Mark Trevor Ranum's musical hobby has taken him places. For this Northwestern Mutual Employee, performing in professional basketball and hockey arenas with jumbotrons beaming his face to the
8-10,000 people in attendance is quite a thrill. His group has performed in Montreal, Anaheim, Nashville, Kansas City, Seattle, Portland (OR), Indianapolis, Columbus (OH), and many other cities in between.
What kind of music does he perform on the big stage in front of all of those people? Is he in a rock band? No, he sings barbershop quartet music. As a member of the locally-based Midwest Vocal Express (MVE), he practices every week with fifty to sixty of his greatest friends.
While some of the music they sing is from the Tin Pan Alley era of the early 1900’s and hearken back to the roots of the art form, they also sing Sinatra standards and Beatles songs. The professional diversity of the chorus is as impressive as its repertoire.
So why all the travel to the different cities? As part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, the chorus takes part in contests pitting them against choruses from around the country and around the world. “There are choruses that compete from Sweden, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, and a bunch of places I can’t even remember,” enthuses Ranum. “It ends up kind of like a rock concert setting with all of those people enjoying our music when we compete at the International Competitions. We have done some pretty outlandish stuff in competition, too, from taking on the character of little plastic army men to fish in a tank.”
“We have everybody you could imagine in our group: from College Professors and music teachers to students and retirees; from factory workers to accountants – if there is a guy that likes to sing, we should know about him and he about us.” Says Ranum. “The saying we have is true, guys join the chorus for the music, and stay for the friendships. We have guys that travel nearly two hours each way every Monday night just to sing with us in rehearsal.”
How do they fare in these competitions? They have placed as high as fifth in the world three different times in the last ten yeras, earning a coveted medalist status. This is out of over 900 choruses.
“The contests are great, but some of my favorite performances are the concerts we put on locally, like our Christmas Concerts at Alverno College on December 8.”
Note: The Midwest Vocal Express welcomes all singers to visit our rehearsals at St. Luke’s Church in Greendale every Monday night. Anybody knowing of a male singer who has an interest or would like information about the Christmas Concerts at Alverno should call 888-240-4426 or go to MVE.org.
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