A men's choir that has been bringing its special form of harmony to audiences throughout central Ohio for nearly seven decades recently qualified to take part in an international competition next summer.
During the final weekend of October, the Singing Buckeyes, a central Ohio-based barbershop harmony group, performed in Cleveland at the Johnny Appleseed District Fall Convention. The group impressed judges and was chosen to compete at the Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention to be held in Salt Lake City next July.
It's the 18th time -- and first since 2013 -- the Singing Buckeyes have qualified for an international contest since the choir was established in 1950.
The Buckeyes are one of 30 choruses worldwide invited to perform in the competition. They will take with them a contingent of up to 50 barbershop singers.
The competition will be held in Tabernacle at Temple Square, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs.
"It's intense," said Chad Wulf, the Singing Buckeyes musical director. "It's just two songs we'll perform after years and months of preparation.
"It goes way too fast."
The Singing Buckeyes' two choruses are composed of males ranging in age from 14 to 90, Wulf said.
The competition chorus includes singers from Canal Winchester, Columbus, Dublin, Gahanna, Galloway, Groveport, Hilliard, Newark, Pataskala, Pickerington, Powell, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington.
John Long, a retired vocal music director at Pickerington High School and Pickerington High School Central, is vice president of music and performance for the Singing Buckeyes.
He said the competition chorus also is represented by men from Athens, Barberton, Dayton, Mansfield and Wooster.
"I think the group is one that always strives to improve," Long said.
"They want excellence in their performances and strive to always do their best.
"Plus, the group is like a brotherhood. Every guy in that group I can honestly say I would call my 'brother in song.' It is a fantastic group of men."
Wulf said about 7,500 people typically attend the International Convention and the Singing Buckeyes already have sent their chorus manager to Salt Lake City to begin scouting for rehearsal space.
The group plans to perform the popular World War I song, "There's a Long, Long Trail," which is credited to Stoddard King and Alonzo Elliott, as well as "If I Can Dream," written by Walter Earl Brown and made famous by Elvis Presley.
In addition to rehearsing those numbers over the next seven months, Wulf is inviting coaches from throughout the country to help with vocal harmonies and a bit of choreography that will be added for competition performances.
"It helps to have extra sets of eyes and people with expertise watching us and working with us," Wulf said.
"Our rehearsals will bet a little bit tighter and tighter as we get closer to the competition."
At the International Convention, Wulf said, "attention to detail is immaculate."
He noted there will be a "true international flavor," with groups from throughout the world -- including some choirs whose members don't speak the language, but will sing in English.
"It's a pretty neat thing that we can all bring it together through a common form of music and wanting to share music," Wulf said.
Those ideals are what Long said drew him to the Singing Buckeyes about three years ago.
After he retired, he was encouraged to join by several Pickerington residents who had been performing with the group.
"We work extremely hard to perfect our craft," Long said. "The love of singing is quite evident with the entire group.
"I can't wait to show the Barbershop Harmony Society what the Singing Buckeyes are doing.
"By traveling to the international (competition) we'll get that opportunity."
Long said regardless of how the Singing Buckeyes place at the convention, the "experience will be awesome."
"To hear some of the best men's choruses in the world, to sing on the stage of the Mormon Tabernacle -- with 20,000 seats, I might add -- and see Salt Lake City, what a tremendous opportunity for this 'old music teacher.' "
The Singing Buckeyes next will perform from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, with the Olentangy Orange High School choirs at Advent Lutheran Church, 3660 Kenny Road, Upper Arlington; and from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 11, when it joins the Worthington Kilbourne High School choirs at the school, 1499 Hard Road, Worthington.
For information about more Singing Buckeyes' rehearsals and concerts, go to www.singingbuckeyes.com.