Barbershop quartet Quorum wasn’t just good when they competed at a recent international competition. They were “otherworldly good,” says the event’s publicist.
And the audience?
They practically lost their minds.
“The crowd was on its feet,” says David Lynch, public-relations manager for Nashville’s Barbershop Harmony Society. “They just burst to their feet.”
The judges responded just as enthusiastically, too. Quorum — which features Fort Myers singer Nathan Johnston and three other members from Ohio and New Jersey — easily won the top prize July 9 at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Quartet Contest.
It wasn’t even close, Lynch says.
“Performing at that level, it’s beyond the capability of most mortals,” Lynch says and laughs. “They just flat-out out-sang everybody else in the room.”
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Johnston, 30, couldn’t quite believe they’d won the gold medal. Especially since it was Quorum’s first time competing in the annual competition.
“It’s crazy,” he says. “We actually ended up scoring the second-highest score in contest history.”
Forty eight barbershop quartets from the United States and Canada competed at the event in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lynch says. But Quorum won all three rounds of competition and took first prize by a wide margin — a full 1.5 percentage points over second-place winner Midtown.
“They won a lot of new fans this weekend,” Lynch says.
Johnston — who’s also director of Fort Myers’ Gulf Coast Harmonizers chorus — previously won the top prize twice with another quartet at international competitions in Germany. But this was the baritone’s first big win in the United States, and his first with Quorum.
“It’s really cool,” he says. “It’s a dream come true.”
That dream started in high school, when Johnston discovered barbershop quartets on YouTube. He ended up competing in barbershop competitions in college.
Johnston says he loves the tight, four-part vocal harmonies in barbershop music. He grew up with a family that performs bluegrass, he says, and those same harmonies can be found in both genres.
“That was the thing that was most appealing to me about that style,” he says about barbershop. “I was like, ‘OK, this is all about vocal harmonies. I am super into this.’”
Johnston joined Quorum in about 2016. The quartet’s other three members are tenor Jacob “Puck” Ross, lead singer Chris Vaughn and bass Gary Lewis.
In an announcement on its website, the harmony society credited Quorum’s win to “stunning overtones in intricate arrangements.” The group won first place after singing six songs, including “As Long As You’re Mine” from the musical “Wicked,” the Peggy Lee hit “It’s A Good Day” and jazz standard “Them There Eyes.”
One of the quartet’s singers, bassist Lewis, also broke a competition record. He’s the first singer in the society’s 85-year history to win gold in three different voice parts. He previously won as a tenor in 2000 (with the quartet Platinum) and a baritone in 2007 (with Max Q).
To learn more about Quorum, quorumquartet.com.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at email@example.com or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).