Appalachian Express ready to 'Celebrate'

Jessica Fischer • May 3, 2013 at 2:15 PM

When Harry Arnold was growing up in the 1950s, every Sunday night, the whole family would gather in front of the television and Arnold’s father would switch the channel to CBS as they all watched with bated breath to see who would be appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“I would pray to myself, please don’t be opera singers or ballet dancers and please don’t be those four guys wearing striped vests, white shirts with black arm bands and silly straw hats calling themselves a barbershop quartet,” Arnold said.

Funny how things change. For the last five years, Arnold, now 65, has been singing a cappella four-part harmonies as a member of the Appalachian Express Chorus, and is having the time of his life.

“There are some people who don’t use the word ‘barbershop’ because they think it conjures up that image that I had when I was a kid,” Arnold said. “They can never be more wrong. To appreciate four-part harmony singing, one only needs to listen.”

Local residents will have a chance to do just that in the coming weeks when the chorus, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, presents four concerts around the region.

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m., May 4 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol; 7 p.m., May 10 at Memorial Park Community Center in Johnson City; 7 p.m., May 11 in the Nancy Pridemore Theater at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport; and 7 p.m., June 8 at Heritage Hall in Mountain City.

For ticket information, call the chorus’ Harmony Hotline at (423) 384-9992 or visit its website at www.appalachianexpresschorus.org.

Tickets to the show at the Paramount are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors/students and $6 for children 10 and under, and may be purchased by calling (423) 274-8920 or online at www.theparamountcenter.com. Tickets to the Johnson City concert are available at the Memorial Park Community Center or by calling (423) 434-5750. Admission to the show at D-B in Kingsport is $12 for adults and free for children 17 and younger with a paying adult. Those tickets are available by calling (423) 384-9992. Tickets to the Mountain City show are $10 in advance, $12 at the door and $5 for youth, and may be purchased by calling (423) 727-7444 or visiting www.heritagehalltheatre.org.

In observance of the Appalachian Express Chorus’ 45th anniversary and the Barbershop Harmony Society — to which Appalachian Express belongs — turning 75, this year’s spring show will take audiences on a journey through time.

“The name of the show is ‘Celebrate Harmony’ and we will start in the 1930s and sing our way to the year 2000,” Arnold said. “Act one of the show will be presented as a radio show complete with an announcer, a DJ and some of those old commercials you haven’t heard for a long time, and, of course, singing. After a short intermission, you will continue to be entertained in act two by some of the most beautiful four-part harmony imaginable.”

Founded in 1968, the Appalachian Express Chorus has been under the direction of Tony Bowman since 1982. Its roster boasts more than 50 members, ranging in age from 17 to 87 and hailing from throughout the Mountain Empire.

In addition to its spring concerts, the Appalachian Express Chorus performs an annual Christmas concert and Fun Fest dinner show. Each year, the chorus also competes against other choral groups in the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Dixie District, which encompasses Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and parts of Arkansas. The Appalachian Express Chorus placed fourth overall at the 2013 Dixie District Championship, held in March in Gadsden, Ala.

Arnold said the Appalachian Express Chorus is always on the lookout for new members. Weekly rehearsals are held at 7 p.m., Mondays at Crossroads Christian Church in Gray. Anyone interested in joining the chorus can call its Harmony Hotline at (423) 384-9992 or visit its website at www.appalachianexpresschorus.org.

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