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VIDEO: Bergen Chorus Group Brings Back Barbershop Style

"We are first and foremost friends that enjoy singing and harmonizing," said Blue Chip Chorus Director Lou Ponte
"We are first and foremost friends that enjoy singing and harmonizing," said Blue Chip Chorus Director Lou Ponte Video Credit: Anthony Locicero

TEANECK, N.J.– Lou Ponte and his musical chums joined the Teaneck-based Blue Chip Chorus 47 years ago "as a fun goof."

"We showed up at the request of an older fellow we met," said Ponte of Bogota.

That goof turned into a serious interest.

"My job is really to teach vocal production, music, help them learn to vocalize and harmonize and enjoy themselves while doing that," said Ponte, who's directed the group the past 22 years.

The a cappella Blue Chips sing barbershop style – four-part harmony featuring a lead, tenor, baritone, and bass.

The organization was founded in 1945 and incorporated the next year, said President Gene Hammerle of River Edge.

"Barbershop is uniquely an American form of music," Ponte said. "Men used to congregate around the barber shop. For the lack of other things to do, they began singing. That's more or less the birth of barbershop singing."

The ideal mix is 40 percent leads, 40 percent basses, and the remaining 10 percent split between tenors and baritones, according to Ponte.

The chorus's two dozen members  come from all over Bergen County: Bogota; Closter; Hackensack; Hasbrouck Heights; Haworth; Mahwah; Maywood; Montvale; and Ridgefield Park.

"We are first and foremost friends that enjoy singing and harmonizing," Ponte said.

Earlier this month, the group took first place in the Northern and Western Chorus Competition in Cherry Hill.

The guys also perform standards, patriotic tunes and holiday favorites locally at parades, at ceremonies and at senior living facilities.

Most recently, the group has closed with "Let There Be Peace On Earth."

Practices are every Wednesday at the Richard Rodda Community Center in Teaneck.

A program called "Ready, Set, Sing" – 20- to 30-minute lessons – was established to teach aspiring vocalists before or during the group's warm ups.

"We're happy to help you learn to sing as a community service," Hammerle said.

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