By CHRIS MORRIS
It’s about being part of history, doing something you love and being surrounded by supportive and caring friends.
It’s about being part of The Thoroughbred Chorus — an all a cappella men’s group based in Louisville.
The Thoroughbreds have been around since 1945 and are a seven-time international champion chorus. The group is part of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Members sing one of four parts — lead, bass, baritone and tenor. There are about 60 active members, those on the risers who participate each Monday at practice and at shows.
“If you like singing, you don’t have to be a great singer,” said Ron Posante, a Palmyra resident who has been a member of the group for 10 years. “You just have to be able to sing a part, and when all four come together, it’s one hell of a sound.”
The sound will be on display Saturday, Dec. 1, at Memorial Auditorium located at Fourth and Kentucky streets in Louisville. The 64th annual holiday spectacular, titled “Razzle Dazzle,” will have two shows — 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.
There is a strong contingent of Southern Indiana men who are active members of the group — 11 to be exact. Some recently joined the group, while others like Mike Ehringer, who is chorus manager, have been involved for 20 years or longer.
The retired educator from Greater Clark and Louisville schools, Ehringer sings bass, and he said nothing compares to being a member of The Thoroughbreds.
“It’s a hell of a group of guys and we have some kids in there now. I think it’s a great example for young guys to see the commitment it takes to be part of the group,” Ehringer said. “I’ve been involved in athletics and I compare it to that ... it takes a lot of hard work to get better.”
The members all are unpaid. Each Monday, they rehearse for three hours at their own hall at 10609 Watterson Trail in Louisville. While they say rehearsals are enjoyable, they also are fairly intense. The public is welcome to attend all practice sessions.
“If you come to the hall for rehearsals, you will find out there will be about 50 sets of hands to shake. We will make you feel very welcomed,” Posante said. “We are continually in a recruiting battle. At one time, we had 120 men on the risers, and at one time we were as low as 20. We are on our way back.”
This year, the chorus performed 13 concerts including the Medal of Honor convention, but many members form quartets and book shows for birthday parties or gatherings. Ehringer is part of two quartets.
“We work on music the entire time,” said first-year member Dave Lobeck about practice. “When you are in rehearsals, it’s fun but you are there to work. They are pretty serious about what they do.”
Lobeck, a Sellersburg resident, said he was involved in music and theater through college. After being invited to attend a rehearsal and for tryouts, Lobeck sung “My Old Kentucky Home” in front of judges before being selected to the group.
“One of my [financial] clients [Ehringer] told me to come out and listen to a practice and they got me up on the risers to sing a tag with them,” he said. “It’s pretty neat to be part of something that has been around so long.”
The Thoroughbreds have sung for dignitaries, civic functions, sporting events, as well as audiences of four to 13,000, according to their website. There seems to be a new wave of enthusiasm and new members among the group today, Ehringer said. He gives a lot of the credit to 27-year-old director Drew Wheaton.
“I think we will be back at internationals in two or three years,” Ehringer said. “If someone has the time to do it, it’s an unbelievable experience.”
Posante said he will never forget singing in Salt Lake City 10 years ago at the international competition in front of 18,000 people. The group just missed qualifying this year.
Like other members, Posante was invited to a rehearsal and to tryout. He said it’s been a great experience — especially the Monday night rehearsals.
“It’s hard to explain unless you see it,” he said. “There are some guys on the risers who have been singing with the group for 30 or 40 years. The staying power is pretty good.”
The camaraderie among the members of the group is also great. Each practice session ends with the members gathering in a circle, putting a hand on a shoulder, and singing “Nearer Thy God to Thee.”
“There is really a heritage there that I think is really cool,” Lobeck said. “It’s a great group of guys ... a lot of A-type personalities who want to do things to be part of that heritage. It’s a totally different thing than what I expected.
“The group is very competitive and serious about what they are doing.”