Barbershop quartet from CMU earns international award, brings concert to campus
For a long time, people have associated barbershop quartets with straw hats, pinstripes and mustaches.
But one Central Michigan University group is shattering that stereotype, one competition at a time.
CMU graduates Nate Masterson of Saranac, Garrett Gillingham of Mount Pleasant and Ben Krinke of Brighton combined with Lake City senior Craig Johnson to form Ebb N’ Flow, a barbershop quartet from CMU that strives to break the stereotypical view of their genre by modernizing the art from the inside out.
“Along the way, you discover your quartet’s image and personality,” said Krinke, the baritone in the group. “We sing a lot of Elvis and Beach Boys, and we have a more casual look than a lot of quartets. We try to embrace the fact that we’re young guys.”
Ebb N’ Flow has taken its unique approach to barbershop on the road, recently placing tenth at the Barbershop Harmony Society International Collegiate Competition in Portland, Oregon.
“The international competition is a week-long contest that is held by the Barbershop Harmony Society. Every year, they go to a different location across the world and have a big contest that about 6,000 to 10,000 people attend,” Johnson said.
In order to qualify for the international competition, the group had to earn a score of 76 at their district competitions. Ebb N’ Flow won the district championship in the fall, as well as the college district contest in the spring.
“When we competed in the preliminaries for internationals, we were able to qualify for both the college and adult competitions,” Krinke said. “We scored a 76.4 average, which is the highest score a quartet from Michigan has earned in ten years.”
Lead singer Gillingham said winning the district championship has been the highlight of his barbershop career.
“My dad sang barbershop and won the district championship in 1993,” he said. “Getting that trophy and seeing my dad’s quartet on it was an awesome feeling.”
Ebb N’ Flow will bring a taste of barbershop music to CMU in October, when they serve as the opening act for a concert held by OC Times, the group’s biggest influence.
Krinkle said having the opportunity to sing with them is unreal.
“In 2008, (OC Times) won the international quartert competition,” he said. “Originally from California, they were one of the first quartets to modernize the style of barbershop singing, and they’ll be at Plachta in October.”
Johnson said although he loves to sing, his favorite part about barbershop isn’t necessarily the performances.
“We do a lot of youth outreach. That is really cool because a lot of schools in the state are losing their music programs,” Johnson said. “Whatever we can do to help get people’s minds back on music and encourage people to sing is really rewarding for us.”
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