Un­usual train­ing for the bar­ber shop singer

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By DANIEL WHIT­FIELD

Stephen O’Con­nell owes his suc­cess in bar­ber­shop to years of play­ing sport.

The Aotea Col­lege singer plays un­der­wa­ter hockey be­tween bar­ber­shop com­pe­ti­tions and said that learn­ing how to hold his breath for pro­longed pe­ri­ods had helped him per­fect those long notes.

Stephen, 17, grew up in a mu­si­cal fam­ily and started singing in church as a young­ster.

Be­fore turn­ing to bar­ber­shop three years ago, he was part of the school drama club and had dab­bled in row­ing.

‘‘It was kind of a spur of the mo­ment de­ci­sion. I needed to do some­thing and thought, ‘Why not?’ and haven’t stopped since,’’ Stephen said.

‘‘I’d al­ways been in­ter­ested in singing, but had never had an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore that side of per­form­ing. This has opened up the door to what I can do.’’

Stephen said that with bar­ber­shop he had to rely on his abil­ity to hold his breath, just as he did in un­der­wa­ter hockey.

The sport taught him how to take deeper breaths, which helped him hold notes longer and not pass out.

‘‘If you’re fit, your body holds more oxy­gen. I just saw it as a way to im­prove.’’ In­side bar­ber­shop, Stephen is a bass. ‘‘It’s the low­est part and be­sides the lead singer, I’m the one you hear the most.’’

His ded­i­ca­tion to bar­ber­shop meant Stephen prac­tised ev­ery lunchtime as well as af­ter school in the lead-up to com­pe­ti­tions.

‘‘Ev­ery year I’ve been in­volved, we’ve qual­i­fied for na­tion­als. It’s a pretty good feel­ing.’’

Stephen said at the mo­ment he was work­ing to­wards na­tion­als in Hamil­ton in Septem­ber.

He said the goal was to score well so that they could qual­ify for the next in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion. ‘‘That would be quite cool.’’ In prepa­ra­tion for the na­tion­als, Stephen and the other singers will work with teach­ers at the school to en­sure they are in sync and har­mon­is­ing to­gether.

‘‘They help us with our singing and tech­nique, but it’s up to us to put their ad­vice to work.’’

Stephen in­tends to con­tinue his singing and would be in­ter­ested in join­ing Vo­cal FX, the Welling­ton cho­rus that pro­duced the Mu­si­cal Is­land Boys.

‘‘I see a lot of po­ten­tial there, so that’s my goal,’’ he said.

Aotea Col­lege prin­ci­pal Kate Gains­ford said Stephen had real dis­ci­pline with his singing.

She said bar­ber­shop was a big thing at the col­lege and that for the past four years at least, the school team had made the na­tion­als.

Stephen hasn’t let his un­der­wa­ter hockey drop and is now train­ing for a re­gional event.

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