Lifelong Elgin man credits barbershop singing with enhancing his life

Lifelong Elgin man credits barbershop singing with enhancing his life

  • Carl Missele of Elgin has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953, recently with The Mood Makers at the Fox Valley Men of Harmony's concert at First United Methodist Church in Elgin. From left are Missele, Dennis Toren, John Schultz and Gene Woolcott, all of Elgin.

    Carl Missele of Elgin has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953, recently with The Mood Makers at the Fox Valley Men of Harmony's concert at First United Methodist Church in Elgin. From left are Missele, Dennis Toren, John Schultz and Gene Woolcott, all of Elgin. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Between songs at the rehearsal for the Fox Valley Men of Harmony's annual show, Carl Missele of Elgin and others share a chuckle. Missele, who sings baritone, has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953.

    Between songs at the rehearsal for the Fox Valley Men of Harmony's annual show, Carl Missele of Elgin and others share a chuckle. Missele, who sings baritone, has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Missele of Elgin and members of the Fox Valley Men of Harmony in a dress rehearsal for their show.

    Missele of Elgin and members of the Fox Valley Men of Harmony in a dress rehearsal for their show. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Now 80 years old, Missele estimates he's been in about 15 quartets over the years. On the far left of each portrait stands Missele in two different groups from his past. On the left is the Valley Four-gers, and on right is the Elgin Minutemen of Harmony.

    Now 80 years old, Missele estimates he's been in about 15 quartets over the years. On the far left of each portrait stands Missele in two different groups from his past. On the left is the Valley Four-gers, and on right is the Elgin Minutemen of Harmony. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Carl Missele, standing, and the Mood Makers quartet rehearse once a week in Missele's home.

    Carl Missele, standing, and the Mood Makers quartet rehearse once a week in Missele's home. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Carl Missele of Elgin, third from left, and members of the Fox Valley Men of Harmony rehearse at the First United Methodist Church for their annual concert. Missele has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953.

    Carl Missele of Elgin, third from left, and members of the Fox Valley Men of Harmony rehearse at the First United Methodist Church for their annual concert. Missele has been singing in barbershop quartets since 1953. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Carl Missele and the Mood Makers quartet rehearse once a week at Missele's home.

    Carl Missele and the Mood Makers quartet rehearse once a week at Missele's home. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/27/2015 6:13 AM

Back in 1953, Elgin High School senior Carl Missele joined a barbershop quartet. Fast forward 62 years and about 15 quartets later and the lifelong Elgin resident is still singing to his heart's content.

For those unfamiliar, a barbershop quartet features four singers who each perform distinct parts: bass, baritone, lead and tenor.

 

"Barbershop is telling a simple story," Missele said, but that storytelling requires a lot of energy to engage and delight an audience. Eye contact, hand moment and body gestures all add to a performance in an attempt to make an emotional connection with an audience.

"That's why we sing, there's no question about it," Missele said. "It really, really is an emotional experience. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Born and raised in Elgin, Missele picked up singing all on his own when he was just a kid. He never had any formal training in singing or reading music. But the family had a radio and he was glued to it as a kid. In junior high, he and a piano-playing friend often would collaborate in the basement with music.

"I would sing, he would play, and we would sing and play until all hours of the morning," Missele recalls.

He joined the junior high school choir and eventually became part of a double quartet. While attending Elgin High School, he was in the school's a cappella choir and in his senior year, 1953, he joined a barbershop quartet as a lead. He would sing lead for about the next 20 years, until a local quartet was in need of a baritone and Missele stepped up to fill the position in 1972. He throughly enjoyed the new position and has been a baritone ever since.

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Through the years, Missele, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, estimates he's been in about 15 different quartets, with names such as the Kord Kids, the Houligans, the Critics Choice, the Mad Caps, and Noname Quartet. For more than 30 years, he was part of The Valley Four-gers, an award-winning quartet that performed all over the country.

Missele also has been a member of the Fox Valley Men of Harmony, a men's barbershop show chorus, for 58 years, and is one of the longest-standing members of the club, which was created in 1946. Within the choir are four quartets, including the Mood Makers, a group Missele and three FVMH members created five years ago. The Mood Makers perform often for local organizations and events in the area. Recently they performed for seniors at Clare Oaks Retirement Community in Bartlett.

Missele's eyes brighten as he talks about his love of singing in a quartet. He describes the point in a song when their voices simultaneously hit a note and resonate, or as they call it, "locking a chord."

"When you lock a chord, your whole body feels the vibrations that you're generating," he said.

Missele smiles and his voice sparks with excitement as he describes the experience as feeling like, "'Wow! Just wow! Was that great! Geez! Let's do it again!'"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Missele, who retired from a career in engineering in 1998, credits his experiences in barbershop singing with helping him in many areas of his life.

"With all of the contact I've had with people, singing and entertaining, just being out on the road, meeting a lot of people, it's given me a lot of confidence.

"I'm not overconfident; I'm just comfortable with a lot of people. Made a lot of great friends. It's a life enriching experience, it really is."

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