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Fresh Meadows quartet keeps a cappella alive

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The Barbershop Quartet, as part of the larger Queensman Chorus in Fresh Meadows, made their rounds Monday to homes, classrooms, businesses and senior centers around the borough, serenading surprised audiences to such classics as "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "Ain't Misbehavin'."The group had an elderly lady at Forest Hill's Forest View Nursing Home in tears to "Heart of My Heart.""She asked, 'Is this from my husband?'" laughed lead singer Sal Iorizzo. "I said, 'I certainly hope so!'"Before that, a blushing EMT student was taken aback after his wife hired the four-part harmony to sing to him in front of the entire class at Ft. Totten in Bayside."The whole class was just harassing him," said baritone Ron Anderson.Anderson, a retired program analyst from Glendale, is the oldest of the four. Although this is only the second year the quartet has performed on Valentine's Day, he and several other Queens men have been with the a cappella chorus for a number of years.Iorizzo, the chorus' musical director, recalled their heyday 20 years ago."I remember going to a gathering in New Jersey where 500 men sang these songs," said the Xerox technician from Bellerose. "What a sound, it rocked the walls."But recently the chorus, as with the barbershop tradition itself, has been dwindling. The 17 to 20 members who now show up for the Wednesday rehearsals have not been enough to hold their annual concert for the last two years. Without their main fund- raiser, it has been a struggle collecting the some $3,000 needed to operate each year.According to Anderson, the sound of four men in bow ties and handlebar mustaches gathered at the local barbershop with only their voices as instruments has become a thing of the past. The nationwide Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, which Anderson's group belongs, has embarked on fund raisers and modern advertising to appeal to a younger crowd.Part of why the Queens quartet was traveling around Monday was in hopes of raising enough cash to hold their concert next year.Their stop after Forest View was Sterling Glen Senior Living in Forest Hills. Mike Santino, the youngest of the four who took over as bass a couple of years ago after the previous member died, led the group to the dining hall to serenade his boss's mother, Ethel Levine.The 88-year-old said afterward that the visit was not wholly unexpected, since she imagined her son, who owns an apparel store in Long Island, would pull something like this."It's a wonderful feeling, though, when you're waiting for the fun and you don't know when it's going to happen," she said.With an hour to spare before their next gig, the quartet moved from table to table, singing "Zippity Do Da" to seniors while they ate lunch.Those listening said the songs rehashed old memories of young boyfriends.Angela Frondelli, however, in keeping hip with the times, said "let's hear some R&R; a little Rock and Roll."But the quartet had to go. A wife at her Forest Hills office and another in her Bayside home were waiting.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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