published Friday, June 8th, 2012

Choo Choo Chorus celebrates golden milestone Saturday

IF YOU GO

What: Choo Choo Chorus' "50-Year Parade of Harmony."

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Girls Preparatory School auditorium, 205 Island Ave.

Admission: $15 ages 13 and older.

Phone: 894-8559.

They've had three names and some personnel turnover, but the rich harmony created by the Choo Choo Chorus singers has maintained its solid reputation over 50 years of barbershop singing.

Choo Choo Chorus, the Chattanooga chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, will mark its golden anniversary with a concert Saturday night at Girls Preparatory School. As a nod to its first show presented in 1962, "Parade of Harmony," tonight's concert is the "50-Year Parade of Harmony," offering favorite numbers the men have performed over five decades.

Paul Blazek, who has directed the chorus for 25 years and been a member since 1977, attributes the group's longevity to "a bunch of great guys who enjoy singing."

"When we get together we have good times together. It's hard to be unhappy when you're singing. The guys who stay with barbershop enjoy making music together," he said.

"Most of our shows have a theme," added singer Steve Wixson. "This show includes 'Hello, Mary Lou' from our 'Girls, Girls, Girls' show, a minstrel montage from the 1976 'Salute to America,' 'Shenandoah' from our 'Salute to the Riverboat' show and 'When You Wish Upon a Star' from at least two Disney shows."

Wixson said the guys will invite the audience to sing along on "God Bless America," and Choo Choo chorus alumni will be invited onstage to join them in a couple of nostalgic numbers as well. Wixson said there are 11 charter members of the chorus still living in this area, although they are inactive members.

Three local quartets will sing in addition to featured guest TNS Quartet.

"TNS is from Nashville. It is an internationally ranked quartet. TNS placed eighth out of 49 quartets from all over the world at last year's convention," said Blazek.

Proceeds from Saturday night's concert will boost the operational budget of the chorus, said Blazek, allowing all proceeds from the Christmas concert to benefit a local charity.

During its 50 years, the Choo Choo singers have financially supported eight local nonprofits, garnering them the recognition of Gold Chapter in the Dixie District for their charitable giving, according to member Lamar Owens.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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