Rossmoor Barbershop Quartet Has Found The Right Key

The What Four? quartet enjoys the singing and camaraderie their group brings

The What Four? barbershop quartet in Rossmoor
The What Four? barbershop quartet in Rossmoor
There's a lot of harmony in Rossmoor, at least in one corner of the community.

The What Four? barbershop quartet has been hitting some high... and low... notes around town for the past five years.

The foursome practices every Tuesday afternoon and performs publicly at least once a month.

Their next gig is Sunday night at Grace Presbyterian Church on Tice Valley Boulevard in Walnut Creek.

The co-founder of What Four? is Roger Hadlich, a Minnesota native who attended Yale University and was a Navy lieutenant during the Korean War.

Hadlich said he first started singing as a young boy when his mother encouraged her children to sing in the car during long road trips to keep the siblings from arguing.

His love for singing grew at Yale and in the 1950s he started singing in choirs and operas.

"I've always liked to sing," he said.

Brian Woolf grew up in a town southeast of London, England. He was an exchange student in New York in 1950, revisited the United States in 1964 and then came here permanently in 1973.

He attended the Royal Academy of Music in London and sang in choirs and glee clubs.

He's also been a member of the Devil Mountain Chorus for the past eight years.

"I simply love harmony," he said.

Larry Chizmar grew up in Ohio and was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

He sang in elementary school as well as in college choirs.

"Singing is marvelous therapy," he said. "For me, it's very uplifting."

Don Nelson was raised in Nebraska and began singing seriously in high school. He's a veteran of choral groups and church choirs as well as a "singing engineers" group in college.

"Music has always been a part of my life," he said.

According to some historians, barbershop quartets began in the late 1800s in barbershops, particular those in the African-American community, where men sang together while they waited to get their hair cut.

The groups were as much about camaraderie as they were music.

The What Four? barbershop quartet said that hasn't changed.

The group says they enjoy their singing, but they also enjoy getting together and meeting the people they sing for.

"It's very much a social organization," said Hadlich.

Barbershop quartets were also part of the Vaudeville era and the What Four? members like to spice up their act by throwing in some old-fashioned jokes.

One of them: What did the three-legged dog say when he walked into a bar? I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.

The quartet admits they are better received by older crowds, but they say the interest by younger people in a cappella singing and karaoke has given them an opportunity to engage the younger generation.

Carol Hess January 14, 2014 at 03:15 PM
Good for these men. They are enjoying life and bringing lots of smiles to many. I wonder how they all wound up at Rossmoor.


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