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Appalachian Express Chorus singing for supper

Staff Report • Jul 5, 2013 at 8:43 AM

Members of the Appalachian Express Chorus will be singing for their audiences’ supper at the barbershop harmony group’s annual Fun Fest dinner shows.

Tickets to this year’s concerts, happening Monday and Tuesday, July 15 and 16, at the Americourt Magnolia Restaurant in Kingsport, are $15 and include a candlelight dinner along with entertainment by the Appalachian Express Chorus, an all-male barbershop harmony group based in the Tri-Cities.

Show time is 7 p.m. each evening.

The chorus’ shows feature a variety of a cappella music, ranging from barbershop favorites to popular contemporary tunes from the ‘50s and ’60s.

Barbershop music, with its ear-catching four-part harmonies, has been around since the latter half of the 19th century, when African-American men would harmonize on spirituals, folk songs and other tunes while waiting their turn for a trim and a shave.

“That type of music is actually about the third-oldest music style in the United States, second only to jazz and Dixieland,” said Harry Arnold, a member of the Appalachian Express Chorus who also handles publicity for the group. “At the beginning of the 19th century, these guys were like the rock stars of their time.”

By the mid-1900s, crooners such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra had stolen the spotlight, but groups like the Appalachian Express Chorus and its parent organization, the international Barbershop Harmony Society, are working hard to preserve this American art form for future generations.

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 Fun Fest dinner shows, the chorus, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, presents annual spring and Christmas concerts, and performs for civic groups and churches throughout the area.

The group has sung at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Va., the Paramount Theater in Bristol and Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville.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.

For more information call 423-392-8829 or 423-384-9992.

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