Every Tuesday night, a musical muse tugs members of the Snake River Flats, a group of singers who have been entertaining audiences for more than four decades, to Harmony Hall in Rupert.
“Music is so inspiring like nothing else,” says Jim Rodgers, a retired farmer who has been singing 22 years with the Flats, the non-profit Burley-Rupert chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, whose members have been sharing their love of a cappella music with residents since 1968, when the group was chartered.
“Hearing the harmonies is so profound, it raises the hair on the back of your neck,” Jim says of the blend of baritone, bass, melody and tenor from nearly two dozen members. “We’re a congenial bunch of guys who share a passion for singing, a hobby that’s far more stimulating than staying at home and watching TV. It’s such a thrill for us to perform.”
Their polished performances have been appreciated, judging from the many ribbons hanging in gilded frames, awarded to them at choral contests during the past decades. Posters advertising their concerts, some as far back as 1973, also hang on the walls of Harmony Hall, attesting to their decades of dedication.
Every Valentine’s Day, they carry on a decades-old tradition and become Cupid’s carolers, delivering singing Valentines and a flower or candy to sweethearts within a 25-mile radius of Burley.
“We divide into quartets and sing two songs, usually ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart,’ ‘Heart of My Heart,’ or ‘My Wild Irish Rose,’ ” says Paul Brown, a retired residential building contractor, who has been singing bass with the Flats for more than 30 years. “People call us to schedule a time.”
With their voices as their best instruments, they perform on other holidays, including Memorial Day in Paul, the Fourth of July in Rupert, and the Festival of Trees in Burley. Local residents also invite them to their company banquets, Christmas parties, family reunions, class reunions, church events, funerals, weddings, care centers and schools.
As Jim and Paul slip into their respective places on the choral risers, the Flats’ president, Danny Ward, arrives after getting off work at his brake shop.
“We always welcome new members,” says Danny, who has been singing bass with the Flats for six years. “The more voices we have, the greater our sound. Some of our members will be retiring from the group this year, so at our annual show in March, we’ll perform some special songs, like ‘76 Trombones.’ Some of us eat drink and sleep barbershop music.”
As director Sharon Hardy-Mills arranges sheets of music on her stand, the singers take their sheet music from folders. Considering her 20 years experience leading music at churches, “we’re lucky to have her,” Paul says.
Sharon says she’s the lucky one to have been directing the Flats for the past three years. “We have a blast together. My cousin asked me to help out, and I love music, so I said, ‘Why not?’ Leading them is a great way to pay it forward and give something back to the community.”
The Flats pay it forward not only by entertaining, but by donating money to high school music departments and offering a scholarship, using proceeds they earn from their annual show, scheduled this year for March 10 at the King Fine Arts Center in Burley.
With their weekly rehearsals, they will be ready to perform for the show’s usual audience of about 1,500. With all the singers in their places, Sharon raises her baton, and soon harmony fills the hall once again.
To join the group for their weekly 7:30 p.m. rehearsals or to schedule a singing Valentine, call Paul at 679-1522, Jim at 436-6047 or Danny at 878-8575.