Mixed Barbershopping Hits Harmony Ranch

  • Posted on: 24 October 2017
  • By: Angie Morton

It all started with a conversation among a few Harmony Ranch members at the afterglow of the 2017 Ontario District Spring Convention in London, ON. "Wouldn't it be great to get a mixed chorus together at Harmony Ranch?" "There are a number of great singers up there." "Lots of couples and women barbershoppers who might be interested." While most returned home after the weekend to their usual choruses and quartets without giving the idea much more thought, an plan was emerging in a few people's minds. 

That fateful conversation came about because of an announcement from Ontario District at the Spring convention. Building on the success of the Mixed Quartet Contest at the event, the Ontario District had decided to hold its first ever Mixed Chorus Contest. The contest, sanctioned by the Mixed Barbershop Harmony Association (MBHA), would pit choruses made of at least 20% males or 20% females against each other to crown a new district champion.

As "ranch season" approached, the idea of a Harmony Ranch-based mixed chorus kept reappearing and questions began to form. Who would organize the chorus? Who would direct it? Would there really be any interest? When would the chorus practice? Could a competition chorus be ready in time for the contest?  There was much uncertainty, and many people were already busy preparing for chapter shows, international and regional competions, and other personal commitments. Despite all of this, the idea would not rest in the mind of Angie Morton. Angie sent an email to Ranch members to gauge interest in actually making the idea a reality. The response was overwhelming as people coming out of the 'fire'woodwork (so to speak) to voice their interest and support. In the end, 50 people had joined the chorus and long-time director Derek Stevens had agreed to lead the chorus.

An inaugural meeting was organized to confirm committment and to try a couple of tunes from the polecat songbook to see what the group would sound like. Over 30 people attended that first meeting in July 2017, with all parts represented and a good mix of men and women. Attendees sang through My Wild Irish Rose and Heart of My Heart. Not a bad sound at all!  It was decided that the new group would hold regular rehearsals on Sunday mornings at 11am beginning the following week.

Now, if you know anything about Harmony Ranch you'll know that everyone runs on "ranch time", so practice doesn't usually get started at exactly 11am and there are always a few stragglers. The second thing you'll know is that you never really know who will be there on any given weekend. To date there still hasn't been a full chorus rehearsal. However, the chorus is making definite progress with the two chosen songs and have begun coaching performance and even picking additional repertoire! 
The chorus decided they needed a name since things seemed to be moving along and progressing well.  After over 50 suggestions were made, a unanimous vote decided the name of the chorus: Baldwin Blend.
On Labour Day weekend, Harmony Ranch held an annual show featuring the Black River Chorus (the Harmony Ranch men's chorus) and some Ranch quartets. At the invitation of Ray Danley, the show also featured the debut performance of Baldwin Blend, much to the delight of attendees. 
The chorus includes a great mix of singers. There are members from BHS, Sweet Adelines and Harmony Inc. There are husbands and wives, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters; a true Harmony Ranch family and friends chorus. There are even people who have never sung barbershop before, coming out and experiencing barbershop for the first time.  What a great way to share a wonderful hobby! This weekend, the chorus will be competing in the inaugural Ontario District Mixed Harmony Chorus contest at the Fall convention. The chorus and the district both hope this is the start of many, many great things to come.
Written by Angie Morton and Michael Black. Photos by Ash Murrell.