The Northland Barbershop Chorus is the Sault Ste. Marie Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, the world’s largest men’s singing organization. It is one of 800+ chapters serving 25,000+ members across North America. Affiliated Barbershop singing organizations span much of the world.
Beginning in 1958, Ted Spry undertook the process necessary to secure a local chapter for Sault Ste Marie, ON. In November of that year, Ted set the wheels in motion in an exchange of correspondence with Mr. Ken Booth, Associate International Secretary at the International Headquarters of the Barbershop Harmony Society in Kenosha, WI. This followed the dissolution of the old Michigan Soo Chapter which last operated in 1955 and had the Khord Kings as one of its notable Chapter Quartets.
THE BORDER CHORDERS
In 1959, Ted Spry and three other men met to discuss the formation of a chapter and to sing four-part harmony in the style of the traditional barbershop quartet. With Harry Shardlow, Frank Elliott, and Len Klyne, they began quarteting as the "Border Chorders" which eventually gave rise to today’s chorus. Since then, hundreds of men have enjoyed the thrill of a cappella singing, while entertaining thousands of area residents.
Received Dec. 1, 1961
By 1961, the group had expanded to 26 members and had secured the sponsorship of the nearby Boyne City Michigan Chapter, conditions which allowed it to seek official status as a chapter. On Dec. 1, 1961 they received their official charter to become the Sault Ste. Marie Chapter of SPEBSQSA - The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. – now the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Their first performance was in 1962 and a major show has been presented annually since then. In 2011, the Chorus celebrated its 50th season. In addition to a major annual spring show, the Chorus also typically gives 10 - 20 community performances each year.
Membership in the Chorus is often affectionately called a “voluntary life sentence” by its members, reflecting their love of the music and the bond of brotherhood they feel.
The Northland Chorus is a not-for-profit, incorporated organization comprised 100% of volunteers devoted to fostering and promoting music sung in the barbershop style: 4-part harmony with the melody in the second voice, sung without musical accompaniment. They seek to serve their communities in two ways:
• through the medium of song by singing at no cost at senior's homes, schools, churches, hospitals, civic events; or at fund-raising events held in support of a various local charitable and arts organizations, and
• through their annual support of the Speech-Language Pathology Unit at Sault Area Hospital. These funds assist those for whom stroke, cancer, head injury or other ailments have robbed the ability to communicate. Beginning in 2009, the Chorus (many of whose members reside on the U.S. side) expanded their efforts to include annual donations to the Speech Pathology Department at War Memorial Hospital in Sault, Michigan. In 2017, the cumulative combined total donated since 1995 to local Speech Therapy Services at Sault Area Hospital and War Memorial Hospital will reach $92,000 in keeping with their motto: “We Sing That They Shall Speak”.
In recognition of community service given over 5 decades, the City of Sault Ste. Marie Ontario awarded the Northland Barbershop Chorus the 2010 Medal of Merit, the city’s most prestigious honour. The award is given annually for “outstanding achievement in a chosen area which has resulted in making a valuable contribution to the community”. The award was officially presented to all then currently-active chorus members by Mayor Debbie Amoroso at a civic ceremony and dinner held May 7, 2011.