20 February 2024

Albury's barbershop quartet serenades sweethearts with song

| Vanessa Hayden
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Four men stand on a step singing as a barbershop quartet

Albury’s barbershop quartet Good Gravy spent their Valentine’s evening serenading couples who wanted to share their love for one another through song. Photos: Good Gravy.

Couples celebrated Valentine’s Day this month in a multitude of ways, with some demonstrating their undying love by booking their sweetheart a private performance from Albury’s barbershop quartet, Good Gravy.

A barbershop quartet, you ask? Yes indeed!

Good Gravy combines the talents and melodious tones of Cameron Walls, James Strachan, Jeremy Kerr and Joel Bartholomaeus.

During the weekday hours of nine to five, you’ll find the three teachers and pharmacist labouring away in their “day jobs”, but by night and weekends out come the bowties and barbershop four-part harmonies.

Why ”barbershop”?

This music is a captivating style of a cappella vocal harmony that originated in the United States during the late 19th century. Its roots are said to lie in African-American traditions in the American South, back in an era when barbershops served as both social hubs and musical centres for men.

“Barbershop is a very specific style of music,” Cameron said.

“It involves very close harmonies. Because we are all male voices, we have to sing different notes that are all pretty close together, which creates a unique combination of chord structures and that musical style that you can hear.

“It’s a cappella as well, so you don’t have any instruments.”

Good Gravy formed in 2019 when university pals Cameron and Joel reconnected after 10 years and talked about forming a quartet. The addition of Jeremy and James made the awesome foursome complete.

“Jeremy and James are both music teachers so they’ve brought another level of music knowledge to the group,” Cameron said.

Since then, they have gone on to perform at Albury and Wodonga’s Christmas Carols, staged their own two-hour shows with the Albury Wodonga Theatre Company, and have been booked for public and private functions all over the border region.

barbershop quartet holding bunches of flowers

Good Gravy had fun performing sing-a-grams to couples on Valentine’s Day, but there’s some ambition in the wind with the group preparing for the regional barbershop competition in Melbourne next month.

The Valentine “sing-a-grams” were another way the four men could share their love of the art.

“It’s fun to do the singing, but really it’s an excuse to hang out and get together and enjoy the social side of it as much as anything,” Cameron said.

“We all have day jobs, we are not doing the quartet for money, we are doing it for the love of singing and the love of hanging out and doing something that is a bit unique and fun.”

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You can book Good Gravy for corporate events, special birthdays or any significant occasion.

“We also have a sing-a-gram ready if someone quits their job! We haven’t had to use that one yet, though,” Cameron laughed.

How does one respond when four handsome men dressed to the nines appear in front of you during a romantic dinner and start serenading?

“It tends to depend on if it’s a man or woman. The men are always embarrassed and sort of hate it, but in a good way!” Cameron said.

“I think the women we have done it for have all loved it and realise it’s something very special for them given by their other half.

“Generally, people really appreciate it, even if they might be a bit embarrassed to start with.”

The tunes most crooned by Good Gravy at this time of year? Think You Raise Me Up, by Westlife and Josh Groban; Hello My Baby (classic barbershop); Let Me Call You Sweetheart; or crowd favourite L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole.

Four singers stand in window in front of big crowd

Good Gravy have become regulars on stage at the Albury and Wodonga Christmas Carol events, and perform at public and private functions all over the border region.

It might be about the fun, but there’s a hint of ambition in the four’s folly as Cameron admits there’s a contest in the wind.

“Our big aim this year is to compete in the national barbershop competition,” he said.

“We go to the regionals in Melbourne in March and if we are good enough we go to the national comp on the Gold Coast in November.

“If you do really well at the nationals, you can qualify for the international competition in the US, but I don’t expect we’ll be quite that competitive,” he chuckles.

So, how do you hear more of the euphonious tones of Joel, the lead, James, the tenor, Cameron, the baritone, and Jeremy, the bass?

They are planning on spending a little more time busking (practising for the regionals) out on the streets of Albury on weekends, or you could book your own session.

How much, you ask?

“Well, everyone’s requirements are variable so it depends on how much “good gravy” they want. Sometimes they want a little bit and sometimes they want a lot.”

You can follow Good Gravy on their Facebook page.

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