Barbershop Building joins in the harmony

The grand opening continues today with quartets performing on downtown corners from noon to 3 p.m.
SHARON, Pa. --Their pictures adorn the walls but few could identify them, and with names like Bartlesville Barflies and The Gas House Gang, few could name their tunes.
But giving them recognition for their contributions to the world of vocal music is what the Barbershop Music Building of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame & amp; Museum is all about.
The Barbershop Building at 115 E. State St. is the second of four proposed vocal music halls to be opened by co-founders James E. Winner Jr. and Tony Butala.
Both were on hand to help cut the ribbon officially opening the building Friday. The celebration continues today with street-corner singers on downtown Sharon streets from noon to 3 p.m.
The building will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
Butala, a Sharon native who went on to fame as a member of The Lettermen singing group, said a lot of people may not know much about barbershop singing.
"This was an art form that developed in our country," he said.
How it's going: Winner, founder of Winner International with headquarters in Sharon, said attracting a steady stream of visitors to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame & amp; Museum has taken longer than he expected.
The first in the series of buildings, the Pop Music Building, opened in late 1997. Winner has been the chief financial benefactor of the project, putting $2 million into the effort.
The organization now has its own board and is running on its own, Winner said, adding that he plans to stay involved.
Plans are still in the works to open two more buildings, one honoring gospel music and the other country and western, but there is no firm timetable yet, Winner said.
Expecting visitors: Two people who got their first look at the Barbershop Building Friday predicted it will draw a lot of visitors, particularly from their respective groups.
Reed Sampson of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA) and Karen Breidert of Sweet Adelines International (a women's organization dedicated to barbershop-style singing) were invited to help cut the ribbon opening the building.
Their organizations have museums of their own, SPEBSQSA in Kenosha, Wis., and Sweet Adelines in Tulsa, Okla., but both Reed and Breidert said this is the first time any outside group has honored their style of singing.
Both groups provided photos, recordings and memorabilia to the project.
"They're going to have a lot of visitors from both of our organizations," Sampson said, noting that aficionados plan their vacations around trips to the SPEBSQSA and Sweet Adelines museums.
Tiffany Frank, Vocal Hall of Fame & amp; Museum executive director, said work on filling the Barbershop Building is still in progress.
There's a room honoring SPEBSQSA groups, another for Sweet Adelines groups and a third known as the Chorus Gallery recognizing choruses that perform this style of music.
A lot of memorabilia from groups has been donated and will be placed throughout the building, Frank said, adding that one area is being set aside as a banquet facility that groups can rent.
Library: The Barbershop Building will also feature a music research library where people can come to do research on all types of music, not just barbershop singing, she said.
The Barbershop Building hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior and children under 8 are free. Combined tours with the Pop Music Building are $12 for adults and $9 for senior citizens.

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