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The Major Four-Teens earn spot in international barbershop competition

By Max Newman '16

May 1, 2014

The Major Four-Teens, Hamilton’s very own barbershop quartet, has qualified for the 22nd annual Harmony Foundation Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Contest (CBQC). The group earned a spot in the international competition by winning the Seneca Land District regional competition in Geneva, N.Y. on April 11.

The quartet, which is comprised of seniors Will Robertson (bass), Andrew Rippel (baritone), Gabe Mollica (tenor) and Jake Taylor (lead), performed “My Wonderful One” and “Recipe for Making Love.” The group has worked on these two songs since its formation in October.

Unlike many Hamilton barbershop quartets in past years, each member of the Major Four-Teens is a music major. It is no surprise that they all belong to the Hamilton College Choir as well. In fact, Taylor and Rippel competed in the 2012 CBQC with the group called Diminished Fourth (C). The previous experience may have helped the group reach the final round this year.

The regional competition is highly competitive, as the Seneca Land District features around 50 registered quartets from Upstate New York and northwest Pennsylvania. The Major Four-Teens went into the competition under the leadership of Associate Professor of Music Rob Hopkins. Considering the fact that Professor Hopkins was both a past judge and president of the Barbershop Harmony Society, The Major Four-Teens couldn’t have had a better mentor.

Robertson spoke on behalf of the quartet. “Professor Hopkins has been instrumental in getting us to be even remotely successful. His knowledge of the Barbershop style and his meticulous coaching have brought us to where we are now. We are incredibly lucky to have such a talented and respected coach for our quartet.”

The quartet’s success did not come easily. The group met with Hokins frequently in preparation for the competition.

On the successful performance, Professor Hopkins said, “The quartet developed a fine sound and practiced hard to win the regional competition. They performed well on the College Choir concert after spring break, too. I'm proud of their accomplishments and they should be, as well.”

“The barbershop quartet performance style is particularly difficult because it requires precision balance, intonation, synchronization, and a commitment to sharing the emotions of the song with the audience,” Hopkins added.

This year’s CBQC competition will be held on July 1 in Las Vegas, Nev. Unfortunately, the quartet will not compete because two members have summer job obligations.

“[It’s] a shame because The Major Four-Teens is a good quartet and the members would have been able to put on their very best performance in Las Vegas,” Hopkins said, “in part because of the confidence that comes with winning the regional competition, but also because they received some excellent suggestions from the regional judges about how to improve their performance.”

Although the Major Four-Teens’ run has come to an end, their accomplishments may have marked the beginning of Hamilton’s future success at the annual CBQC competition.

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