Posted Brentwood & Discovery Bay Press: Thursday, March 27, 2014 11:00 am | Updated: 10:44 am, Thu Apr 3, 2014.
By Pati Lucido Gonsalves
It’s a men’s-only competitive sport that attracts 30,000 members worldwide. Uniforms are optional and there is no protective gear or equipment. Fans of the sport can enjoy the competition without high-end ticket costs or expensive team jerseys. All they need do is lend an ear.
It’s called barbershop music and its making a comeback, thanks to groups like the Delta Dons Quartet, who are putting the ‘cool’ back into a capella performance.
With more than 30 years of singing experience, Delta Dons members Chris Finetti (lead), Rick Spero (tenor), Ken Hitch (bass) and Jeff Asbury (baritone) formed their rogue group less than five months ago. “I got a call from Rick asking if I’d like to be a part of a new, more contemporary quartet,” said Finetti. “We all knew each other from Voices (Voices in Harmony, a Bay Area chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society), and we all live close to each other. It was an easy decision.”
According to Finetti, the name Delta Dons is significant in its representation of the area, (Finetti and Asbury are from Discovery Bay and Hitch and Spero live in Brentwood) but these “bad boys of song” also wanted to express the excitement of the a capella genre. “We want to be seen as the Goodfellas of the East Bay,” laughed Finetti.
In the past few years, popularity for a capella music – due to the influences of TV shows such as “Sing Off,” “The Voice,” “American Idol,” ”Glee,” and performances by “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon’s own “Ragtime Gals,” – has created a new-found interest in the barbershop sound.
Barbershop singing is simply a four-part, unaccompanied, harmony with a lead vocal, a tenor, a bass and a baritone. Finetti explains the competitive side of barbershop. “The men in our group all belong to Voices in Harmony, and we compete in regional and international contests,” he said. “We are judged in three categories: music, presentation and singing. It’s really a competitive sport. ”
The Delta Dons Quartet started performing right away, opening for ‘Peter Pan’ at the Edna Hill Middle School, and singing at a number of local senior retirement communities on Valentine’s Day.
Success has come quickly for the Dons, who performed this month for more than 5,000 fans at a Stockton Thunder hockey game. “We learned the National Anthem, made a video and sent a link to the Stockton Thunder,” said Finetti. “A couple of days later, they called and asked us to sing at the March 15 game against the Utah Grizzlies. The crowd was screaming and cheering as we sang. We had a blast.”
While the intent was to entertain locally, the Dons had their eye on a specific performance. “Our main goal is to have fun,” said Spero, “but the original reason for putting the Dons together was to hopefully do ‘The Music Man.’”
Just this week, the Dons were selected to play the role of the barbershop quartet in Brentwood’s Broadway Under The Stars summer production of the family classic. Artistic Director Steve Kinsella, Brentwood’s 2013 Artist of the Year, and producer Jack Gaughan, Brentwood’s Citizen of the Year, announced, “The Delta Dons will be the perfect complement to this summer’s production.”
Finetti, a former college musical theater major, is excited about “The Music Man” production. “It’s always been in my wheelhouse,” he said. Spero admitted to only doing theater in high school, and Asbury says he has no acting background at all. “This is so exciting,” said Asbury. “I‘ve never done theater, but I am really looking forward to this. It’s all about having a great time and just doing it.”
Historically an older man’s venue, a spike in interest from the younger generation at college campuses and high schools has redefined the stereotypical barbershop quartet. No longer is barbershop just four guys in straw hats on the street corner. The audience has expanded and an appreciation for the harmonic skill of a capella has opened venues previously not considered barbershop. Recent “Sing Off” champions, a cappella group Pentatonics, reached the Billboard Charts’ Top 10.
From traditional barbershop style to a mix of doo-wop and jazz, the Delta Dons perform songs that will appeal to their audience. “We will sing the older songs like ‘Paper Moon,’ ‘Smile’ or ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ for the older generation,” explained Finetti, “and then maybe songs like ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and other more contemporary songs for a younger audience.”
If you have a special event, contact the Delta Dons Quartet. Hassle free, this group always has their instruments with them, and there is no set up. For information on booking the Delta Dons, e-mail [email protected]or visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/thedeltadons.
If you are of a competitive nature, Voices in Harmony is always looking for additional singers, and Finetti encourages enthusiastic vocalists to join their ensemble. Membership is open to male singers of all ages. If you have past singing experience in a glee club, school or church choir, collegiate a cappella group or as a soloist, Finetti invites you to consider joining. Visit www.vihchorus.org for more information.
Home team jerseys are not available. Yet.