Warning: Singing in a barbershop quartet can be addictive.
Gerald Armbruster, a farmer from WaKeeney, has been a member of the Hays High Plains Chapter Barbershop Harmony Society since right after the local chapter was founded in 1968.
Armbruster, 88, is now in his 51st year with the Hays-based singing group, which has at least a couple of dozen members. Armbruster becomes excited when he talks about hitting the right note as a part of a barbershop quartet. Soon after he was invited to a chapter meeting all those years ago, Armbruster heard a barbershop quartet sing so perfectly in tune that they achieved the nirvana of hearing an “overtone.” That is when all four voices are perfectly in tune and it sounds like there are more than four voices singing. He was hooked.
“I got up close to them and was listening and they started ringing the chords,” Armbruster said. “The overtone is what got me. ‘I’ve got to do that.’ It’s kind of like alcohol. The more times you can get that chord to ring that octave above, that’s a thrill.”
Armbruster, who has been part of three quartets, now sings with the Hays chapter in group performances.
“We try to entertain in the local area,” Armbruster said.
They sang the national anthem at a recent Hays Larks baseball game and in recent years have sung at ceremonies at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney.
Armbruster was part of a singing trio with his two sisters while growing up and was a member of the church choir. These days, Armbruster said, he sometimes gets recognized as the singing guy with the handlebar mustache.
“It’s something not too many people have,” he said.
Armbruster has something else, too. Being part of the High Plains chapter for five decades now keeps Armbruster singing a happy tune.
“You get together with a group of guys, it’s camaraderie,” he said. “Plus, the good sounds you make.”
Armbruster said he does not have a favorite song to sing.
“They are all favorites,” Armbruster said. “It’s just all music and it’s all good.”