In “The Empire Strikes Back,” the small, diminutive but powerful character of Yoda shares some sage advice when he says, “Size matters not.”
The Huron Valley Harmonizers are a local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), the largest all-male singing organization with over 20,000 members in North America and more with affiliates around the world. BHS divides North America into 17 Districts and the Huron Valley Harmonizers are in the Pioneer District which includes all of Michigan and two Canadian chapters (Sault Ste. Marie & Windsor).
The Pioneer District holds a convention in the fall and one in the spring. It hosts competitions for quartets and choruses. The spring chorus contest is held in order to determine the Pioneer District Chorus Champion.
And this is where the story starts to unfold.
The Huron Valley Harmonizers are a relatively small chorus with anywhere from 15-22 guys on the risers any given Tuesday night at the Stony Creek Methodist Church in Ypsilanti Township. They came to Grand Rapids with the same expectation as every other convention and presented a two-song set in front of a six-person judging panel and used the experience as a “yardstick” to see how well they are singing.
After a contest featuring 10 choruses, Huron Valley was pleased with their performance but figured that one of the bigger, more established groups would take home the title. They figured wrong.
Contest Administrator Brian Dunckel announced to the crowd from the stage, “Your 2018 Pioneer District Chorus Champion — The Huron Valley Harmonizers!”
As soon as it was uttered, HVH member William Stutts Jr., was in shock. He rose from his seat in the audience and turned back to his chorus and exclaimed “What?!”
“I knew as the performance was going that it felt like one of our best contest performances but I did not expect that,” said an elated Stutts Jr.
This District title was only the second title in the over 40 year history of the chapter. The first came in 2003 with a chorus twice its size. Also, it was the smallest chorus to win the Pioneer District Championship with only 17 members in the risers.
“It was a surprising and humbling day,” said Director Rob Pettigrew. “I was shocked with disbelief and excitement when they announced our name as the winner because we had never even considered that we might be in contention for such a thing.
“But the guys prepared diligently, and their performance that day was the most passionate and musical I’ve ever heard them present.”
Pettigrew said the Huron Valley chorus “sings for the joy of singing” and their goal is to sing better every time they get together.
“The members of our chorus are just regular guys from around the community who were looking for a rewarding place to sing, and the fact that we took first place in this state-wide contest reflects both the fun we have and the dedication of our members,” Pettigrew said.
This win will definitely stick with Huron Valley for a long time but it will be even more fun to sing with more members. So if you are a guy or know of a guy who likes to sing and would like to see what the fun is all about, you can find the Huron Valley Harmonizers on Facebook or you can go their website at http://www.hvharmonizers.org
Rehearsals take place on Tuesday nights from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Stony Creek Methodist Church (8635 Stony Creek Road, Ypsilanti). Please contact them before visiting to ensure they won’t miss you if they are out singing in the community.