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A Cappella Group Delights Audiences for Decades

  • June Soh

Alexandria, a city in Virginia near the nation's capital, has many attractions especially in a district called Old Town. One music group, formed more than six decades ago there, is a pride of the city.

The group is made up of about 100 men ranging in age from 19 to 83. They have one thing in common: a passion for singing.

Every Tuesday night, since after the end of World War II, the group gathers here to rehearse. They're the Alexandria Harmonizers.

Many members are in their 70s and 80s. Jack Pitzer joined at age 23. Now he is 70.

"We have managed to sing at many wonderful places like the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall, and the Constitution Hall, and the Supreme Court," noted Pitzer. "Plus we have lots of energy here, lots of younger guys join all the time."

Director Joe Cerutti is also quick to point out the diversity in the group. "We have students. We have retired military folks, we have active military folks, the folks that work for the government, teachers, firemen, chimney sweeps. Every type of job under the sun is basically covered in the chorus. That is what makes us such a unique place."

For some members it also has become a venue for networking.

"I am a defense contractor. I currently have about six or seven harmonizers that are working in my company, including the director," explained group member Ken Fess.

No one in the chorus is a trained musician and they aren't paid. However, the Harmonizers have won 17 medals including four championships in international competitions.

"We operate mostly on the money that we get from performances, from doing shows," Cerutti explained. "We perform all over the country and lately all over the world. We are going to China in September."

Recently the Harmonizers performed in Alexandria's Old Town. Their performance, as usual, was choreographed. Group president Steve Murane says that adds fun to the mix.

"Every time I do these performances, when we are all done, I want to get over, get back up to the risers and start all over again," said said Murane. "It is just wonderful, wonderful feeling."

Murane says that feeling has drawn audiences, and singers, to the Harmonizers for more than 60 years and will continue to do so.
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