News Column

Harkening Back to the Family Sing-Along

May 5, 2013



Remember the family sing-along at the parlor piano? Remember Grandpa picking the banjo on the porch?

If you're under 65 -- the age of the North Jersey Chorus -- you probably don't. And more's the pity.

"Before television and radio, singing was a very big thing in America," says Clifton resident Larry Harrington, a five-year member of the Fair Lawn-based chorus, which will be celebrating its 65th year with its annual spring concert, "A Spring Double Header" at the Van Riper Ellis Broadway Baptist Church (the chorus' current headquarters).

"Double header" refers to the two classic pop composers at the center of this year's showcase.

Irving Berlin ("Blue Skies," "God Bless America," "No Business Like Show Business," "Puttin' on the Ritz") and Jerome Kern ("All the Things You Are," "Look for the Silver Lining," "Old Man River," "Long Ago and Far Away") will be feted in four-part harmony by this chorus of 35, accompanied by pianist Robert V. Legacy Jr. On Saturday, special guest Jeremy Galyon of the Metropolitan Opera will join them on several tunes.

"Basically [our repertoire] consists of a little bit of Broadway, American popular music and once in a while a classical piece," says Harrington, 70, who sings bass. His sister, Marie Harrington, conducts the chorus.

"We try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible," Harrington says.

Originally called the Wyckoff Male Chorus when it was founded by a group of that town's locals (it got its current name, and began admitting women, in 1994), the ensemble launched the same year TV's Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan got their first shows. Significantly perhaps, in hindsight.

"When this group was founded, TV was in its infancy," Harrington says. "Years ago, in America, it was a common thing for families to gather around the piano. All generations would participate. It was a social thing. Our modern media basically killed it. It's a shame, in a way."

The family sing-along had its last gasp, ironically, on television - with Mitch Miller's early 1960s TV show "Sing Along With Mitch." But the North Jersey Chorus has kept the flame alive with its bi-annual concerts and its Samuel T. Hutcheson Memorial Scholarship Fund that awards $500 grants to high school seniors to further their music education.

"Music enriches the human spirit," Harrington says. "It's a tonic for depression. It's uplifting in every possible way: mentally, physically, psychologically."

Harrington has reason to know. As he discovered five years ago, music is not just good home entertainment. It's a good home remedy.

"Singing helped me," says Harrington, for whom a plethora of back ailments was diagnosed in 2008.

"It was a fluke, a freak thing, and it was severe," he says. "My therapist told me she wanted me to join a choir. I said, 'Why do you want me to do that?' She said, 'When you sing, it forces oxygen into your system. You have to breathe deeply to sing. If you join a choir, it will help you to heal.' "

Harrington joined the North Jersey Chorus in September 2008. His first concert was at Christmas.

"And by Christmas I was all well," he says.

"I was free of all pain. I was walking a mile in the park all day. Singing helped to bring me out of it."




WHO: The North Jersey Chorus.

WHAT: "A Spring Double Header."

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: The Van Riper Ellis Broadway Baptist Church, 7-01 River Road, Fair Lawn; 973-523-5239 or

HOW MUCH: $15, $10 for children under 12.

Originally published by Email:

(c) 2013 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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