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Local barbershop chorus celebrates 50th anniversary

PLATTSBURGH - In the 1950s, a man traveled to Korea and happened upon a group of people singing a cappella. So began the story of The Cumberland Bay Show Chorus.

After the historic trip to Korea, James Brown came home and met up with friend Lou Bernard to begin a barbershop quartet in Plattsburgh.

"They were so impressed with that they said, 'Well, wait a minute. Maybe we can get three, four people singing lead. Three, four people singing [baritone] and bass. We'll have a chorus,'" explained long-time chorus member Robert Brooks. "Well, they started doing that and it just started to grow and grow and grow."

Finally, in 1959, the chorus was chartered by the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Since then, men from "all walks of life" have heard The Cumberland Bay Show Chorus and wanted to join.

"I attended their Christmas concert at St. Peter's this year," said Ken Lushia, public relations coordinator and new member of the chorus. "They're always asking for new members. I heard that message and I said 'I want to be there.'"

Since then, Lushia has gone through the training, even taking voice lessons, and has now been a member for five months.

"The music sells itself. I think that's why we're all in it," said Lushia. "There's a certain attraction of that harmony, that ringing, that we can perform together. That alone brings the people in. And, once you fall in love with it, it's history after that."

However, for Brooks, his choice in joining the chorus was not entirely his own.

Forty-six years ago, after being away on a business trip, Brooks came home to his wife, Lois, who said "'You can't imagine where I [went] Saturday night,'" recalled Brooks.

"She said, 'I went over to the Peru High School and they had a barbershop parade there. And, guess what? You're going to be a barbershopper.' And, every Tuesday since, I've been a barbershopper," he laughed.

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