A High Note for Barbershop Quartet Singers


Blushing brides, the sweet smell of roses and chance encounters at Coney Island. These are the good old-fashioned themes of barbershop songs, dear to the hearts of the over 100 members of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.

On Wednesday, the members, known as the Valleyaires, celebrated their 35th anniversary with spirited harmonizing and performances at the Bernardi Multi-Purpose Center in Van Nuys.

Barbershop quartets came into existence around 1938, back in the days when men would hang out at the neighborhood barber shop and sing in four-part (lead, tenor, baritone and bass) harmony, according to the Valleyaires chairman, Mitch Guzik.


Chatsworth resident Jim Summers, 67, the last remaining member of the original San Fernando Valley barbershop group, was on hand for the event. “It becomes a way of life,” said Summers, who after 35 years of singing, still performs with the Valleyaires.

“Nothing brings men together like hitting a chord, just like in ‘The Music Man,’ ” said 16-year barbershop veteran Norman Laufe of North Hollywood. Looking around at the crowd that had gathered for the anniversary and reunion, Laufe said, “It’s nice to see some of the old faces.”

Bill Cohen, a rookie Valleyaire, said he especially enjoys the variety of people in the chorus. “There are no professional singers here. They are janitors, gardeners, lawyers and doctors,” Cohen said.

The Valleyaires have enjoyed success in competitions such as the International Finals, where they placed ninth in 1978. They have also have won the Southern California West DivisionChampionships in 1991, 1992 and 1993.