Friday, November 14, 2014

Creating Perfect Harmony

A conversation with Steve Delehanty, music director/arranger for the George Street Playhouse production of ‘The Fabulous Lipitones’

In the musical comedy, TheFabulous Lipitones, the story revolves around a barbershop quartet that after 30 years of existence finally gets a shot at Nationals. However, they lose a key member of the group to a victoriousalbeit lethal”B flat” in the regional competition and wind up finding an unlikely replacement to carry on.

Michael Lichtefeld, Michael Mastro, Steve Delehanty
and John Markus during the first rehearsal of The Fabulous Lipitones
In reality, George Street Playhouse’s production of The Fabulous Lipitones, which runs from November 18 through December 14, stars Broadway veterans Donald Corren, Wally Dunn and Jim Walton, plus YouTube sensation Rohan Kymal. Immensely talented performers and singers, they only had a few weeks of rehearsals to sound like a barbershop quartet that’s been harmonizing for three decades.

That’s where Steve Delehanty comes in. Mr. Delehanty is music director/arranger for GSP’s production of The Fabulous Liptiones—a show he’s been involved with previously.  

One of Mr. Delehanty’s main objectives was to get the four actors to sound like a seasoned barbershop quartet. “They all have beautiful voices and can sing Broadway style, but barbershop focuses on blending the voices of the quartet.”

Two of the leads in the George Street Playhouse productionMr. Dunn and Mr. Kymal—have done Lipitones together before, so they are familiar with the material, each other and the style of singing required for the show.

Another key responsibility is working out the barbershop-style arrangements for the show, which features primarily songs in the public domain as well as a few original pieces written specifically for The Fabulous Lipitones.

While the public domain songs are rather straightforward, one challenging aspect as an arranger is giving the songs new life. “You still want to make the arrangements interesting,” said Mr. Delehanty. “You don’t want them sounding like they were just down singing at the bar.

“Another thing is that some of the public domain songs feature three-part arrangements,” he added. “That’s not barbershop. Barbershop is four parts, of course.”

Mr. Delehanty has been around music for most of his life. He took piano lessons in his youth and accompanied his college’s glee club.  “I did piano bar for 32 years and started ‘barbershopping’ in 1964--so I’ve been doing that for over 50 years now,” he said.

The Fabulous Lipitones - click for tickets and info
As a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, Mr. Delehanty has honed his skills as an arranger over the years and is listed on the organization’s web site as a resource for barbershop groups looking for new arrangements of songs. In fact, when John Markus—who, along with Mark St. Germain, wrote The Fabulous Lipitones—was seeking an arranger for the show’s musical content, he called the Society and was referred to Mr. Delehanty.

“John called me and asked if I was interested,” said Mr. Delehanty. “He had talked to someone at the Society who told him, ‘Get Steve.’”

Mr. Delehanty said George Street Playhouse audiences should expect to hear typical “zippy” barbershop-style songs.

“It should be exciting,” he says. “Ifand I know that it will happenthe quartet is really, really good, that itself will be pleasing to the audience because a good barbershop quartet is really entertaining.”

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