Barbershop quartet has park performance, creates instant fan

Luis Martinez, Entertainment Editor

Amidst the humidity at Kiwanis Park, the Coles County Barbershop Chorus return for the second time in two years to perform free for the Charleston residents.

The 25-person chorus performed over 18 different barbershop songs, all without the use of instruments.

The singers come from 15 different communities and they all get together every Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Mattoon to practice.

Gary Conlin, one of the quartet members, said he joined the group over five years ago.

“The group was singing in Arthur (at) my 50th class reunion and one of the guys was a member and got me started with the barber shop at that time,” Conlin said.

Conlin was also a part of the group when they last performed at Kiwanis Park.

“It was a different performance I think tonight,” Conlin said. “Our choir now is better now than it was the last time we performed here.”

During the performance, the chorus performed four songs performed by the four different quartets within the group. The four quartets were: Sentimental Journey, Tennitus, Highway 16-4 and Ringtime. The smaller groups performed “Every Day of My Life,” “Sugar Cane Jubilee,” “Red Headed Mama” and “New Orleans.”

The Coles County Barbershop Chorus performed all of their songs acapella and started performing back in 1970.

Some of the members of the chorus even joked with the crowd between songs.

Diane Ratliff, who is in charge of Tourism and Special Events for the Parks and Recreation department, said she thought the turnout for the performance was really good.

“I think it was great. We had a good crowd out here,” Ratliff said. “The temperature dropped a little bit, so it was nice to get a good crowd.”

Ratliff also said the performance tonight was just shy of 100 people in the audience.

“There were some people who went in and out,” Ratliff said.

Conlin said he would have liked to have more people come to the performance, but still enjoyed the performance.

“The last section when we were singing the spirituals, that’s my personal favorite,” Conlin said.

Tom Woodall, the director of the group, said their act was different since it was outdoors.

“Well, it’s very difficult to sing outside acapella because we don’t have any instruments giving us support,” Woodall said. “But we know that, we’ve done acapella singing for all these years so I thought we had a nice performance, a nice crowd.”

Woodall also said if the day would have had less humidity. There may have been a larger crowd but still gave the audience members a diverse show.

“In an outdoor facility, it’s very difficult. When we sing in our shows, like if we were at a concert hall at Eastern, then it’s contained and we can hear each other better,” Woodall said. “I thought we performed as well as we did a couple years ago.”

Mary Beth Condill, the wife of Bruce Condill, enjoyed the performance and thought it went really well.

“It was great, I really enjoyed it, “ Condill said. “(It was) a perfect night.”

Condill has come to the group’s performances ever since her husband, Bruce Condill, joined the group five years ago.

Paul Fraser, one of audience members, said the performance was relaxing as it was his first time seeing the singing group.

“Aspiring harmony, the kind of evening that relaxes me and fills me with joy,” Fraser said. “This was my first time hearing the Coles County Barbershop Chorus and I’m an instant fan.”


Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]