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Sing so they shall speak

Barbershop singers offer hope through Harmonize for Speech Fund

by Crystal Lamb | March 30, 2016

Sing so they shall speak
The London Men of Accord

Every Monday evening, a group of men gather in south London’s Harmony Manor to sing, harmonize and share in their love of a cappella music.

Surrounded by photos of the decades of barbershop quartets and choruses who have come before them, the London Men of Accord are proud of their barbershopper roots and inspired by their motto: “We sing so they shall speak.”

From providing textbooks to creating scholarships to funding building renovations, the Ontario District Barbershop Harmony Society, of which the London Men of Accord are chapter members, has supported Western’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Faculty of Health Sciences for more than 20 years through its Harmonize for Speech Fund.

The school offers graduate programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology and is home to the National Centre for Audiology and H. A. Leeper Speech Hearing Clinic, Canada’s largest on-site speech and hearing clinic. Students and faculty at the school conduct research on a wide range of areas, including normal and disordered speech production and perception, language disorders, swallowing, hearing by normally hearing and hearing-impaired listeners, as well as the causes and treatment of hearing loss.

Supporting the school is a perfect fit for the Harmony Society, explained Dave Earle, Secretary and Treasurer of the London Men of Accord. As part of the the Ontario District Barbershop Harmony Society (part of the larger Barbershop Harmony Society, formerly the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America), the group’s mission is to bring men together in harmony and fellowship to enrich lives through singing.

Since its founding in 1977 by Toronto barbershopper George Shields, the Harmonize for Speech Fund has raised more than $5 million in support of communication disorders in Ontario. It is run entirely by volunteers and administered by a board of trustees, with individual chapters raising money through performances, fundraising events and membership dues.

“When the fund was set up, the chapters were looking for humanitarian projects to support related to what we do as barbershoppers and came across children with speech problems,” Earle said. “By providing the support we do to the school and in the community, we hope we can help the clinicians doing the work and have an impact on the future of those kids, as well.”

The group also funds projects at hospitals, camps, centres for speech and other organizations.

Since embarking upon its relationship with the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the Society has generously given more than $100,000 in support of scholarships, resources and building renovations, impacting countless lives and enhancing academics, research, service, teaching and student support, said Dr. J. B. Orange, Director.

“For decades, the barbershoppers have been ardent supporters and champions of our work and our students,” he said. “They are plugged into so many aspects of our program, providing financial support, moral support and even entertainment for the people our school serves. Their work to advance the profession and assist our students to move forward to make a difference in the lives of others is incredibly honorable. They are selfless people who work on our behalf, our students’ behalf and the behalf of those whom we serve.”

In addition to funding the Cam Miller Harmonize for Speech Graduating Awards, the Cam Miller Harmonize for Speech Continuing Awards and the Barbershoppers Entrance Awards (all named after the longtime barbershopper and dedicated champion of the school), the Society also offsets costs for an intensive summer program offered by the school for children and adults who stutter and contributes to the cost of providing course textbooks to students.

Kathleen Powell, BA’04, MClSc’07, was the recipient of multiple awards funded by the Society while completing her degree. Now a speech-language pathologist and clinical supervisor at TykeTALK in the Leeper Clinic, Powell has her “dream job” working with children from birth to school-age with speech and/or language difficulties.

“I am completely dedicated and passionate about my profession and the work I get to do in my community. We’re really touching families and making a significant impact on the lives of children with communication difficulties,” she said.

Having witnessed the support the Society provides to the program “from start to finish,” Powell is inspired by the group’s commitment to providing resources to those who need them.

“It’s very meaningful to have received an award from such an amazing organization that promotes communication and supports the community in so many ways,” she continued. “I’m so proud to have been part of their story.”

Despite declining membership over the years, Earle believes the barbershoppers’ story will continue long into the future, as will their commitment to bringing happiness to others through song.

“Music is good for the health. It gets the endorphins going and makes people feel good,” he said with a smile. “Also, there’s a certain pride that we’re able to do all of these philanthropic things while also pursuing our hobby. There’s a real correlation and it’s nice to give something back since we get so much joy out of our hobby.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of Impact Western
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