The Long Island Harmonizers are trying to shave a few years off the image most people have of barbershop music.
For the group's 65th annual concerts Saturday and Sunday at Friends Academy's Helen A. Dolan Center in Locust Valley, the singers won't be donning straw hats or walrus mustaches -- though they will be wearing red-and-white striped vests. And while the repertoire for the shows, titled "Barbershop Anytime," will include some traditional barbershop numbers, it will also be peppered with show tunes and pop songs.
"We're going from 'Sweet Adeline,' which is really, really old, to probably the newest one, 'The Impossible Dream,' " as a well as Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," says the group's president, George Seelinger, 78, of Westbury.
No strings . . . or percussion
Barbershop and a cappella music have made a bit of a comeback in the past few years, thanks to the popularity of groups like Rockapella and the TV competition "The Sing-Off." For the Harmonizers, barbershop has always been in style.
The choral group has been around since 1950, performing its annual concert in four-part harmony without musical accompaniment. It is also the sole Nassau County chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, a 22,000-member organization that traces its roots to a concert in April 1938 on a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rooftop. (The society also has two chapters in Suffolk County.) The Harmonizers rehearse every week, not on a rooftop, but inside Westbury's Church of the Advent.
"We try to sing music that the audience will know," says choral director Maurice Debar, 73. He'll lead the full chorus in 10 songs, including old favorites like "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Ain't Misbehavin' " and "God Bless America." The evening will also feature four Long Island-based barbershop quartets performing one song each, and a half-hour of songs by Just 4, an all-women quartet from New Jersey.
New kid on the rise
While most members are past 50 (the oldest is in his 90s), the Harmonizers recently recruited some new and much younger voices. Raymond Yeh, 11, of Glen Cove, joined last year and at a tree lighting sang the opening to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." He will be making his concert debut.
Yeh, whose musical taste leans toward rappers like Macklemore and Nicki Minaj, says he learns his barbershop parts on an iPad on the bus to St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay. He practices with his dad, also named Raymond, a 47-year-old music teacher who is also a Harmonizer.
Though the sixth-grader says he's a bit nervous about singing before a large audience, he still can't wait. "I'm excited," he says. "This is awesome."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, The Helen A. Dolan Center theater, Friends Academy, 270 Duck Pond Rd., Locust Valley
INFO $15; 631-223-2911, longislandharmonizers.org
The Mostly Barbershop A Cappella Show
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m., May 5, Five Towns College Performing Arts Center, Dix Hills
INFO $10; 631-656-2148, dhpac.org
The sweet sounds of a cappella return for an encore in this concert at the Five Towns College Performing Arts Center in Dix Hills. The college's all-student a cappella choir kicks off the evening, harmonizing to pop tunes like Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk!" and Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Long Island Sound, the Dix Hills chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, with student and community members, fills out the evening with traditional barbershop tunes.