to reflect the area's distinctive nautical heritage.
The early 1980s was a real boom period for the Sons with respect to membership. Between 1979 and 1982, the chapter nearly doubled in size, reaching 83 members.
Over the years, the Sons of the Severn have consistently entered into competitions sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic District and have placed high enough at the division level to compete in the district competition. Over the years the chorus has placed as high as 6th out of 95 choruses. The chorus is currently on an upward trend, having qualified for the fall District competition every year since 2005.
The Society exists to promote and educate others to our unique form of music, and to that end one of the reasons for competition is so that chapters have a goal to work toward-singing better. But we also exist to entertain in our own community. The Sons of the Severn Chorus has performed at countless functions and occasions over the years—at schools, churches, hospitals, senior citizen centers, nursing homes, civic groups, and fraternal organizations. The Sons have performed at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Maryland State House, the Anne Arundel County Fair, the Annapolis Waterfront Festival, the Downs Park Concert Series, the Annapolis 350th Year Celebration, New Year's Annnapolis, First Sunday Arts Festival, Midnight Madness, and at the Anne Arundel County Fourth of July Celebration (featuring the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra).
In 1992 the Sons of the Severn adopted a local service project, the North County Emergency Outreach Network (NCEON). The "Network" maintains a food pantry and provides intervention services for families and children in crisis. For twenty years, barbershoppers from around the region came together each spring to perform in a benefit show, with the proceeds of both food and cash going directly to NCEON. As a result of the chorus's hard work — particularly that of Orville Henschel, who chaired the project from the beginning — the Sons were honored with the Harmony Foundation Award, for the highest per-man contribution to charity in the Mid-Atlantic District, in 1997 and 1998. This shows the commitment of our chorus to making a difference in our community. The chapter hosted its final NCEON show in 2012. Since then, the chapter has turned its charitable focus towards causes related to music education.
Today, the Barbershop Harmony Society's main service project is the Harmony Foundation International, a non-profit organization funding a variety of projects to encourage vocal music in our education systems and our communities. Our chapter proudly supports the work of the Foundation; several of our members are patrons and President's Council members of HF.
The Sons of the Severn over the years have recognized their own for outstanding contributions to the chapter. Each year the chapter recognizes a deserving member with the Barbershopper Of The Year Award. From 1977 to 1981, the "Jack Wagner Award" was given to the chapter member who demonstrated a desire to achieve a greater proficiency in our hobby. The Wagner family gave the award on behalf of Jack, a 17-year member of the chorus who passed away in 1976. H&M Wagner & Sons bore the expense of sendng the member to the Society's annual week-long Harmony University, with the expectation that he would share his new and valuable knowledge with the chorus.
A lot has happened since 1949. Members have come and gone, and many are now with us only in our memories. But one thing has remained constant throughout the years: the Sons of the Severn remain dedicated to bringing our audiences the best in barbershop harmony, and to being an important part of our community.
Music Leadership Team
- TJ Barranger
- Music Director, Vocal Performance Coach
- John Sutton
- Assistant Director, Section Leader
- Kevin Roth
- Associate Director, Section Leader, Visual Performance Captain
Chapter Board of Directors (2019)
- Jay Bansbach
- John Sutton
- VP, Music & Performance
- Joe Wise
- VP, Chapter Development
- Mike Baguley
- Men Over Chord
- Tim Cobb, Will Kuethe, Dave Bankard, Jay Bansbach
- Kal Nanes, Josh Getto, Aaron Spangler, Steve Chan