Proof Kiwi fel­las can sing

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - ME­GAN HUNT To be­come an A Cap­pella Fella con­tact the group’s pres­i­dent Roy on 06 8442544.

You might have heard of boy bands One Di­rec­tion or Take That, but have you heard of A Cap­pella Fel­las?

Each Wed­nes­day night har­monised voices from the Hawke’s Bay bar­ber­shop cho­rus waft from the hall at Taradale’s Knights­bridge Ma­sonic Vil­lage.

But un­like most boy bands, A Cap­pella Fel­las don’t wear edgy cos­tumes or per­form mod­ern songs - they pre­fer straw skim­mer hats, bow ties and cov­ers of The Drifters.

The av­er­age age of mem­bers is 60, with the old­est singer 83.

A Cap­pella Fel­las was formed 21⁄ years ago, af­ter seven mem­bers from a for­mer bar­ber­shop group ap­proached mu­si­cal direc­tor Dean Roberts. Now they have dou­bled those num­bers, re­hearse once a week at the Knights­bridge Hall and per­form two to three times a week at dif­fer­ent events around the re­gion.

‘‘Most peo­ple think this bunch of old men will sound like a bunch of old men - but they don’t,’’ Roberts said.

When sing­ing on street cor­ners at this year’s Art Deco week­end they col­lected fans who fol­lowed them as they moved to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions to per­form.

The core of their reper­toire is 14 ‘‘Bar­ber­pole Cat’’ songs, a pro­gramme of tunes all bar­ber­shop groups learn, plus a va­ri­ety of other un­ac­com­pa­nied songs.

‘‘We take any­body, we can help any­one be­come a singer,’’ Roberts said. ‘‘There are very few peo­ple who ac­tu­ally can’t sing if they are given the right train­ing.’’

Many mem­bers had never sung be­fore.

‘‘Kiwi men don’t sing,’’ they agreed. ‘‘There is a huge stigma with guys that they can’t sing. But many can - and can ac­tu­ally sing re­ally well.’’

One man de­scribed be­ing in­spired af­ter his daugh­ter joined a bar­ber­shop group at Napier Girls’ High School.

Oth­ers had sung in their youth, in bands or mu­si­cals, then found mu­sic again through the group.

‘‘I started sing­ing back in the 1950s, ev­ery­one was sing­ing in those days, stand­ing around the pi­ano and sing­ing,’’ one man said.

They found them­selves still sing­ing on their way home from prac­tice, then sing­ing the songs while mow­ing the lawns or dry­ing dishes at home days later.

Roberts at­tended univer­sity in Chicago where he first found bar­ber­shop mu­sic, sing­ing in a cho­rus of 120.

‘‘It’s ab­so­lutely amaz­ing and sounds that can be cre­ated by a cho­rus that size, it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.’’


Hawke’s Bay’s A Capella Fel­las per­form for crowds at Napier’s Art Deco Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year.

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