By Robert Lucke
Heard any good Beatles music lately? Or how about some of those oldies that have their roots in the old South? Or songs that are as traditional to the United States as apple pie? To hear those and much more, plan to attend the Bullhook Bottoms Barbershop Chorus concert next Friday in Chinook's high school auditorium or the following day at the Havre High auditorium.
Not only will you hear music but you will laugh and be entertained all the while.
Chorus members Leo Beardsley, Bob Nieuwenhuyse and Alan Alex sat down to talk about the chorus, which was organized in 1989 by Clint Kegel.
"There were 17 charter members," Beardsley said. "We have 21 members now and we are always looking for more. They don't even have to know how to sing or to read music. They just should want to come and practice with us and have a good time."
"Barbershop harmony is a particular brand and is one of two pure American styles. Jazz being the other," Nieuwenhuyse added. "Barbershop started out in a barbershop with one man singing the melody and someone singing higher and another singing lower. That is how it started."
"O.C. Cash came up with the idea of putting a high male voice above the melody and then two below," Alex said. "And I think they listened to black people singing like that and that is how it sort of developed."
These days the chorus writes all its own productions for its annual shows. They start out with a theme, brainstorm that and away they go for another year.
"For the first years we started out with packaged shows that we had purchased but then we sort of ran out of the kind that we thought people around here would like so we started on with our own," Beardsley said.
Bullhook Bottoms has, in addition to performing one major show each year, performed for a wide variety of occasions. They have sung for funerals, weddings, and conventions in this part of Montana. Often they will have a Canadian group join them in their annual performance. This year it will be the Chords of Spruce from Spruce Grove, Alberta.
"One of the best things about our shows is that they are tailored for our communities," Beardsley said. "We keep them local and use lots of local humor."
And humor is as much an ingredient of the productions as the music. Bullhook Bottoms is not satisfied until everyone has had a good laugh somewhere during the performance. Even if it is just that the group has missed a chord. Beardsley explained.
"Most popular tunes have some three to four different chord changes. Barbershop can have 11 to 12 in one song. When we make one it is just heaven and when we miss one it is not good. We can always tell by looking at the director. He looks ill. That means we didn't make one."
This year's show has several themes. Called "Roots, Boots and Hoots," it starts out with some traditional barbershop songs featuring the two barbershop quartets in the chorus. From there it moves into more modern music and all the while is guaranteed to have plenty of
hoots for everyone.
"The whole idea is to have fun," Nieuwenhuyse added. "We want to enjoy ourselves and want to
bring that to the audience. When the audience is having a good time, that makes it great for us."
Even the show time is steeped in barbershop tradition.
"Sometimes it is hard to remember whether the show is going to start at 7 or 8 so we start at 7:33 p.m. and everyone remembers," Beardsley said, laughing.
In addition to guys having a lot of fun and entertaining their communities, Bullhook Bottoms Barbershop Chorus is involved in helping out with a large array of community projects.
"We have gone to Malta to help them raise money for their new school and we help the Hi-Line Therapeutic Riding Association, along with helping to get new curtains for the stage at the Havre High auditorium, things like that," Alex said. "This year we are interested in giving some vocal scholarships for music students in Hill and Blaine counties."
But most of all the Bullhook Bottoms Barbershop Chorus just likes to have fun while making sure the audience is having fun right along with them.
"This is great family entertainment. Everyone who comes will have a good time," Beardsley said.