Close harmony is the specialty of Joel Just (front) and (back from left)
John Beiseigel, Lee Halvorsen and Bruce Smith.
By Heather Darrow
Not many things make the hair on your arm stand on end, but when four a cappella singers in the Plano-based performing group 4 Ever Young harmonize and hit the perfect chord simultaneously, both the singers and the audience feel the power of music.
Performing a cappella 50's and 60's rock 'n roll, the 4 Ever Young vocal group was established in 1997. Members John Beiseigel (bass), Lee Halvorsen (second tenor), Joel Just (baritone) and Bruce Smith (first tenor), perform well known favorites including "Blue Moon," "Barbara Ann," "Book of Love," "Charlie Brown," "Goodnight Sweetheart" and "In the Still of the Night" throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
According to Beiseigel, 4 Ever Young is not like any other a cappella vocal group. The members forge a bond with their audience and have their own style.
"We bring the discipline of close harmony, hitting the perfect chord, to Doo-Wop. If you can do that with four guys, it is an incredible high. This style has helped differentiate us from other a cappella groups and is what makes us unique," said Beiseigel.
Another quality that sets this group apart is the consistent number of performance hours they give back to the community. While 4 Ever Young is a for-profit group performing at parties, corporate functions and conventions, they have made a conscious effort to perform pro-bono. In addition to performing in area clubs, concert halls, the Ballpark in Arlington and on TV, group members give their talent freely to the American Cancer Society, Help for Helpless Animals, and Artistic Recreational Therapeutic Services (ARTS) for People.
Monica Elsbrock-Boyd, executive director of ARTS for People, says 4 Ever Young is at the top of their most requested professional musician list.
"They volunteer with us as part of their own philanthropy. They've given thousands and thousands of dollars of their time, and I find them easy and professional to deal with," she said.
Judging by their repertoire, you might think that these musicians grew up in the 50's and 60's, but that is not the case for all of the members of this group. While the oldest singer of 4 Ever Young is 56, the youngest member is 31.
Bruce "Bobo" Smith, the eldest member of the group, is a decorated U.S. Army Vietnam veteran who also sings in the Plano-based Lady and the Tramps a cappella quartet. Retired from Mobil Oil Corp., Smith is currently a property manager of a business park in Carrollton. For Smith, Doo-Wop is a case of what was good then is still good now. When he was 15-years-old, he stood spellbound watching street corner performers sing the very songs he sings today.
"Back then," Smith says with a chuckle, "they weren't oldies. This is the music of my childhood. I stood there with my mouth open wondering 'How do they do that?' Doo-Wop is a primitive form of a cappella; something about it goes right into your soul. You feel it."
In contrast, "Iceman" Lee Halvorsen is in his thirties, and while he enjoys Doo-Wop, he also listens to country and pop rock. A software engineer at Raytheon, Halvorsen is a lead singer in the Plano Men of Note Chorus and has performed the national anthem at the Ballpark in Arlington numerous times. A composer and acoustic guitar player, he has been singing since he was six-years-old. Though Smith and Halvorsen both sing tenor, the reason they choose to perform professionally is very different.
"Music provides an outlet to express my deep feelings and emotions and really connect with people. This group gives me the ability to be in front of an audience and do that," said Halvorsen.
Halvorsen readily admits that singing with his fellow Doo-Wop performers for seven years has made the members of this vocal group a family. Success, hardship and tragedy, like the loss of Beiseigel's first wife to cancer, have all played a part in the strong friendship 4 Ever Young shares.
John Beiseigel, better known as "Big John," is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a project engineer with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. The bass section leader for the Praise and Worship team choir at Grace Outreach Center in Plano, he claims he was born with a passion for Doo-Wop and has been listening to strains of the music since he was six. For Beiseigel, performing is an interactive experience. He recalls a concert for Southwest Airlines with a crowd of 1,700 people dancing and cheering.
"It feeds on itself. We elevate our performance and they elevate their applause, and it just ratchets up. Children from age three to eight sit down in front and listen in earnest. Seeing the joy on these children's faces is thrilling. There are not many things that speak to kids in a positive way, but our music is one of them," said Beiseigel.
Whether they are performing for a sold-out crowd at a paid gig or in a hospital hallway giving back to the community, the group gets the same high sharing their musical skill.
"There is nothing like the feeling we get when we can take away people's suffering, even if it is just for a little while. We see their feet tapping to the music and that just feels so good," said Beiseigel.
Joel "JJ" Just agrees. A Plano resident, Just is a software designer at Nortel Networks. He has performed twice in Carnegie Hall in New York and is a member of the Plano Civic Chorus and The Texas Voices, a Plano-based classical ensemble.
"It is important to give back. We are fortunate to be able to sing together. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community because we enjoy it, and it seems like they do, too. It is the least we can do," said Just.
According to Betty Dunnam, director of recreation at Health South Rehabilitation Center in Plano, 95 percent of her patients are in wheelchairs, and when 4 Ever Young visits she hears about the fun they had for a whole week after the performance.
"My patients like them so well because their music is from the 50's and 60's. It takes them back to a happier time; it is like they are at their own prom. The way 4 Ever Young harmonizes, it frees the patients' from their wheelchairs -- you can see it on their faces. You see them tapping their toes and fingers. This group cares; they interact with the patients. One member of the group may go on his knee and hold a patient's hand, and it is like he is singing just for her. I want something wholesome and that gives good messages, and their music does that. Their music strikes a chord in your memory and heart," said Dunnam.