ESCANABA - Barbershop singing has been in the musical spotlight in Escanaba and the local area since 1940 and the annual Harvest of Harmony '12 has been a highlight of the group's activities for more than 50 of those years. The program was first featured by the Bay de Noc Barbershop Chorus, which was the forerunner of the current Remnants Barbershop Chorus. The group's director was Sam Ham.
In the early years, the majority of performers included barbershop quartets from the Upper Peninsula and parts of Wisconsin and from Ohio and Chicago. But over the years, the entertainment for the Harvest of Harmony event has elevated considerably to include some of the premier quartets and even international champions from throughout the nation.
According to long-time chorus member, Marc Tall, the annual Harvest of Harmony is the Remnants' major fund-raiser for the year.
Remnants Barbershop?Chorus and director, Ed Boehm, center front
"In fact it's our only fund-raiser," said Tall. "Every year we hope to make enough off the show to put on a number of other performances throughout the year."
Proceeds from the event have been instrumental in allowing the Remnants to perform at the Waterfront Art Festival, U.P. Honor Flight Welcome Home, Community Christmas Concert, Fourth of July celebration in Gladstone and a host of nursing home and assisted living facilities. They also host a spring concert in Ishpeming and Negaunee.
"No matter where we perform, we always have fun and we entertain," said Tall. "We hope to continue this for another year."
Tall said the Remnants make every effort to "operate frugally" to carry on the barbershop tradition in the local area.
"We have to pay the rent on our rehearsal hall and pay our director," said Tall. "The show itself is quite expensive. But when you want to bring in the best talent, they are paid very well and we pay all their travel expenses. But they're worth it."
A recent offshoot of the chorus is the establishment of a Remnants Gospel Group.
"Some of the members within the group have wanted to sing gospel music," said chorus member, Dave Fredrickson. He said he has been a member of the chorus for the past six years after moving to the area after his retirement. He laughingly describes being invited to attend a rehearsal and despite the fact that he was there merely to observe, "the rest is history."
The local barbershop group is the only one in the Upper Peninsula and is part of the Land O' Lakes Packerland Division of the Fox Valley in Wisconsin.
"The only other one is in Soo, Canada," Tall explained.