Something about watching the symphony orchestra perform at the Granada Theatre earlier this year made Max Fisch turn to his friend and fellow graduate student to ask about his own interest in music.
The topic hadn’t yet come up since Fisch, 24, and Michael Gaultois, 28, began working together at the UC Santa Barbara Material Research Lab as science majors, and Fisch’s friend struck him as someone who needed a music outlet.
A bit caught off guard, but showing interest nonetheless, Gaultois thought back and shared that once, a year prior, he had acquired a business card from a member of a men’s barbershop group at another event.
Although neither had much experience — just a love of music and for being a bit silly — within weeks the young men had successfully auditioned for the Pacific Sound Chorus, a local group of about 25 men who have sung a cappella barbershop tunes in four-part harmony since 2000.
Fisch and Gaultois were the youngest singers by at least 10 years.
“It’s pretty much exactly what I wanted,” said Fisch, a materials major and baritone singer.
“All of it is just telling a story through music.”
The member who bestowed the business card, local insurance salesman Brent Anderson, immediately took the pair under his wing, thrilled that the fastest-growing age group of the genre has embraced the art form in Santa Barbara.
Fisch and Gaultois will show off their musically unaccompanied voices to locals for the first time Saturday, when the Pacific Sound Chorus will give two live performances at The New Vic.
The pair enjoys the music so much they’ve recruited six more members under the age of 30, all UCSB science graduate students.
Including those additions, Pacific Sound can now bring singers age 23 to 80 to annual competitions and events.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Gaultois, who studies chemistry by day and sings lead/harmony by night. “Everyone kind of does it for different reasons.”
Developing a young love for barbershop tunes, most from turn of the nineteenth century sheet music meant to be sung by anyone without playing musical instruments, is nothing new for Anderson, who began singing in four-part harmony decades ago at age 27.
He helped establish Pacific Sound Chorus nearly 15 years ago and nowadays rehearses with the group Monday nights at the Ventura Adult Education Center.
“The fastest-growing demographic is 19 to 29,” said the bass singer and show chairman, who noted most members are in their 50s and 60s.
“We’re always looking for qualified singers. I think music does keep you young.”
Younger singers have a different sound, using vowel shapes and techniques that often differ from what the earlier generations learned.
“It’s just a fresh, nice clean tone,” Anderson said. “It helps our barbershop sound overall.”
Anderson said the local group is a well-kept secret, one he recently convinced his 27-year-old future son-in-law to also join.
Still one of the youngest members, Fisch said he’s glad others have followed suit. He sang in a barbershop group at UC Berkeley years ago, but appreciates learning from his elders.
“I want to be that young when I’m that old,” he said.
The Pacific Sound Chorus will perform at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The New Vic, at 33 West Victoria St. in Santa Barbara.
The performances will also feature the Velvet Frogs Quartet, magician Mark Collier and Carpe Diem Women’s Chorus. Tickets for the event can be purchased by clicking here.