Our music men (and one woman): Rochester barbershop chorus begins new chapter

Members of the Rochester Barbershop Chorus rehearse Monday night in the basement of the Masonic Center in Rochester. (Ken Klotzbach/
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What do 28,000 music-loving people in the U.S. have in common? Membership to the Barbershop Harmony Society. With more than 750 Chapters in the United States and Canada, and a headquarters in Nashville, TN, Rochester is home to just one of hundreds of four-part-harmony singing groups in the region. Del Ryberg, the local chapter’s vice president, talks decades with Rochester’s men’s chorus, as well as the can’t-miss barbershop event of the year (the Land O’Lakes District Annual Fall Convention -- he’s the chairman).

Rochester’s Music Men

Barbershop Harmony is a style of singing that builds harmonies around a recognizable melody without accompaniment. (No pianos, guitars or drums are allowed.) This results in a blended, pleasant sound. "The best thing about our group is just being with those who enjoy the style of music; the camaraderie," Ryberg says. And he should know. As one of the founders on the society, he’s been an active member of the local group for 60 years (since 1957).

Currently, the Rochester chorus has 25 members -- 24 men, one woman. "The members of the group range from newcomers who just joined to those who have been around for years," Ryberg says. "This summer, we had two boys who just graduated from Byron High School’s Boys Barbershop Chorus who sang with us on our chorus float in parades. In general, we are people of all ages who love to sing and perform as a group."

The choir’s format is informal, but fast-paced. The chorus learns about five new songs a year in a variety of styles, while maintaining a repertoire of about 25 other pieces. The music team is always looking to add new songs to the repertoire, and all of the Barbershop Harmony Society chapters use the same songs and same arrangements as in Rochester.


About that float...

For the past 25 years, the Rochester chorus has had a float in summer parades in various neighboring towns. They participate in about 10 parades per year, which means their float is seen by more than 75,000 people annually. "We sing throughout the entire parade route," Ryberg describes, "and the audience applause tells us they like what hear. Some of my fondest memories are the parades."

Sing, sing a song

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Itching to perform? The Rochester Barbershop Chorus is planning a Learn to Sing Program starting October 28. With classes through November, the program is intended to help music lovers, (young, old, male, female, professional and novice) learn about and improve upon their singing. The sessions will use seasonal music to master the craft. Classes will take place Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. in the lower level of the Masonic Center (2002 2nd St. SW). "This hobby is especially suited to those who have retired or are thinking about retiring as it gets you away from the TV and back to being mentally and physically active," Ryberg says. "But it also presents the challenges the younger crowds want to participate in, too."

The takeaway: barbershop choruses are still going strong.

"Our group is open to anyone who wants to visit and see if they like it," Ryberg says. And the lessons might be just the way to test out your pipes. "Singing is beneficial on so many levels. It provides enrichment, enjoyment, heightened self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Join us!"

The Barbershop Convention is coming to town


The Land O’Lakes District Annual Fall Convention Friday and Saturday will draw about 1,000 Barbershoppers (that’s their term, not ours) from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the city of Rochester. Activities will include quartet and chorus contests.

Friday night will see 21 quartets competing in the official Barbershop Quartet Contest, determined by a panel of Barbershop Harmony Society judges. The top groups will move on to Saturday. "Saturday," Ryberg says, "we will have 15 choruses competing for the District Chorus Championship, and the winner will go on the compete in International Chorus Contest in Los Angeles." Saturday night will also host the Quartet Finals Contest to select the District Quartet Champion. New on the 2019 agenda is also Saturday’s mixed harmony groups performing barbershop tunes. "It’s going to be a great night!" Ryberg says.

What: Land O’Lakes District Annual Fall Convention

When: 5 p.m. Friday, and 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25-26

Where: Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester

Cost: $20, tickets available at the registration desk Friday and Saturday

More information:


Learn to Sing & Holiday Chorus Schedule (Mondays at 7 p.m., held at the Masonic Center, 2002 2nd St. SW. It’s free!)

Oct 28: Breath management & posture

Nov 4: Resonance & use of soft palate

Nov 11: Vowels & diphthongs

Nov 18: Dynamics & range expansion

Nov 25: Preparation for caroling performances

Dec 2: Caroling (6:30 p.m. off-site performance)

Dec 7: Holiday Show (Elk’s Club performance)

Dec 9: Caroling (6:30 p.m. off-site performance)

Dec 16: Caroling (6:30 p.m. off-site performance)

Members of the Rochester Barbershop Chorus rehearse Monday night in the basement of the Masonic Center in Rochester. (Ken Klotzbach/

Related Topics: MUSIC
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