Fred King devotes himself to harmonious...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

June 13, 1993|By Wayne Hardin

Fred King devotes himself to harmonious pursuits

Barbershop-style singing -- a cappella, four-part harmony -- has been taking up a major share of Fred King's time for more than two-thirds of his life. When he isn't listening to harmony singers or directing harmony, he's harmonizing himself.

Mr. King, 58, of Parkville, a singer since age 16, has been director of the Dundalk Sweet Adelines, 80 women, since 1959, and the Chorus of the Chesapeake, 180 men, since 1967. He also sings baritone in a barbershop quartet, the Entertainers.

He retired in 1990 after 31 years as a music teacher in Baltimore County schools, the last 13 years as choirmaster at Overlea High School. But "I didn't stop working; I just stopped teaching."

Last weekend, in Reston, Va., Mr. King directed the Chorus of the Chesapeake, the Dundalk chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, to a division championship in the Mason-Dixon Conference of the SPEBQSA, "the first step toward a world championship." The Entertainers finished second in the quartet competition. Both go to district competition this fall in Ocean City.

His typical week consists of three-hour rehearsals for the chorus Tuesdays, the Entertainers Wednesdays and the Adelines Thursdays, and performances Mondays and Fridays and sometimes on weekends. He says both volunteer amateur choruses are "non-profit but self-sustaining."

"I tell my singers that, 'We're not professional, but what we do must be,' " Mr. King says. Shirley Hughes has been singing as long as she's been talking -- or so it seems.

"I have been singing my whole life. I started in the church. My grandmother had a church choir called the Joy Bells," says Ms. Hughes, who sings at the All Saints Church on Liberty Heights Avenue in Baltimore.

"Music is a big part of my life," says the 36-year-old Catonsville resident. "It's who I am."

Ms. Hughes, who works as a community services coordinator at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, has also managed to combine a career with her love of music and singing.

"My first association with Charlestown began because of my singing," Ms. Hughes explains. "A friend of mine kept urging me to come and sing for one of their worship services. He finally wore me down, and about four years ago, I came out and sang."

She got to know the residents and administrators at the community and decided to leave her job as an administrative assistant for a plumbing company and join the staff at Charlestown.

She also founded the Catonsville Employee Chorus at Charlestown and persuaded staff members to join the choir. The 12-member chorus now sings and presents concerts for residents.

"The residents ask me why I want to continue to work at Charlestown," Ms. Hughes says. "They say, 'Why work here when you could sing anywhere?' But I enjoy working with seniors. And the fulfillment that I get here, I couldn't get anywhere else."

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Sandra Crockett

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