The Masters of Harmony and the Southern California Vocal Association will hold the 18th Annual "Young Men's Harmony Festival" on Saturday, February 10, 2018 at Orange Coast College. This event consists of a day-long rehearsal and clinic with up to 250 young men from high schools throughout Southern California, followed by a public performance in the evening with the Masters of Harmony and The Newfangled Four.
The event was founded following the enormous success of the High School Honor Chorus that performed at the 1999 International Convention in Anaheim, and has attracted an average attendance of over 200 young men from high schools and junior high schools through Southern California. The festival has the endorsement and co-sponsorship of the Southern California Vocal Association (SCVA), which is a professional organization of choral music teachers that serves the SoCal area. Since its inception, we have had more than 1,700 students attend our festivals.
The festival is a concentrated day-long event that is exclusively for young men. An equivalent festival organized by the Harborlites Chorus (2005 and 2008 Sweet Adeline International Chorus Champions) is available for young women. The overwhelming feedback that we receive from the choral music teachers is that these events need to stay separated, so that the young men have their own unique event. Planning for our festival begins many months in advance, primarily to secure the venue and date before the end of the previous school year. This allows the choral music teachers to plan their calendars well in advance.
The registration fee is $25 per singer if paid by November 15, or $30 thereafter. This covers the cost of all sheet music, audio practice CD's, commemorative t-shirts and two meals. We send out the sheet music and audio CD's about four weeks prior to the event, so the young men can become familiar with the songs. Although we don't expect the choral music teachers to spend any of their class time working on these songs, many of them choose to work with their singers during lunch hours or after school. In some cases, a choral director will bring all of their male singers, and he or she will stay for the entire day.
Local chapters can participate and support this event by sponsoring young men from one or more local high schools.
The festival begins at 10:00 am with introductions and warm-ups, followed by a run through of six barbershop songs—four that will be performed by the young men, and two that will be sung by the young men and the Masters of Harmony. Most of the singers come very well prepared, but the songs are still very ragged during the morning session, which is to be expected.
For lunch, we bring in over 600 Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches, along with hundreds of bags of chips and cookies, all of which are gone in minutes. After lunch, we break into sectional rehearsals, where the guest quartets magically transform the young men into a unified group of ensemble singers. I have never attended any of those sessions, so I have no idea what happens there. But the results are incredible, so I don't mess with that success.
While the young men are in sectional rehearsals, we hold a separate meeting with the choral music teachers to discuss the barbershop style and rehearsal and coaching techniques. During that session, we also teach a couple of simple barbershop songs to the music teachers. We also give them some time to ask questions and share their experiences with barbershop music in their programs. The most frequent feedback is that all of the vocal production techniques and ear training that we provide transfers directly into all other styles of musical literature. In many cases, choral music programs have grown significantly because the music teacher brought several young men to one of our earlier festivals.
After the young men return from the sectional rehearsals, the choral music teachers perform the two songs that they learned for their singers. It's one of the highlights of the entire day. Then it's back to rehearsing and polishing during the rest of the day, including adding a few choreographed moves to a couple of songs.
For dinner, we bring in a truckload of pizzas from a local Pizza Hut restaurant for the students, while my wife Shellie brings a homemade pasta dish for the faculty, staff and the choral music teachers. After dinner, the young men change into their performance uniforms (long sleeve white shirt and dark trousers), and the Masters of Harmony provides bow-ties and cummerbunds. Then it's time for a combined rehearsal on-stage with the young men and MOH, in preparation for the evening show, which is open to the public for only $5 general admission.
The show consists of the young men's chorus, performances by our guest quartets and the Masters of Harmony, culminating with all singers on-stage for a combined finale with over 300 singers. It's a little cramped on the risers, but well worth the effort.
Our Harmony Festival program has continued to gain the recognition and respect of the choral music education community over the years. In the past few years, several additional harmony festivals have been established throughout the Far Western District, with equally successful results.
For more information and to access the application forms, please see: