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In memoriam: Joe Liles

In memoriam: Joe Liles, 1930-2021

The Barbershop Harmony Society celebrates the life of an exemplary musician and beloved friend.

Joe Liles (1930-2021) directs the AISQC Chorus
Joe Liles (1930-2021) directs the AISQC Chorus

“The song has ended, but the melody lingers on…” for beloved Barbershopper Joe Liles, who passed away in August at his Kenosha home, with Kay, his wife of 47 years, at his side. Arrangements for private burial will be followed by a memorial celebration at a later time after the pandemic subsides.

There are no words, no notes, no harmonies large enough to encompass the breadth of Joe’s influence on the Barbershop Harmony Society, and on the barbershop art form. In addition to hundreds of original songs, and hundreds of arrangements, his fingerprints are on untold more works that he brought to print as Music Publications Editor, as a teacher, mentor, and colleague to other arrangers.

A member of the BHS Hall of Fame, a seniors quartet champ, a past Society Executive Director— any list of accomplishments falls woefully short of describing the man, whose quick wit and groan-worthy puns fired at maximum intensity right up to his final days. Joe’s friends around the globe (numbering in the tens of thousands) will remember him for being keenly interested in each life, each person he met. Because although he loved barbershop, he loved Barbershoppers even more. Joe passionately, devoutly, with every breath, wanted more people singing, in every combination—men’s, women’s, mixed—in every style. He directed SPEBSQSA choruses and Sweet Adelines Choruses. He created music for church groups, for high school groups, for people he’d never met but who had found him.

Indeed, Joe’s entire musical legacy can be described in the titles of two of his original compositions: “Let There Be Music! Let There Be Love!” and “Teach the Children To Sing.”

If we, his friends, musical heirs, and mourners, achieve even a fraction of those aims, we will have lived a Joe Liles life.

Brian Lynch is Public Relations Manager for the Barbershop Harmony Society.