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Singers find family, fellowship in group

Former leader back at helm

POSTED: March 16, 2013 12:10 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Steve Dorn, right, is back at the helm as director of the North Georgia Barbershop Singers.

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They may come from various backgrounds and life experiences, but when they start singing everything comes together in perfect harmony.

Members of the North Georgia Barbershop Singers have a returning leader to help those harmonies sound even sweeter.

Steve Dorn recently returned to the position of director of the group, which uses the voices of men from about seven different counties throughout north Georgia.

“I sat out last year because my second child was born and I was finishing my MBA, so I had a busy 2012,” Dorn said.

“Now I’m back and they’ve graciously asked me to wave my arms again.”

The previous director, who filled in during Dorn’s year off, didn’t have time to continue in the post.

Luckily, Dorn was happy to reclaim the spot since he’s been a lover of the barbershop style his whole life. He and his father, Tom, participate in the local group together, continuing a lifelong tradition.

“This is a hobby that I grew up with,” the younger Dorn said. “My dad has done this my whole life, so I wanted to come back and sing with my dad.”

Growing up, Dorn said, he always enjoyed listening to his father’s rehearsals.

“You just hear the songs and you want to sing, but you’re too young,” he recalled. “Then eventually they let you sing with them. It’s just a real family environment, so it’s cool.”

The local group meets every Tuesday night at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cumming.

It’s a registered chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, which has about 30,000 members nationwide.

There’s also a women’s barbershop organization called Sweet Adelines, which also boosts about 30,000 members throughout the country.

Steve Dorn’s wife and sister are both a part of that organization, so the family’s barbershop roots run deep.

The North Georgia Barbershop Singers currently has about 30 active members, ranging in age from 27 to 85.

The youngest, A.J. Puckett, said that while most of the members are his senior by quite a few years, the age difference doesn’t matter.

“None of them treat me any different and they’re all just good friends at this point,” he said. “We come together every Tuesday night, we sing and we have a lot of fun.”

Puckett, who said before joining the group he was mostly a “shower singer,” is also intrigued by the musical style.

“Once it gets in your ear, being able to ring the chords and hear that fifth note that you can create with just four voices, it’s a really special thing,” he said.

Wendell Nutt, the group’s eldest member, finds similar joys being a part of it.

While he was a musician for many years growing up, he got away from music for “several decades,” he said. But when his wife passed about four and a half years ago, he needed something to fill a void.

“I needed company, I needed to be with people and to do something,” he said. “This filled a need in many, many different ways … I enjoy the songs, I enjoy the harmonies, I enjoy the people.”

The singers take part in many competitions and other events throughout the year, including their Singing Valentines program where they go around north Georgia serenading ladies on the romantic occasion.

The group also participates in veterans’ events and has a school outreach program to teach youth about the musical tradition.

While a nonprofit itself, the group also raises money throughout the year to help the Meals on Wheels program in four counties.

It also holds several concerts throughout the year. The next will be at 8 p.m. March 28 at the Cumming Playhouse, 101 School St.

New members are always welcome and don’t have to audition. Any man interested in joining can just show up to the Tuesday rehearsals.

As for Steve Dorn, he’s proud to be able to lead the group and continue the tradition.

“It’s just amazing the fellowship, the friendship, the family that you find in barbershop singing,” he said. “This group has given me so much, I just want to give back.”

 

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