'200 songs and 30 years of fun' – singer's long service award

Brian Hocken, a bass singer with the Kings of Herts chorus.

Brian Hocken, a bass singer with the Kings of Herts chorus. - Credit: Kings of Herts

A singer from Harpenden has been awarded a badge commemorating 30 years’ membership of a barbershop association.

Brian Hocken, a bass singer with the Kings of Herts chorus, welcomed the BABS, the British Association of Barbershop Singers, award with just a hint of embarrassment.

“Thirty years’ membership for sure but, of course, no proper chorus singing for the last year because of the COVID-19 virus,” joked Brian.

But he added: “With luck, we will be back to our weekly practice sessions and charity performances later this year and then I’ll start to fill in the missing 12 months!”

Brian Hocken, a bass singer with the Kings of Herts chorus.

Brian Hocken, a bass singer with the Kings of Herts chorus. - Credit: Kings of Herts

Barbershop can sometimes be a challenging pastime but jovial Brian, in charge of the Kings’ performance presentation, is fond of reminding members that it’s “only a hobby” and that it’s “eyebrows up” when you want to impress with a lively performance.

He is proud that the Harpenden-based chorus have not been entirely silenced by the pandemic.

They have put together two virtual performances – one a Christmas broadcast for Luton Airport Chaplaincy charities and another in support of Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

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“Recording at home on your own to a quality that satisfied our brilliant audio mixer was a challenge, but it has helped maintain our sense of togetherness,” said former bank manager Brian, 77, of Claygate Avenue, Harpenden.

"When things change we'll be back with a bang."

Over the years he reckons he has learned close on 200 songs – and enjoyed non-stop fun and friendship.

The chorus is well known for its sing-outs for charities, schools and other organisations, and competes regularly in the national barbershop championships.

Brian moved to Harpenden from London nearly 40 years ago. He and wife Fran, married for 49 years, have two sons and two granddaughters.

He plays piano and guitar and is a member of High Street Methodist Church.

Other chorus colleagues were among this year’s BABS award winners.

Ten-year membership badges went to Richard Burton, 70, of Churchfield, Harpenden, who was a senior firefighter with London Fire Brigade for 30 years, and to Peter Underhill, 82, a former design engineer, of Grove Avenue, Harpenden.

The Kings welcome applications from all ages and backgrounds and from all over Hertfordshire.

The past year’s pandemic stymied a big recruitment campaign, but it will be revived when circumstances allow.

In the meantime, interested men can find out more about the chorus at www.kingsofherts.co.uk

“You don’t have to read music to take part and you don’t have to be retired, but energetic eyebrows are definitely a help,” joked Brian.

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