Celebrate your past … look toward your future … and get some local media exposure.
The urge to mark anniversaries extends to all corners of our culture. The good people at Hallmark make a fine living reminding us that a first wedding anniversary is “paper,” and birthdays always deserve a card. We make public holidays of commemorative anniversaries, such as Independence Day, Victoria Day and Canada Day.
The current flood of chapter anniversaries is the legacy of the Society’s rapid postwar expansion; we added 235 chapters between 1947 and 1957—so you can see why there’s been so much celebrating going on!
Heritage in our communities is a great public relations asset, and your fiftieth anniversary is perhaps your best opportunity to exploit it for recognition. Get the most mileage from your anniversary: make it a tool for both building member pride and for involving non-members in your organization.
Craft a theme to serve your goals
Our word “January” is derived from the Roman god of doors and gateways, Janus, who had two faces looking in opposite directions. During his festival month, we look backwards on the past year and forward into the new.
Your anniversary is a gateway, too, when you reflect on the past accomplishments of the chapter, and look forward into the future. We don’t want to live in the past, though. Rather, we want to use the story of where we came from to explain where we are today, and to invite people to help us shape the future. We want to present our rich heritage as a foundation for our vibrant present, and a springboard to an exciting future.
One good story is to compare and contrast the world today with the world of 19xx when the chapter was founded. Search your public library’s newspaper archive for a few notable events that took place in your town fifty years ago, the advertised prices of a loaf of bread and a soda and a new car, and compare to the world today. Show how your chapter fit into the lifestyle of that day—and of today.
And that’s the nut of it: look for ways to tell the story that singing barbershop harmony is a relevant, timely, relaxing hobby today—and will be for years to come. Other phrases to keep in mind:
- “Reflecting our heritage and looking forward, …”
- “Reflecting a tradition of recreational singing, …”
- “Celebrating 50 years of service through song, …”
- “The world has changed quite a bit since the Kordsmen were founded, but the tradition of singing four-part harmony has survived.”
Use images that capture the spirit
The images and terminology you use to tell your story will determine the kind of message you send. If the only images you use are “olden days” and today’s super-seniors, that’s how you’ll be perceived—as dated. It’s important to offer a variety of images that convey youth, strength, vitality and cultural diversity.
Have you ever looked at anniversary announcements in the newspaper? Typically, they contain two photos: one of the couple on their wedding day, and another of the happy couple today. What does this tell us? Audiences love to compare “before” and “after.” Photos that compare and contrast the world today with the time of your founding provide an immediate point of reference.
A founding member may still be a part of your chapter. Dig up an old quartet picture of him, along with a current performance shot, and combine them in a montage. Even better, show him singing with his son or grandson, to establish the link into the present and on into the future.
Make the show the centerpiece of the anniversary
Many chapters celebrate their anniversary with a gala show and anniversary party. It’s a great way of leveraging your historical asset into show-biz value. “Fifty Years of Harmony” is a good hook, with lots of staging and repertoire possibilities. The Society-published “Heritage of Harmony” script can be readily adapted to fit your chapter’s anniversary, too.
An anniversary show is golden opportunity to invite back all the past members who no longer sing with you, as part of a “reunion chorus.” Invite them to attend just three rehearsals of this special group, to brush up on some repertoire gems from years past.
A classic “parade of quartets” would be particularly appropriate for this kind of show. Keep in mind, though, your obligation to provide top-quality entertainment to your audience. You might strike a balance between singing quality and historical tribute by arranging your parade of past quartets into a medley of some sort, with short feature spots filled by the quartets of yore.
Connect your past with your future by involving young singers, from local college and high school choirs, in your show. Your heritage of harmony extends into the future when you help youngsters discover the joy of music. “Teach The Children To Sing” is particularly appropriate here, tying your commitment to youth outreach into your long-time commitment to local charities.
Involve the community in your anniversary
Make yourself visible by relating your history to your community’s history. A few ways:
- Extend the Award of Harmony program to recognize the “citizen of the half-century.”
- Contact your county or city historical society to discuss an exhibit of chapter and quartet memorabilia as an expression of leisure activities in the area. Many libraries and civic spaces offer exhibit space for community organizations, too. Donate a copy of the Heritage of Harmony songbook to the library.
- Ask the Mayor’s Office to recognize the anniversary with a proclamation of Harmony Week.
- Find out what other organizations (especially arts, education and social services) are celebrating anniversaries. Combine forces to present programs touting your mutual interest in the community.
- Watch the newspaper and classified ads for 50th wedding anniversaries. Invite the couples to your show at a special rate—free! Serenade them with a special love song for golden anniversaries.
Look to the future
Your anniversary is a natural hook for helping you reach out to music educators and young singers. Point with pride to the many Barbershoppers in the area who are the product of local school music programs. Show that music is a lifelong recreational activity, but it must be nurtured at a young age to instill the skills and desire.
Ask how you can help promote vocal music in your educational systems. We’re doing it to keep the music alive, and to Keep The Whole World Singing—and it starts at home. A few ways:
- Sponsor a quartet in the Next Generation Barbershop contests
- Send students and teachers to Harmony Explosion camps, Harmony College, or district school.
- Establish a scholarship funded by your fiftieth anniversary show.
- Invite young singers to appear on your show.
Publicize these activities with the phrase, “celebrating the next fifty years of barbershop harmony.” Be sure to get photos and press coverage of these events, with young singers alongside older men.