A vocal group with fans all over the world, one with some New Jersey roots, is celebrating an anniversary.  And they’ll also be receiving a rather unique honor.  The Manhattan Transfer will be performing tonight at Sony Hall in New York in celebration of their 45th anniversary.  The members of the group, whose recordings have earned 11 Grammy awards, are Janis Siegel, Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne, and the newest member of the group, Trist Curless, who became a member of the Transfer following the passing of the group’s founder, Tim Hauser.  They’re also touring in support of their latest album called “The Junction.”

It’s always been a great show anytime I’ve had the chance to see the Transfer in concert, particularly at venues like the Garden State Arts Center or the Count Basie Theatre, because they were “home” shows for Alan Paul and Tim Hauser.  Alan grew up in Newark and Hillside and graduated from what was Newark State College (now Kean University) with a degree in Music Education.  Side note:  one of my friends in radio has nothing but kind words about Alan’s time as a student teacher.  Tim, as some may know, lived in Ocean Township and Asbury Park, and graduated from St. Rose in Belmar.  And in 2013, came back to help his alma mater as he and the Transfer did a benefit concert in Red Bank for the school to raise funds to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy.

The unique honor I mentioned that will be awarded to the group is that they will be made honorary life members of the Barbershop Harmony Society.  The organization has been recognizing groups and individuals who have made important contributions to and share their love of group harmony, not just in the barbershop style.   This brings back memories of the night at the Arts Center around 1980, when as an encore, the Manhattan Transfer performed their gorgeous acapella version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”  The crowd was still and hung on every note and chord, and reminded me of the barbershop quartet contests I went to when I was younger with my parents…what I refer to as “contest quiet.”   It wasn’t barbershop, but darn close.

The list of people who have received those honorary memberships includes The Oak Ridge Boys, The Osmond Brothers, Bob Flanigan of the Four Freshmen (the group that influenced The Beach Boys), Deke Sharon (the music director/arranger on the “Pitch Perfect” movies), Gordon Lightfoot, and last year’s honoree, TV host Mike Rowe.   One other little newsworthy note: this week, the Barbershop Harmony Society announced that women would be allowed to become members of the society, as part of their “Everyone in Harmony” initiative.

I can think of one group that would be perfect for a “Mixed Quartet” competition.

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