With Joe Cerutti directing, left foreground, The Alexandria Harmonizers rehearse Sept. 4 at the Scottish Rite in preparation for the 70th Anniversary concert Sept. 8 at the Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall. The internationally acclaimed men’s barbershop chorus will be joined by the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus and Florida’s Signature Quartet.
Photo by Jeanne Theismann.
It was a rainy night in the winter of 1947 when Gene Burwell, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation, was stranded at a bus stop along with his wife. By chance, an enthusiastic barbershop singer by the name of Dean Snyder rescued the couple and drove them safely home, but not before raising the idea that the city add barbershop harmony to its list of sponsored activities. The rest, as they say, is history.
Officially charted in June of 1948 at what was then known as the Cameron Street Recreation Center (now the Durant Arts Center), the original Alexandria Harmonizers has grown from 18 members to more than 200 who stay actively involved in the organization. Participants range in age from 13 to 85. On Saturday, Sept. 8, the internationally acclaimed men’s chorus will celebrate its 70th anniversary with a special performance at Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall.
“This will be an exciting show,” said Jack Pitzer, who has been performing with the Harmonizers for 52 years and is the longest serving active member of the chorus. “We will have several VIP guests with us, including Marjorie Latzko, a Grammy-award winner for the song ‘Mr. Sandman’ in the ‘50s. Her husband Walter did some arrangements for us.”
Director Joe Cerutti noted that Latzko is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and “is a living icon for harmony enthusiasts. We are honored that she will be with us.”
The Harmonizers 70th anniversary show, titled Platinum Moments, will feature a selection of songs, including some that have won them international recognition over the years. Awards for the chorus include 26 Mid-Atlantic District Championships and 19 Barbershop Harmony Society International medals, four of which were first place championships.
Joining the Harmonizers on stage will be the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus and the Signature Quartet from Florida. The concert will take place Saturday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m. at the Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall on the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
But according to 25-year member Walt Page, it will be back to business as usual once the curtain comes down on Saturday’s performance.
“As soon as this is done, we begin rehearsing for our Christmas show on Dec. 8,” Page said.
For more information on additional upcoming performances, visit www.harmonizers.org.