Proof Kiwi fellas can sing
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.