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UWRF barbershop ensemble takes fourth in competition

February 19, 2009

The UW-River Falls barbershop ensemble, Wissota Voices, placed fourth at the Barbershop Harmony Society Youth Chorus Competition in Pasadena, Calif. Jan 30.

The ensemble was founded in 2007 by Scott Perau, UWRF alumnus and director of the group. Wissota Voices is made up of men from River Falls, the Twin Cities and the surrounding areas. The group includes students from the UWRF campus, but enrollment is not required for membership.

Drew Buehler, UWRF senior and history major, is a member of the group who rejoined the group at the beginning of last year. He said that this was the first time that Wissota Voices appeared at the BHS youth chorus competition and he said he thought the group’s fourth place ranking out of 11 was very good.

“I think they said that 70 or 80 is what a lot of first time choruses should shoot for,” he said. “The rating we got was still a good rating for a first time barbershop chorus.”

Buehler said also that the ensemble practiced for three months prior to the BHS competition in California.

“We started practicing at the beginning of last semester,” he said. “We did once a week and at some point less than half of the way through the semester we started practicing on Sunday nights for three or four hours too, in Woodbury with the director of GNU, which is the Great Northern Union.”

To participate in the competition, each group must prepare three selections. Two of them must be standard barbershop tunes and the third may be any a cappella selection of choice. Each chorus member must evaluate the performance of another group. Each group is evaluated by a panel of judges and is given a rating. Wissota Voices received an averaged score of 68.4. Ensembles may also elect to be ranked against other vocal groups in the competition, according to the Barbershop Harmony Society Web site.

Rob Silvers, UWRF sophomore and communications major, said that he has been a member of Wissota Voices since it started a year ago. He said traveling to California and performing in the competition was a good experience.

“It was a lot of fun and it was kind of cool to have the best groups in the world around there,” Silvers said.

Silvers said that each group is judged in three categories, including music and presentation. Each chorus receives a rating based on the scores of the categories.

“We’re scored in each category based on 100 by two different judges,” he said. “That’s for all three songs we get a score, and then they’re just averaged.”

Buehler said the members of Wissota Voices had the opportunity to perform in front of some of the top barbershop groups in the country.

“We had one small performance where we just performed for the senior barbershoppers around the nation,” he said, “The ones that kind of put on the whole convention.”