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Quartet makes cut

AmdrfewA Kuranui College music teacher is “excited to wave the New Zealand flag” at a prestigious barbershop singing competition.

Matt Barris’ quartet Synergy are busy practising and fundraising for the Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention and Competition, held in Louisville, Kentucky, in July.

Synergy will represent their country in the convention’s Next Generation Barbershop Varsity Quartet Contest for groups under 25, where they will compete against some of the world’s best young acapella singers.

The band – made up of Barris, Eric McKee and brothers Tejas and Dhruv Menon [based in Wellington] – formed their current lineup with the plan of heading overseas to compete.

“We weren’t really singing in any groups at the time, and we were like, ‘okay, let’s give it a go’,” Barris, the group’s tenor, said.

Synergy is following in big footsteps: Wellington quartet The Musical Island Boys were victorious in 2006 in the under-25 competition and won the open category eight years later.

Like Barris, the Musical Island Boys members are former Tawa College Students – which is where they passed down their enthusiasm for the harmonic singing style.

“They were the first from the Southern Hemisphere to win, so it’s quite the legacy to live up to.”

There are two more Kiwi groups heading to the competition. A quartet called Promenade from the South Island will provide some friendly competition, while Pacific Connection from Porirua has invited Barris and his three bandmates to join their performances.

“Promenade has been doing it for maybe five or six years. They’re really into it, so cool to have them there.

“Four siblings within Pacific Connections are competing in the open contest, so New Zealand’s pretty prominent at the competition this year.”

Barris has taken his voice overseas before — he sang the national anthem at a competition in Florida a few years ago as part of a chorus group. When not singing with Synergy, he serves as the assistant director of youth barbershop chorus Vocal FX, and is a coach with national body Barbershop Harmony New Zealand.

The passionate teacher admits it’s “a niche little hobby”, which he said has done away with the stereotypical straw hat and striped blazer.

Like those who nurtured his love for the discipline, Barris is helping the next generation.

Earlier this week, he took a barbershop quartet from Kuranui College to the Young Singers in Harmony competition, held at Hutt City Church.

“Groups like the Musical Island Boys that went on to win started in that young singers’ contest.”

Tokowhā travel to New York City to perform before heading west to the International Barbershop Competition in Kentucky.

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