“I want to make sure that everything is in place for Sound of the Rockies so that other guys can have the same, amazing experiences I’ve had.”
For Sound of the Rockies’ Executive Director George Davidson, singing and performing are lifetime passions.
This fall, George kicks off his 50th year as a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
It’s an exclusive club of veteran performers and George has paid his dues. He has devoted countless hours, weekends and evenings to rehearsals and shows over the last half-century. He’s built and supported several quartets and choruses, performed in 48 states and abroad and competed as one of the top barbershoppers in the world many times. In 2000, George helped found Sound of the Rockies and through his work on every SOR show, he continues to share his love for the art form with new generations of singers and audiences.
George caught the singing bug early, as a 9-year-old as a chorister at Christ Church in Greenwich, CT. Not only was being a choir member his first job — earning George 15 cents per weekday rehearsal and a quarter for singing at weekend services — but it also introduced him to the joy that comes with performing before a crowd, obviously moved by the beauty of the music.
“Anyone will tell you, there’s no other feeling like it. Once you’ve experienced it, you never want it to stop,” George said.
Throughout his youth, George sang in church choirs, school theater productions, a folk group and even a rock band. Then, in college, he was invited to join his first barbershop quartet.
“The bass in the quartet happened to be a barber. So we rehearsed in his barbershop, and our very first gig was at a barbers’ convention,” he said. George never looked back, explaining that he quickly became hooked on the four-part harmony and comradery that naturally develops in a quartet.
In 1973, when he moved to Denver, George joined the Mile-Hi chorus, a predecessor to Sound of the Rockies and a few years later was invited to sing baritone with Classic Collection, an internationally ranked quartet out of Nebraska whose members eventually joined George in Colorado.
As the success of Classic Collection grew, George met and courted his future wife, Sally, also a barbershop singer. (Not surprisingly, the couple honeymooned at a barbershop convention.) Then, in 1982, Classic Collection won the International Quartet Gold Medal – the highest achievement in the barbershop world.
“It was an amazing time,” George said. “We toured all over the country and Europe, performed on cruises and had a lot of fans.” The quartet went on to record five albums and stayed together for 28 years. All the while, he and Sally raised a family and George built a career as an administrator for a local school district.
He also continued singing with Mile-Hi, which grew and then split into separate strong choruses (Mile-Hi, Denver Tech and the Mountainaires) putting Denver firmly on the international barbershop map. When membership to the three choruses was declining in the late 90s, George helped to spearhead a merger creating the Denver Mile High Chapter whose chorus was officially named Sound of the Rockies in 2000.
“We had some great talent in the Denver area choruses and knew that by bringing them together we could build a very successful organization,” he said. Right from the start, the expectations proved true. Within two years, Sound of the Rockies grew into the premier barbershop chorus in Colorado and one of the top 10 best choruses in the world. Since 2002, the chorus has consistently won the Rocky Mountain District chorus title and placed in the top 10 in international competition — in the top five, nine of those years.
In many ways, barbershop was a family affair in the Davidson household, with everyone pitching in to make the singing schedules work. The best part for George was having the opportunity to sing with his son, Mike. They bookended the quartet Nexus for three years (2006-09), helping the quartet achieve a top-20 ranking internationally.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” George said, insisting that Mike was a better singer than he: “Must have been his mother’s genes!”
Recently, George has taken a step back from the risers, focusing his attention on chorus administration, competition preparation, and producing SOR shows (as well as the past quartet champion show at the international convention each summer.)
“I still have the bug, but now I’m more of the organization guy,” said George. “I want to make sure that everything is in place for Sound of the Rockies so that other guys can have the same, amazing experiences I’ve had.”
To George, this means passing on to new generations the commitment to making good music with a family of like-minded performers, excellence, comradery and the power to inspire and move audiences.