One local singing has stepped up to shine in the world of barbershop quartets.
Baritone Mark Sanders, Amity Township, and his three singing companions recently won the gold medal at the Barbershop Harmony Society, Long Beach, Calif., in the senior quartet competition.
The barbershop singing group, named Faces 4 Radio, formed in spring of 2012 and, along with Sanders, includes tenor Bob Bristow, Ambler, lead singer Brad Brooks, Harrisburg, and bass Jeff Winik, Kendall Park, N.J.
This is not the first year Faces 4 Radio have seen top ranking success. In 2013, the quartet were silver medallists at the international competition in Orlando, FL, winning in the senior competition.
Sanders attributes their success to their dedication and experience with the unique barbershop style. One of the characteristics of the barbershop style is that the harmony is above the melody.
“We’ve all been singing many, many years,” he said. Sanders and Brooks previously sung together in a quartet before Faces 4 Radio formed.
This year marks the 50th year Sanders has been with the Barbershop Harmony Society, for which he will receive his 50th anniversary pin .
At the convention in Long Beach, Faces 4 Radio performed “It All Depends On You” (1926) B G DeSylva, Lew Brown & Ray Henderson, with arrangement by John Hohl, and “It’s You” from Meredith Wilson’s Music Man (1957), with arrangement by Bob Rund. The foursome perform at Barbershop Harmony and Sweet Adeline concerts, private and business events.
The Barbershop Harmony Society is an international organization, with 25,000 members in North America. Faces 4 Radio competed as part of the Mid-Atlantic District as one of the 30 quartets from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden. The competition is broken into three division: singing, music, (artistry) and visual presentation, with three judges per category. The open category attracts barbershop singers of all ages, starting with kids in their late 20s. Keeping the youth interested in music, its variations and unique styles, is how to keep thr art thriving.
Sanders was brought up with a musical background, and the his love for music has only grown. When he was five-years-old, he started singing as well as lessons to learn to play the piano.
“The piano is a great starter for any musician,” he said. “I had a love for sports too, but no talent.”
He sang in the choir at Alsace United Church of Christ, Muhlenberg, and as a high school sophomore at Muhlenberg High School, Sanders began taking voice lessons.
It was in his junior year that his love for the a cappella style of the barbershop quartet was sparked. “My teacher got me interested,” he said.
Sanders played football, sang in the choral group, participated in marching band, and played the sousaphone piano in high school.
While he was studying music at West Chester University, Sanders met his wife, Debbie. The two had a mutual love of music. Currently, Debbie Sanders teaches private voice lessons, and directs the musicals in the Daniel Boone School District. “Music brought us together,” he said.
Mark Sanders has been a member of 12 different barbershop quartets and currently sings with Reading’s Pretzel City Chorus and the Bryn Mawr Mainliners Chorus chapter. Even with so much participation in the lifestyle, Faces 4 Radio meet once a week at Sanders’ brother’s home in Allentown to practice their collaborations. The quartet has three different singing coaches to help them improve. Of their staple songs, Faces 4 Radio perform Old Man River and “always try to get a Beatles song in there.”
Sanders plans on continuing with barbershop, as long as he is healthy, for as long as he can.