Alan Bar­nett of Rich­land, in a per­sonal mu­si­cal re­vival at age 85, will per­form Sun­day at Emer­ald of Siam.

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY SARA SCHILLING ss­[email protected]­i­ty­her­

Alan Bar­nett first sang pub­licly when he was in el­e­men­tary school.

It was the early 1940s, in Dal­las, Texas, and he per­formed “Swing­ing on a Star” by Bing Crosby for his class­mates.

“Would you like to swing on a star, and be bet­ter off than you are?” the Rich­land man sang the other day, in­spired by the mem­ory.

Just shy of 86, his voice still is strong, rich and clear.

In fact, “I think it’s as good now as it’s ever been,” he said. “I have no busi­ness hav­ing this voice at this age.”

But Bar­nett is in the midst of a per­sonal mu­si­cal re­vival.

He’s worked with voice teacher Cyn­thia Vaughn for about three years, he’s recorded three al­bums of cover songs and he’s fresh off his first-ever solo con-


Alan Bar­nett

cert — a metic­u­lously con­structed 1 1⁄ hour set

2 that charmed and de­lighted.

Tri-Ci­tians have an­other chance to hear his golden voice this Sun­day, at [email protected]­ald in Rich­land.

The hol­i­day con­cert is part of Vaughn’s Opera on the Vine series. Bar­nett and other cel­e­brated soloists will take the stage.

They’ll also lead the au­di­ence in singing Christmas car­ols.

It’s par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful for Bar­nett be­cause he’ll be leav­ing the Tri-Cities soon.

He and his wife, Dee, are mov­ing to Texas in the spring to be closer to fam­ily.

They’re look­ing for­ward to it, but it’s also bit­ter­sweet. They have a good life here. Peo­ple know and ap­pre­ci­ate Bar­nett’s mu­si­cal gifts.

He’ll be look­ing for a place to sing in Texas, he said.

“I don’t want to let this go,” he said. “God has granted me this voice. I want to keep us­ing it.”

Bar­nett grew up in the Lone Star State and fell in love with mu­sic thanks to his mother and sis­ter.

They’d take him to see the pop­u­lar op­erettas of the time, from “The New Moon” to “The Desert Song.”

“We’d leave the shows at night and sing the songs all the way home,” Bar- nett said.

Mu­sic has been a part of his life ever since.

He’s per­formed in choirs and as a soloist at venues from West­min­ster Abbey to Carnegie Hall.

In the Tri-Cities, he’s spent years singing with Cen­tral Church’s chan­cel choir and he’s taken the stage with groups such as Rich­land Light Opera Com­pany, now known as Mid-Columbia Mu­si­cal The­atre.

Bar­nett, an Army vet­eran, came to the Tri-Cities in 1980 for a job at En­ergy North­west.

He took a break from singing a few years ago, when he and his wife tem­po­rar­ily switched churches.

Their new church played more con­tem­po­rary mu­sic, and “it wasn’t right for the kind of singing I do,” Bar­nett said.

“At that point, I wasn’t

even singing as much in the car any­more. I sort of just dropped off of singing al­to­gether,” he said.

But he and Dee even­tu­ally re­turned to Cen­tral Church, and Bar­nett met Vaughn in the choir there.

He started tak­ing weekly voice les­sons, where Vaughn helped him hone his craft.

At her [email protected]­ald hol­i­day show last year, his ren­di­tion of “The Birth­day of a King” brought down the house.

He put on a solo con­cert at her Mag­no­lia Mu­sic Stu­dio-River­walk ear­lier this month, which was sim­i­larly well-re­ceived.

Bar­nett’s bari­tone is spe­cial, Vaughn said. And he has a spe­cial spirit, too.

“I never saw Alan as just a voice,” she said. “He’s a charmer. From the very first les­son, I thought, ‘I like this guy.’”

Bar­nett’s big­gest fan is his wife. He and Dee were set up by a friend in the early 80s and mar­ried within a few months.

“He’s the love of my life. He’s more than just my hus­band, he’s my best friend,” Dee said.

She loves that he finds joy in mu­sic. She ad­mires his tal­ent.

He makes sure to share it with her.

Once, she re­called, he ser­e­naded her dur­ing a con­cert with a tune from “Camelot.”

“If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in spring­time,” Bar­nett be­gan to sing, when asked which tune.

He looked lov­ingly at Dee as the mu­sic flowed; she looked lov­ingly right back.

The Bar­netts have three chil­dren, 18 grand­chil­dren and five great-grand­chil­dren.

At the urg­ing of grand­daugh­ter Lyn­d­say Clarke, Bar­nett recorded an al­bum of cover songs in 2017.

It’s called, “Mu­sic of My Life,” and he gave it out to fam­ily and friends.

A sec­ond al­bum fol­lowed, and then a Christmas al­bum.

They all were recorded at Rain­maker Stu­dios in Pasco, with Holly Harty on pi­ano.

“The Birth­day of a King” is among the tunes he picked for the legacy project.

So are “Ol’ Man River” and “The Holy City” — two of his sig­na­ture songs.

So is “If Ever I Would Leave You,” the “Camelot” tune that Dee loves so much.

So is “Swing­ing on a Star,” which started it all.

Bar­nett said he hopes peo­ple learn from him that it’s never too late to pur­sue a pas­sion. To get bet­ter at some­thing you love.

“That’s my story, more than any­thing else,” he said. “If you think you’re too old, take a look at me.”


Alan Bar­nett has been singing since the early 1940s and will per­form Sun­day at The Emer­ald of Siam in Rich­land.

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