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Barbershop choruses plan harmonious merger

After 52 years of harmony singing, the Las Vegas Gamble-Aires barbershop chorus plans to put on its last concert Dec. 8 at the Winchester Cultural Center.

Not coincidentally, the Las Vegas Metro City of Lights barbershop chorus, which spun off from the Gamble-Aires in 1998, plans its final performances in December. This is not, however, the death of barbershop harmony in the valley, as the two groups will officially merge in January.

Officially the Las Vegas Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, which was formed in 1960, will merge with the Las Vegas Metro Chapter under the older organization’s charter. The two groups are better known by the names of their combined choruses. The new chorus will be called the Silver Statesmen.

"We’re very happy with the new name," said Larry Litchfield, outgoing president for the Gamble-Aires board of directors. "It’s got a nice ring, and it’s not too long. The name was selected by a vote of all the members of both groups."

Litchfield is quick to point out that the merger is a harmonious one and not the acquisition of one group by the other.

"There were a lot of good reasons to bring the groups together now," he said. "We can double our resources and not split our audience. New members won’t have to decide which group to join anymore."

Martin Judd, the outgoing president for the City of Lights Chorus, said when the initial idea to remerge the groups was brought up by some of his members, he feared there might have been residual animosity from the 1998 split.

"I was surprised how smoothly everything went," Judd said. "There were a number of things that had to happen for it to work out, and every step of the way things worked out."

Judd and Litchfield will step down in January, and Steve Salmon will take over the reins as president of the combined group.

Fred Green, who handles public relations for the City of Lights Chorus and who will also be holding that position with the combined group, is excited about the merger and the search for a director for the Silver Statesmen.

"It’s always fun to sing with a bigger group on the risers," Green said.

Members of the new group are in the process of building a new website that reflects the changes, and they hope to create a sum that is greater than the parts with greater resources and a wider talent pool.

According to Green, the City of Lights Chorus splintered off in 1998 because there was a division between members who were seeking a fraternal organization that sang for fun and members who wanted to compete professionally. The recombined group doesn’t see the two ideas as being mutually exclusive, and they’re looking to up their game in international competitions.

They will need to be in top form in 2014, when Las Vegas is scheduled to be the host city for the annual Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention.

Judd is general chairman of the 2014 committee overseeing organization of the event, which is scheduled at the MGM Grand. They hope to have 8,000 to 14,000 attendees.

The first performance of the Silver Statesmen has yet to be scheduled, but the separate groups performed annual spring concerts, and Litchfield said it’s likely they will have their debut concert in the spring. A new website is under construction, but the address has not been announced. Both the individual groups’ websites will be maintained until the official merger in January.

The City of Lights Chorus plans to present "Christmas is a-Comin’ "at 7 p.m. today at the Starbright Theatre, 2215 Thomas W. Ryan Blvd. Tickets are $12 for Sun City Summerlin residents and $15 for nonresidents.

The last performance of the Gamble-Aires is scheduled at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Winchester Cultural Center, 3130 S. McLeod Drive. The show is called "Are You Smarter Than an Elf?" and will involve quiz show elements in addition to the singing. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

"We’re doing a bunch of holiday songs, but the centerpiece will be ‘Toyland,’ " Litchfield said. "It’s going to be a very nostalgic show."

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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