Best Bets: Barber dedicating performance for Delaware veterans

By Craig Horleman
Posted 11/4/21

Singer Terry Barber will have the memory of his grandfather with him next weekend when he visits Dover.

“Probably the most patriotic person that I’ve ever met was my grandfather and he …

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Best Bets: Barber dedicating performance for Delaware veterans

Posted

Singer Terry Barber will have the memory of his grandfather with him next weekend when he visits Dover.

“Probably the most patriotic person that I’ve ever met was my grandfather and he was a World War II flying ace. And he was the only ace that flew the aircraft that he flew, which was designed as a bomber. It was the predecessor to the P-52, which was called an 836 Mustang. And his flight jacket and some of his medals and things are in the Air Force Museum in Seattle now,” Mr. Barber said this week from his home in New Jersey.

So it’s rather fitting that Mr. Barber, an acclaimed countertenor, will be the featured entertainer at The Friends of Delaware Veterans’ annual black-tie-optional fundraising dinner to benefit the Delaware Veterans Trust Fund Nov. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center.

It’s even more fitting when you consider that this year’s theme will be a tribute to veterans and their families for all they’ve done, especially during the past year.

“He was a huge hero of mine, not just because he was an ace and very patriotic person, but also he was a self-made success in business and I would go there in the summer and live with him and my grandmother and work for his company,” Mr. Barber said, his voice cracking with emotion over his grandfather, Michael Russo.

“And so there were a lot of reasons to be proud of him and he would tell me stories of himself in World War II and some of his successes and some of his challenges and his personal life. He felt that he owed more of his success to the Army Air Corps than even his own family at times.”

He said he will dedicate his performance to Mr. Russo when he performs next week.

His performance will encompass songs from Broadway, pop and the classical world that honor Delaware’s veterans.

A familiar face to local music fans, Mr. Barber has performed locally at the Milton Theatre a handful of times doing various shows devoted to those genres.

As a member of the multiple Grammy-winning ensemble Chanticleer, he was hailed “… the jewel in Chanticleer’s crown …” while performing classical, gospel, jazz and folk music in over a dozen languages at more than 100 concerts around the globe.

Mr. Barber has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages including New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall; Moscow’s Svetlanov Hall; and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

He has also recorded on albums with award-winning musicians such as Chaka Khan, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.

Mr. Barber grew up in Hanover, New Hampshire, with parents who dabbled in music but were never as serious about it as he was.

“My parents always supported my interest in music. I started out as a double degree in engineering and music (at Northwestern University) considering that I didn’t know if I was going to try to make a career in the arts. I, of course, did everything backwards and decided to make a career in the arts and kept engineering kind of alive in my recording engineering work,” he said.

“And so that part of my brain could be fulfilled in some regard. But most people would have been engineers and done music as a hobby, and that’s much more practical. I’ve been very blessed, very lucky to do what I love for work. And there hasn’t been a day that I wake up and think, ‘Oh, no, I have to go to work.’ That never occurred to me.”

Mr. Barber estimates that he is one of about 50 countertenors working in the world today. A countertenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of the female contralto or mezzo-soprano voice.

He is noted for the tremendous range in his singing voice. When asked if he had to work to achieve this or if it came naturally, Mr. Barber likens it to an Olympic runner.

“People didn’t run out of the womb onto the track. They’ve spent their entire lives training. It’s in the crosshairs of natural talent, God-given abilities and a crapload of work. So, you have to kind of have some facilities to begin with. Everyone can improve their singing,” he said.

“For example, I’ve actually heard people be taught how to match pitch, which is a difficult skill if you don’t have it naturally. People have different levels of being good at that. And it’s a feeling that when you hear a pitch and being able to understand how it feels when you are matching, what you hear. So unless you have a hearing disability of some kind, people are all capable of learning how to do that. But some people just aren’t born with it easily. ... It’s all about having certain ability and then working on it as well.”

Along with shows devoted to classical and sacred music and those devoted to Broadway and Andrew Lloyd Webber more specifically, Mr. Barber also tours the country doing songs by Queen, titled “Mercury.” In fact, he’ll be performing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” during the veterans’ dinner.

