Local barbershop singing group reunites after months apart

Posted at 10:20 AM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 19:02:33-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — There's nothing quite like the notes of a song coming together in perfect harmony — and there's nothing quite like old friends coming together after a pandemic spent apart. The Sarpy Serenaders are reuniting after months apart and are continuing their love for music.

"It's the music that brings us together but it's the friendships that keep us together. It's become an alternate family,” said Christopher Bakke, President of the Sarpy Serenaders.

The Sarpy Serenaders are a local barbershop singing group made of older members with a young, vibrant spirit for the craft.

Eighty-eight-year-old Richard Kimball is one of the original members and has been a barbershop singer for 52 years.

"I have never met anyone who's a barbershop that I haven't at least tolerated, " Kimball said.

But 52 years to him is not even close to being enough.

The Sarpy Serenaders had to stop because of the pandemic. Singing was found to be a highly infectious activity and the churches they practiced in were forced to shut down. Slowly, the Sarpy Serenaders lost the music.

"COVID really hurt us because we started missing each other," said Bakke.

Their alternate family was temporarily split up.

"We had some zoom meetings, they're not as good as a rehearsal," said Gene Torrens, Director of the Sarpy Serenaders.

But now, all fully vaccinated and tired of the isolation, they're back with a newfound spirit.

One of their first in-person performances since the pandemic was another young-spirited woman's 94th birthday.

"I asked her if she would like to be serenaded by some very handsome singers and she said yes. And I said, well, I don't have any handsome singers but I have a bunch of guys that would love to sing to you,” Kimball said.

"Well it was wonderful, I didn't think 94 would be so good but it was,” said Jean Gustafson, who celebrated her 94th birthday with the group.

Gustafson celebrated her birthday and the Sarpy Serenaders finally celebrated their reunion, tapping their toes to the music and getting back to that perfect harmony that seemed so far-fetched just one year ago.

The Sarpy Serenaders will be performing at the Bellevue Memorial Cemetery Monday at 10:30am for a special Memorial Day Performance. The group says they are always looking for new members - young and old.

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