Quartet Blends Barbershop Harmonies And Miami 'Sabor'

Jun 29, 2016

Signature is going for the gold at this year's International Barbershop Quartet Competition in Nashville. From L to R: Will Rodriguez, Daniel Cochran, Dan Walz and Matt Clancy
Credit The Miamians.org

"Down By The Old Mill Stream"?  Not likely.

"Wait 'Til The Sun Shines, Nellie"?  Nope.

"Let Me Call You Sweetheart"?  Don't even think about it.

The four members of Signature are going into an upcoming barbershop quartet singing competition with their rendition of Queen's "Somebody To Love."

"Yeah.  That's a monster!" says tenor Will Rodriguez with a laugh.  "Any time you sing Freddie Mercury . . ." The  31-year-old stops himself at the mention of the rock frontman, who reputedly had a four-octave singing range.

 

Rodriguez and his fellow vocalists in Signature -- 31-year-olds Daniel Cochran and Dan Walz and 26-year-old Matt Clancy -- know that the judges of next week's International Barbershop Quartet Contest will be looking for more than just an ability to hit the high notes.

"There are a lot of things that go into winning the international contest," says Rodriguez. "You really have to be the most edgy, the most clean-singing, the best performing quartet."

"Our sound is recognizable almost instantly. It's because we expand sound," says Dan Walz, who sings bass.  That expansion is a coveted feature of barbershop quartet singing. What barbershoppers call "lock and ring"is created when harmonics sung by the individuals blend, merge and produce audible overtones or undertones. It's similar to the "sympathetic vibration" played spontaneously by a passive violin or cello string in response to a clear harmonic from another instrument.

For years, members of Signature had a barbershop quartet legend in their corner. Their previous mentor and coach, Gene Cokeroft, was an original member of The Suntones, a quartet that made regular appearances on the "Jackie Gleason Show" filmed in Miami Beach during the 1960s.

Sadly, Cokeroft passed away in July, 2015. "Gene saw something in us that we couldn't see for ourselves at the beginning," says Cochran, who sings the lead part for the quartet. "He always said, 'Enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey,'  " says Rodriguez.

Part of the journey is imbuing young audiences with an appreciation for the art form, which originated in the late 1800's and early 1900's. "We do lots of youth workshops," says Matt Clancy, who sings baritone.

So does South Florida have a barbershop or a cappella sound all its own?

The members of Signature say it does.

"South Florida itself is a melting pot, just like this quartet.  We're pretty diverse," says Rodriguez. "I think the music that we sing is a little more soulful. It has a little bit more, as Hispanics say, sabor -- flavor behind it."

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Signature is one of three South Florida-based barbershop quartets competing in Nashville this year.  The other two are Fuego and Throwback.

For more information about barbershop singing in South Florida, please visit The Miamians.