Smoot youth groups to perform at statehood event

PARKERSBURG- A pair of boys’ vocal groups from the Smoot Theatre will be performing on West Virginia Day on Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

The groups called the Smoot Barbershop Quartet and the Smoot Boys “Quartet Plus One” will be part of the West Virginia Day Celebration at 1:30 p.m. June 20 on Blennerhassett Island.

The island celebration will also feature a presentation by park historian Ray Swick followed by cake and ice cream. Local musician Scott Cain will perform on the mountain dulcimer during the program.

The barbershop quartet features Matthew Smith, Daniel Brumfield, Brandon Humphrey and Hampton Hill. The boys quartet – which started as a quartet but added another interested boy- features Hunter Ackerman, Jesse Eaton, Philip Wilson, Jared Ream and Ben Vierheller.

For the barbershop quartet, the island program will be one of the final performances for the group’s original lineup as three of the members move on to new challenges, said Smoot Theatre director Felice Jorgeson.

The group will perform June 21 at the Smoot’s “Rags to Riches” fundraiser.

Two of the boys, ninth-grader Brumfield and tenth-grader Hill, have auditioned for and been accepted into the A Cappella Choir at Parkersburg High School for the next school year. A third boy, Humphrey, will be a ninth-grader in Marietta and may be moving on to new challenges, she said.

“We say that to the kids, that school has to be your first allegiance,” Jorgeson said.

Jorgeson said auditions have been held to fill the openings in the barbershop quartet, but the inaugural group is coming to an end. Two of the boys quartet members will be moving into their shoes in the barbershop group.

Three years ago, the Smoot started the Smoot Theatre Children’s Chorus, which is for boys and girls from fourth, fifth and sixth grades and has about 35 members. Jorgeson said many of the students come up through the Camp Vaudeville children’s program at the Smoot and are looking for ways to continue singing and performing.

Over the past couple of years, the youth vocal activities have continued to grow and change at the Smoot with the help of current and retired vocal teachers like Barbara Full and Janet Blessing.

Due to interest among the students in the children’s chorus- especially the boys who were aging out of that program- Jorgeson and the others also started the Smoot Boys Ensemble for boys from seventh to ninth grades the year after the children’s chorus started.

For boys in that age range, Jorgeson said voice change due to adolescence can be significant. Blessing has long specialized in helping young male singers work through and around those changes.

The boys ensemble has allowed the boys to continue learning and singing with more one-on-one attention than might be available in a school setting, she said.

As an example, one of the boys came into the program with the highest voice but within a couple of weeks his voice began to change and he ended in the bass section, she said.

“That’s why we do it,” Jorgeson said.

As part of the boys ensemble work, Blessing started the barbershop quartet as a way to challenge some of the older students.

“Barbershop quartet music is very difficult. It involves four singers singing four independent lines. For young boys that age, it is a challenge and they met the challenge,” she said of Smith, Brumfield, Humphrey and Hill.

Jorgeson said all of the choral programs at the Smoot are doing well and there is a lot of interest. The programs are active primarily during the school year and are on hiatus during summer vacation.

Auditions have been held for the upcoming school year program, but anyone interested in trying out can contact the Smoot at 304-422-PLAY (7529) for more information, she said.