Harpenden bank manager celebrates 25 years of barbershop singing

Picture shows Brian (left) receiving the congratulations of musical director Roger Chantrelle.

Picture shows Brian (left) receiving the congratulations of musical director Roger Chantrelle. - Credit: Archant

A former bank manager who took up four-part barbershop singing as a hobby is celebrating 25 years of harmonious enjoyment with a hearty recommendation to other men to give it a try.

Brian Hocken, 72, of Claygate Avenue, Harpenden, who sings with the 45-strong Harpenden-based Kings of Herts chorus, was awarded his 25-year membership badge by the British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS).

He said: “Amazing how quickly time flies. That’s a lot of songs learned, about 150 I reckon, and non-stop fun and friendship all the way,”

A North Londoner, Brian moved to Harpenden 34 years ago and started out with the Short Back and Sides harmony club in Wheathampstead in 1983 which later changed its name to Kings of Herts. He joined the national association three years after taking up barbershop singing.

For a while Brian also sang with the Knaves of Herts, a spin-off chorus which went out and about entertaining local groups and charities, including regular performances at the Grove House hospice drop-in centre in St Albans.

A Kings’ highlight was singing in the chorus that came 10th in the fiercely contested BABS annual championships in Brighton. Another was a House of Commons performance arranged through member Andrew Madel, brother of the then MP for South West Bedfordshire Sir David Madel.

Brian, who is currently the club’s auditor and in charge of presentation, said: “Our current musical director Roger Chantrelle reminds us all the time that this is a hobby, so enjoy it, and that is what we do. It has been a wonderfully relaxing part of my life.”

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Sing-outs are a regular feature of club activity and much enjoyed, he went on. “We sang for 300 primary children in Oxhey recently, a memorable event for them and for us.”

Brian, who plays piano and guitar, also sings at the Harpenden High Street Methodist Church.

He has been married for 42 years and has two sons and two granddaughters. Wife Fran has been a great support “although she has heard some of the songs so often she tends to glaze over after 15 minutes,” joked Brian.

He recommends interested men to take a look at the Kings website. “You don’t have to read music to take part,” he pointed out.