NU’s only barbershop quartet performs in Norris

Becky Bowman

After six months of singing in stairwells and a Fall Quarter show at The Rock, Northwestern’s only barbershop quartet performed Tuesday night for 30 students in Norris University Center’s Higher Grounds.

Jared Kassebaum, Michael Mahler, Sean Morse and Zachary “Ranger” Rogers founded The Dateables six months ago and established a following by singing in the stairwells of Jones Fine and Performing Arts Residential College. Mahler often arranges songs for the group.

They will participate next weekend in a competition in Peoria hosted by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America Inc., a group of older barbershop singers who support the tradition by mentoring younger artists, said Kassebaum, a McCormick freshman. The national competition will be held in Nashville, Tenn., from June 30 to July 8.

“I want to be the youngest guy ever to win an international medal,” Kassebaum said.

Leigh Jansson, Laura Lee and Erin Michael, self-described Dateables “groupies,” showed up for the Tuesday night show to hear songs such as “When I’m Sixty-Four” by The Beatles and “Aquarius” from the musical “Hair.” The girls said they enjoy hearing the group rehearse in the practice rooms, halls and stairwells of Jones because hearing the boys sing brightens their day.

“We can be in the worst of moods ever, and if they sing for us, everything’s fine,” said Michael, a Speech freshman.

Evan Silverman, a Weinberg freshman and a member of the a cappella group Aural Fixation, also attended the Tuesday night show.

“It’s a simple medium, a throwback to another era,” Silverman said. “It gets to the kernel of what music should be, that voices need to blend perfectly well.

“Still,” he added, “they retain the fun that they have on stage, like I’ve seen with other groups here.”

With busy lives, The Dateables have trouble finding time to rehearse, often settling for a time slot somewhere between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m in the Jones Great Room. They said the late hour often leads to crazy practices.

“It’s not unlike us to decide we’re going to sing a song while running backwards or an octave lower than usual,” Kassebaum said.

Kassebaum and Rogers, an Education junior, sang together in a high school quartet in Belleville. Plans to form a new group began the night Kassebaum made the decision to attend NU. Once at school, he and Rogers recruited Mahler and Morse to fill their ranks.

Morse, the only non-dateable member of the group, created the group’s name. His six-month anniversary with his girlfriend was Tuesday.

The group has been coached this year by Ron Rank, whom Kassebaum met at a barbershop chorus in Belleville. They said Rank, who lives in Grayslake, has been a big help, donating his time and aiding in the search for quality quartet music.

The group will go on hiatus next year when Morse graduates and Kassebaum travels to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study abroad.

“We’ll pick it up somewhere down the line,” Morse said.