A member of the Penn-Ohio singers for more than 25 years, Frank Riddick said of barbershop quartets still in existence today, "We are the world's best-kept secret."
Sharing that his dad was a "barbershopper," and that he attended his first international convention at four years of age, "I used to go to sleep at night listening to his quartet rehearse," said Riddick. "I've grown up with it I love to sing love four part harmony."
According to their website, it was more than 30 years ago that The Shenango Valley Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. came on the scene and "a group of dedicated, four-part harmony lovers got together and decided it was time to rekindle the flame of barbershop singing." Since then, the singing style began to encompass a far larger geographic region, spurring the name of the performing chorus, the Penn-Ohio Singers, as an indication of the two-state nature of the group.
Photo special to the Town Crier
The Penn-Ohio Singers are 40 members strong and among the 26,000 groups which presently exist across the United States and Canada to keep the art of barbershop style singing alive. Pictured are, in front: Jim Legters, Ray Constance, Mark Ostheimer, Allen Waite, and Al Wilkes; second row: Jack Morris, Curt Weaver, Frank Riddick, Dennis Strong, Ron Crivello, and Ed Johnson; third row: Harley Cook, Rich Dombrosky, and Bruce Weston, and fourth row: Roger Towle, Dave Wayland, and Ron Fasano.
Presently, 26,000 groups exist across the United States and Canada with 12 affiliates across the country, all of which, according to Riddick, sing in the English language.
The Penn-Ohio Singers went on to win its first competition in Columbus, the very weekend that the The Shenango Valley Chapter received its charter in 1982, and having established their mission statement early on, has endeavored to live by it ever since. "The Penn-Ohio Singers is a superior men's choral organization whose goal is to strive and be recognized for musical, performance and competitive excellence."
Said dedication to excellence for the approximately 40 members, which includes men ranging in age from 40s to 80s from Austintown, Boardman, Poland, and Warren and throughout Pennsylvania includes weekly meetings as well as an annual competition each spring.
In addition to their choral activities, the Penn-Ohio singers remain active in community-service projects and local charities, and contribute many hours to churches, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement communities as well as supporting the Harmony Foundation, the mission of which is to preserve their musical legacy through support of vocal music education in our schools and communities.
According to Riddick, the Penn-Ohio singers perform at least once annually. Their most recent show, :Girls, Girls, Girls" provided a cabaret setting and included speaking parts and the Beaver Valley Sweet Adelines, a female barbershop quartet.
Always welcoming new members, interested parties can gain information on membership in the Penn-Ohio Singers by calling Rich Dombrosky at 330-360-0011 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Singing experience or the ability to read music are not required, but rather the ability to carry a tune, according to Riddick, who said, "I've never met a person in barbershop that I didn't like. It's hard to be mad at somebody if you sing with them."