PITTSBURG — It wasn't rock and roll and it definitely was not rap music, but for Virginia Darling's Pittsburg Middle School music students exposure to the barbershop quartet-style of harmonizing was a new experience.
Members of The F.O.G. Quartet visited Darling's seventh and eighth grade classes on Monday afternoon to demonstrate barbershop music and conduct a brief workshop with the classes. Darling said some of her students in the last school year got to perform during a community-wide barbershop concert in Pittsburg and she thought bringing the quartet into her classroom to work directly with students would broaden their musical perspectives.
Darling said it is important to expose students to a variety of musical types.
Members of The F.O.G. (Four Old Guys) Quartet are a part of the Tristatesmen Barbershop Chorus, which practices and performs throughout Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Members of the foursome include John Robb, Ed Kespohl, Harold Nentrup and Wayne Wentworth.
Between demonstrations of barbershop singing, Kespohl told the students some of the history of barbershop music.
"It started in small towns" decades ago," he said. Kespohl said that was a time before television, cell phones, video games and credit cards.
"For something to do on hot summer afternoons the men would gather down at the barbershop to visit and pal around," he said. "One of the things they did was sing."
In barbershop the lead voice takes a deep breath to let everyone know the song is about to start.
"Then we all join in together with the bass serving as kind of an echo of the lead," Kespohl said.
Wentworth said the regional Tristatesmen Barbershop Chorus has members ranging in age from 13 to 94. The group is a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society which is the largest a cappella, or non-instrument accompanied singers in the world.
"This type of singing is built for the average untrained voice," Wentworth said. "It is so simple and straight forward anyone can do it."
Wentworth said he felt having the quartet volunteer their time visiting with young students is important.
"We want them to enjoy music and this is fun," Wentworth said. He got started when he was 15.
The regional barbershop chorus meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the Joplin Family Worship Center, 5290 East 7th St. in Joplin, and is open to anyone interested. For more information call 417 592-0429
— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @mike_elswick.