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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 3:34 a.m.
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Men, women needed for barbershop chorus

By Tammy Keith

This article was published January 26, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

RUSSELLVILLE — Jim Billingsley, 70, of Dover remembers the good old days when the barbershop chorus he was in entertained all over Pope County.

“We went for about five years really strong,” he said. “Then some of our older members were having difficulty, and we just kind of ran out of steam.”

The group stopped singing together for about five years, he said.

Billingsley and about four others, including his 19-year-old granddaughter, are trying to get the group restarted.

His goal is to perform on Valentine’s Day.

Billingsley said he got a call about six months ago from his 83-year-old friend Arthur Dercksen of Clarksville.

“He is quite a musician,” Billingsley said.

“We were involved in some community theater years ago,” Billingsley said. “He knew that I could sing — or that I liked to sing — and he asked if I wanted to join a barbershop chorus.”

Billingsley said yes, and he mentioned to his granddaughter, Samantha Smith, that singers were needed.

She’s a freshman vocal-music education major at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

“I said, ‘I’ll come; can I come?’” Smith recalled. “I was kind of joking at first.”

Her grandfather took her up on it.

She wasn’t sure women were allowed.

“We’re open to all genders and ages. … It’s not just men,” Billingsley said.

Some 19-year-olds might not want to hang around a bunch of older men, but Smith said she’s enjoying the group.

“It is so much fun,” Smith said. “Their sense of humor — they crack me up.

“They’ve all known each other for such a long time. They’re kind of like big brothers; they mess with each other like siblings.

“It was hard at first because I’m singing tenor; I’m singing a guy’s part.”

Smith’s favorite song, thus far, is “I’ll Be Seeing You,” she said.

Billingsley said the group sings a mix of melodies.

“We sing a variety of music. We sing the oldies, and we sing some modern stuff,” he said.

Smith said she’d like to perform, but her backup plan is to teach vocal music.

The barbershop quartet is a good experience, she said.

“They help me a lot, especially since I’m in music, and they’ve been doing it so long,” Smith said. “They help me learn new things that I need help working on.”

A couple of other men are in the chorus, but Billingsley said that’s not enough.

“We do need more people,” he said. “We’d like to have a dozen, and we’d like to be able to do this Valentine’s Day.”

Smith said they might not have time to organize a program by then, but she likes the idea of performing on Valentine’s Day, which is typical of a barbershop quartet.

“I think that’s cute,” she said.

Billingsley foresees performing at nursing homes, hospitals, churches and civic meetings.

The group took a break for the Christmas holidays, Billingsley said, and he has been recuperating from knee-replacement surgery.

The singers rehearse from 7-9 p.m. Thursdays at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 200 S. Cumberland Ave. in Russellville.

Billingsley said anyone interested in joining the chorus can show up or call (479) 331-3546 or (479) 293-3129 for more information.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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