“For several years, people told me because of my high range, they said, ‘Have you ever thought of singing Freddie Mercury’s music?’ and their greatest hits album would be in my top 10 albums of all time, so I knew every word to a lot of songs. My voice doesn’t make a rock sound that much. Freddie had vocal nodules and for a lot of people, that would keep them from singing at all. Like you hear Adele canceling concerts and stuff because she had a similar problem,” Mr. Barber said.

“The fact that Freddie had a lot of different colors he could make with his voice, and he had these vocal nodules, when he got up in the higher part of his tenor range, it really gave him that gritty rock sound. I give a couple of the rock tunes to (another band member) because he can make that sound more easily than I can.”

A self-professed “kind of a nerd,” his master’s degree is in historically informed performance so not only does he sing the tunes but he gives the background on the writing of them as well during his shows.

For 2022, he is developing a Simon and Garfunkel show and a program with himself and two other singers called Elementrio. The Simon and Garfunkel show hits the Milton Theatre on March 3 with the Freddie Mercury show slated to be at the Milton later in 2022.

The keynote speaker for the Veterans Trust Fund dinner will be Rosely Robinson, a naturalized citizen who came to the United States as a small child with her father.

She is known throughout the state as the founder of A Hero’s Welcome Home program and has served as its director since 2013. The organization’s mission is to ensure all service members get a proper welcome home. Her goal is to dedicate a POW/MIA Chair of Honor at every school in the state.

She is also an original organizer of Vet Fest, an annual celebration of Delaware’s veterans, and was recently honored for her involvement in the 22in22 program to reduce veteran suicide.

The Delaware Veterans Trust Fund was signed into law in 2013 under the Commission of Veterans Affairs. It provides emergency financial assistance to honorably discharged veterans residing in Delaware. It has stopped cutoff of utilities and repossessions of vehicles, and has also provided repairs for housing and other emergency grants. All grants go directly to creditors.

The Friends was established in 2014 as the fundraising arm of the Veterans Trust Fund. Its board members are all veterans who work pro bono throughout the year in conjunction with the commission. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Dinner tickets are $100 and include a plated meal, entertainment, a keynote speaker, an auction and a great deal of camaraderie.

Checks for tickets can be mailed to DCVA (Del. Commission of Veterans Affairs), 802 Silver Lake Blvd., Suite 100, Dover, DE 19904 with “Dinner Tickets” in the memo line. Corporate tables can be sponsored for $1,000.

Auction items can be dropped off at the commission office. The reservation deadline is Monday. Call 302-257-3117 or email sherri.taylor@delaware.gov for information.

Kahlo exhibit

More on this next week, but the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover premieres its “Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray” today until Feb. 12.

In May 1931, the imminent photographer Nickolas Muray traveled to Mexico on vacation where he met Ms. Kahlo, a woman he would never forget. The two started a romance that continued on and off for the next 10 years and a friendship that lasted until her death in 1954.

Approximately 40 photographic portraits taken by Mr. Muray of Ms. Kahlo comprise the exhibition. The photographs, dating from 1937 to 1946, explore Mr. Muray’s unique perspective; as Ms. Kahlo’s friend, lover and confidant.

The Biggs Museum is at 406 Federal St.

Market Fair Saturday

The 18th Century Market Fair is set for downtown Dover Saturday.

It’s a daylong series of programs that harkens back to an era when The Green served as the focal point of life in Dover as historical interpreters explore the goods, wares and political attitudes of the 1700s.

The Old State House will celebrate the fair with quill-pen writing, consultations with an 18th century doctor and apothecary, and a theatrical production.

Activities will fill The Green, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. For more information, call 302-744-5054.

Free movies

The Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro is offering movie screenings for free this weekend courtesy of Pluto TV. The theater will be screening the new family film “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” There will be free popcorn and Pluto TV swag.

Tickets for the free movies are available only at the Clayton Theatre Box Office before each scheduled showtime on a first-come, first-served basis. One hundred free tickets will be allocated for each show, and doors will open 45 minutes before each showtime.

The movie will be shown today through Sunday at 3 and 7 p.m.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Marvel film “Eternals.”