FREDONIA The Four Freshmen, one of the top vocal groups of the 1950s, will appear in concert at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event have been selling fast with only balcony seats remaining, according to Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis.
"This is a reserved seating show," says Davis. "And while 99 percent of the seats on the main floor already have been sold, we still have some great balcony seats remaining." Davis notes the Opera House box office will be open Saturday, 2-5 p.m., for ticket purchases; and any remaining seats will be available for purchase at the door on Sunday.
Wildly popular in the 1950s, The Four Freshmen formed the bridge between '40s ensembles like The Mel-Tones and harmony-based rock & roll bands such as The Beach Boys, Spanky & Our Gang and The Manhattan Transfer.
The group's roots go back to the end of the 1940s and a barbershop quartet-influenced outfit called Hal's Harmonizers, organized at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory at Indiana's Butler University by two brothers, Ross and Don Barbour. Their repertoire centered on standards such as Moonglow and The Christmas Song, but they began to show an unusually free, improvisational approach to their harmony singing. A couple of membership changes brought Bob Flanigan, a cousin, into the fold alongside Hal Kratzsch; and suddenly, The Four Freshmen were assembled in all but name. That would fall into place a little later.
The group struggled for a long time, living hand-to-mouth while building a repertoire and sound. Many people who've heard the group's records or are familiar with their sound are unaware that they also were completely self-contained instrumentally, each member playing more than one instrument.
Eventually, they came to the attention of various jazz figures of the era, including Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. It was Kenton who took matters into his own hands, bringing the group to the attention of Capitol Records. Thus began a long and fruitful relationship with the label.
The Four Freshmen managed to stay competitive with other pop acts through the mid-'60s, and even got a very visible boost from The Beach Boys, in the form of Brian Wilson's frequent expressions of admiration for the quartet as part of the inspiration behind putting together his rock & roll group's sound. They continued to record and perform, even assimilating such contemporary songs as Jimmy Webb's By the Time I Get to Phoenix.
The legendary sound that began in 1948 with Bob, Don, Ross and Hal continues on in the 21st century. The current lineup, with Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Bob Ferreira, has been performing together since 2001. Their unmistakable sound continues to thrill audiences all over the world.
Reserved seating tickets are $25 ($23 for Opera House members). This event is made possible, in part, with support from the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County.
The 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in the Village of Fredonia Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. A complete schedule of events for the Opera House is available at www.fredopera.org.