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Wood County rest stop visitors get melodic surprise

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Janelle Patterson From left to right, Tom Blissett, Dave Nuller, Jim McReady and Chuck Deem sing “Moonlight Bay” as a quartet Tuesday night.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Janelle Patterson
From left to right, Tom Blissett, Dave Nuller, Jim McReady and Chuck Deem sing “Moonlight Bay” as a quartet Tuesday night.

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — Passers-through were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the harmonies of the River City Treblemakers Tuesday night at the Williamstown Visitor Center.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that and I travel every weekend,” said Paul Britten, 55, of Maryland, about the local all-male a cappella barbershop chorus. “It makes the visit seem so welcoming.”

Tim Parker, 55, of North Carolina and his nephew Les Parker, 34, of Youngstown also felt welcome as they walked in to the serenade of “Swing Home Sweet Chariot.”

“I was so surprised when I walked in and then they asked if I could sing,” said Tim.

Along with those stopping by the welcome center, the group had an audience of friends, family and community members. It was the second time they have performed at the welcome center.

“It’s funny seeing the reactions of the people as they come in,” said Suzanne Haid, of Lubeck, whose husband, Len, is in the group. “I bet they weren’t expecting a concert on their way to the restroom.”

Les Parker said he was impressed with the talent of the group.

“All of their different parts were on point. They sounded like professionals,” he said.

Though the four-part harmony is done by men with years of experience under their belts, the group’s president, Brent Ash, said any man is welcome to join.

“It’s easier than it looks and we have more fun than you should on a weeknight,” he said to the chuckles of the audience. “You don’t even need to be able to read music, just carry a tune.”

Under the direction of Choral Director Bill Hathaway the group sang “Heart of My Heart” and “Sweet Mary Lou.” Audience members sang along smiling and at the conclusion of every piece onlookers broke out in applause.

The audience fluctuated in number as 18 friends, family and local residents sat through the entire performance with roughly a dozen more visitors passing through the center as a stop along their route.

Suzanne and three other members’ wives were present for the entire event and joined in singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with the men in homage to West Virginia.

For Treblemaker member Chuck Deem, 78, of Mineral Wells, the fun is worth the time commitment.

“It’s such a pleasure if you love to sing and the time is worth it and we’ve become a family,” said Deem.

The group performance at the visitor center was their weekly rehearsal, just at a different location for the second Tuesday of the month due to that space being used for a support group.

The barbershop chorus rehearses every Tuesday at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church at 906 Charles St. in Parkersburg at 7 p.m. The group is home to the Parkersburg-Marietta chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, which has 28,000 members worldwide.

Members from every chapter in Ohio have been invited to sing the national anthem at the Cincinnati Reds game on July 31.

Those interested in booking the 17-man group or joining the chorus may contact Brent Ash at 304-652-1335 or secretary Walter Morgan at 304-428-7225.

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