Barbershop groups take a cappella to the extreme

DeKALB – Area men and women who enjoy singing without musical accompaniment may want to consider joining a barbershop harmony group.

Dave Lundberg of Sycamore has been a member of the Kishwaukeys Barbershop Chorus since 1973 and serves as its interim director.

“I love singing, the camaraderie with the other guys, the music itself,” Lundberg said. “I sing with a classical chorus on Monday nights and my church choir on Wednesday.”

A love of music, friendships with other singers, the spirit of competition, the costumes, and an appreciation for a cappella style all draw members to the Kishwaukeys and Prairie Echoes, the local women’s barbershop chorus. Both groups are actively seeking new members.

“I have competed with them five times now and it’s such a wonderful experience,” said Jessica Byerhoff, manager of the Prairie Echoes. “It’s like having an extended family.”

The Prairie Echoes were approached by “America’s Got Talent” to be on television in 2010, but the group had already committed to appear at an international competition in Seattle at the same time. The Prairie Echoes placed third at that competition. The opportunity to travel and compete are among the benefits that the group touts to new members.

“We take all ages from 14 on up,” said Jill Parnell, marketing director for the Prairie Echoes. “You can sing any part and there’s a part for anyone, whether you sing high, low, or middle of the road.”

Lundberg explained what makes the barbershop harmony sound so unique among a cappella performers.

“In most styles of music, the melody line is the highest,” he said. “In barbershop, that is not true. The melody line is the second one, and the harmony goes above it.”

Lundberg joined the Kishwaukeys when he was going through a divorce and he needed a new activity to keep busy. Throughout the years, he has shared his love of barbershop with others.

“I’m always trying to bring in new members, young and old,” Lundberg said. “I’m 66 and I think I’m in the younger one-third. We recently revamped our music and we’re starting to modernize it. We are up to the 1950s and 60s now.”

The Kishwaukeys will perform in concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, in the Terrace Room at Hopkins Park in DeKalb. Pete Hansen, son of long-time former director John Hansen, will be the special guest director for the performance. Velvet Hammer Quartet will be the guest performers.

The Prairie Echoes Chorus will perform Christmas music with the DuPage Men’s Chorus from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle. For more information, visit or call Byerhoff at 815-761-5956.

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