Four area men are coming together in harmony. A four-part harmony to be exact.
Richmond Hill residents Dr. Bob Proctor, John Bennett and Alan Garrett, along with Savannah resident Bob Kearns, have come together to form a barbershop quartet known as the Ossabaw Sound.
“In 1998, the Ossabaw Sound Quartet was established to promote four-part harmony singing,” lead vocalist Garrett said.
The singers of the Ossabaw Sound Quartet are all members of the Savannah Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, also known as the 13th Colony Sound Chorus. When the group first began, all of the members lived in Richmond Hill and Glennville.
“The logistics of practice sessions was a major determinant in establishing a ‘Southside Savannah quartet,’” said Garrett, who has lived in Richmond Hill for 28 years. “As members’ lives and responsibilities drew them in different directions, the quartet had to seek new singers capable of singing the different, missing voice parts.”
Proctor, who normally is a bass singer, tried singing the tenor part for this group.
“We started singing together at chorus in Savannah with Alan singing baritone (a middle range harmony part), and I tried tenor,” Proctor said. “The group worked. We sang together at long intervals until we reignited. Then, Alan, upon retiring, agreed to sing lead.”
In September, the group switched a few parts around and added Kearns to the group to cover the baritone part.
“We just recently made Alan Garrett the lead and then got Robert to replace him as baritone,” bass singer Bennett said. “The group has been around for a while, but this is the revamped Ossabaw Sound.”
The group recently performed during the Holiday Tour of Homes at the Richmond Hill Museum. They sang for the community inside the Bailey Carpenter Barbershop. They also entertained guests at the Chatham County employee luncheon last week.
“There is no set number of engagements where we perform,” Garrett said. “The quartet has endeavored to honor all requests. Barbershop singing is simply fun and Ossabaw Sound’s members wanted to become as proficient as possible on as many songs as possible. We want to present four-part harmony in the best fashion possible.”
Garrett explained the main reason for creating the quartet was to bring enjoyment to those who wanted to hear a style of music that he calls a “true American art form,” which dates back to the late 1890s.
“Ossabaw Sound, like other lasting relationships, has interpersonal harmony as well as sharing the singing hobby,” said Proctor, who has lived in Richmond Hill since 1988. “We perform at birthday celebrations, dining out places and nursing homes. We also offer singing Valentines in February.”
The members of Ossabaw Sound have varied musical backgrounds. Proctor began performing with his church’s boys’ choir 72 years ago, at the age of 8. He sang in his high-school chorus and the men’s glee club at the University of Georgia. Since then, he has been singing in church choirs.
“Alan and I joined two of his work associates in a gospel choir a year ago,” Proctor said. “We sang the National Anthem at the Sand Gnats games.”
But potential members do not have to have Proctor’s vast musical background to join a quartet.
“The beautiful thing about barbershop harmony is that no formal music education is necessary to enjoy the hobby,” Garrett said. “It helps, but it is not a requirement. Anyone who likes singing will learn the art through association with the other members in the society.”
Garrett explained that printed music, learning CDs and chorus rehearsals are the learning models for all of the amateur singers who belong to the society.
“It is truly a great experience to visit nearly any American city and visit their barbershop chorus,” Garrett said. “The songs sung by all members are generally the same and it is enjoyable to establish a ‘pickup’ quartet and ring four-part chords. Singing with the same quartet members over time is also beneficial as you each learn what to expect in terms of harmony from the other members.”
The quartet got its name from the popular recreation area known as the Ossabaw Sound because most of the members are from the Richmond Hill area.