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Style El Dorado County Foothills

Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus

12/31/2008 04:00PM ● By Super Admin

Barbershop music has been around for nearly 100 years. Being a century old usually means out-dated, old-fashioned, and antique...right? Wind up the Victrola, put on some 78 rpm records and start those toes a tapping. Sit back, twirl your waxed handlebar mustache and sing along: Daisy Daisy, I’m half crazy all for the love of you! It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage, but you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

To many this music is current, vibrant, and brings joy to those who hear it and sing it. Ask Gary Washburn, president of Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus and he will tell you that thousands of area residents love this a cappella type of four-part harmony. “It is amazing,” Washburn explains, “the sound [that] the human voice can make without any assistance.”

The non-profit chorus, a local chapter of the International Barbershop Harmony Society, is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Their mission statement says it all: Spread the joy of singing throughout El Dorado County. Two charter members still perform with the chorus. George Spanos, 90 years young, and Neal Sisson at 84 years, join with 32 other members to share their love of singing with sold-out crowds twice each year at the Holy Trinity Church in El Dorado Hills. The majority of their ticket revenue helps young singers travel. “We have been able to donate nearly $7,000,” Washburn explains, “to help youth quartets and choruses pay for transportation to competitions.”

Bringing barbershop music and singing to young people is what the chorus is all about. The group performs throughout the year at local high schools to introduce students to the beauty of singing. “We have been able to demonstrate barbershop singing,” Washburn says, “to about 18,000 area high school students.”

These performances are not only inspiring to the young people hearing them, but to all the singers too. “We are able to give kids,” Washburn says, “something that will last a lifetime.” And that is just what happened to Brandon Dyer, a senior at Ponderosa High School. He became hooked on singing when he first heard the chorus perform. “I heard the chorus when I was a freshman,” Dyer says, “and I simply fell in love with the music.” He is now the chorus’ youngest member. “Joining the Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus,” he says, “was a life-changing experience.” He is also involved in his high school choir. “All my friends are there,” Dyer says, “[and] choir is the best class of my day.”

Washburn says he loves the thrill of making beautiful chords of music, the camaraderie of members, making friends for life and the fulfillment of giving back to the community. It seems barbershop music also brings modern values to the stage.

The Gold Rush Chorus practices in Placerville every Tuesday night. They invite anyone to come and listen, or join in. For more information, visit

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