Larry Harman and I first met in 1971 as freshmen at William Jewell College. He was one of the cool kids, self-assured, immediately well-known, while I was more hesitant, in the background, watching from afar. As far as I know, we were the only two kids in that class to be at Jewell on music scholarships who were not music majors. He made a big splash in the Concert Choir; I was afraid to audition. He was the star of the Fiji musical skit; I watched from the balcony. But we were friends.
As our college years passed, Terry Teachout (you’ve heard about him) and Dr. Forbis convinced me that I could sing, so eventually Larry asked me to fill in for the regular soloist in his jazz combo. He played every Saturday night at the St. Joe Shriner’s Club, and I got my first taste of singing with a band, which I loved.
Over the years, Larry and I have stayed in touch, because just as we were both the non-major musicians back then, we both ended up as lawyers. He is now the Presiding Judge in Liberty (Clay County), and Max ends up appearing in front of him quite often. Who knew?
Well, Larry and his wife, Debbie, ran into Max and me at a party in Liberty, and he told me about his newest musical achievement – Two and a Half Tenors. Larry had met Bryan Taylor, also a Jewell grad, but much younger, who is the music director at the Liberty United Methodist Church. A few years ago, he asked Larry’s daughter to sing a solo. She then convinced Larry to join the choir.
A little after he began singing in the choir, he and Bryan did some duets. Then Larry heard another tenor voice in the choir, that of Steve Waters. Larry was sure that the three of them would sound good together, and so with his formidable powers of persuasion, he convinced Steve and Bryan to form a group that sings all kinds of music – Broadway show tunes, sacred music, and other classical and popular music. Thus, Two and a Half Tenors was born!
Larry’s musical background is pretty spectacular, but when he told me about Bryan Taylor, my eyes widened. Bryan sings with the Kansas City Chorale, a group that won a Grammy last year and has another under its belt. He also has sung in Carnegie Hall, currently directs the Liberty Community Chorus, and has started a group called Worship Through the Arts, which is dedicated to bringing the arts – not just music, but also dance and visual arts – to the church. This program has sponsored contemporary Christian music groups, Kansas City’s legendary jazz singer Ida McBeth and her group, as well as regional artists, such as the Annie Moses Band, and Mark Schultz. I admit my prior ignorance of these last two artists, but I Googled them and was quite impressed.
Steve Waters is also a musician who not only sings, but also is a very busy piano technician, tuning pianos in Kansas City area homes, and those in schools and organizations. Originally from a small Missouri town, he graduated from UCM with a music education degree, and directed a church choir. He also has taught private brass lessons.
Rounding out the group is a most necessary party – the accompanist. The group’s usual accompanist, Sharon Parker, is not going to be with the Tenors on Sunday, as she had to undergo some kind of surgery on her foot – which I’m sure would affect her pedaling! Instead, Eryn Bates, yet another Jewell grad, will act as the Tenors’ accompanist. Eryn is on the teaching staff at William Jewell, and, according to Larry, has great talent.
The group did its first concert as a benefit for the Corbin Theatre on the Liberty Square, where Larry performs in a jazz group once a month. For that first concert, held at Belvoir Winery in Liberty, about 100 people were on the waiting list for tickets. The Tenors did their next concert at a larger venue – the Liberty United Methodist Church – and another 100 people were on the waiting list. Since that time, Two and a Half Tenors have performed in many different locations, including Farris Hall in Richmond, Missouri – and soon, Sedalia!
When Larry and I met at the party in Liberty, he played an iPhone recording of the group singing special music on Mother’s Day. I immediately asked Larry if they would come to Sedalia to perform, and he jumped at the chance. He says that the group loves performing, taking musical notes that are written on a piece of paper, and then transforming those inanimate objects into beauty that can touch a person’s heart. “We love doing music,” he told me on Tuesday, as he scoped out Broadway’s sanctuary and sound system. “Over the past couple of years, we have developed a real affection for each other, kind of like brothers – brothers who quarrel occasionally!”
I asked him why he began the group – why he still has the desire to perform. “My Dad was a professional musician for a while,” he said. “My Mom walked door to door selling Avon so my sister and I could have a piano and drums and lessons. So I sing and hope they are listening. And besides,” he continued, “music happens when your emotions embrace your soul. That’s magic."
I am excited to present this concert for music and arts lovers in Sedalia – and soon-to-be music lovers - and I hope that plenty of people will turn out for a special night. The program begins at 7 and admission is free. We will take up a “love offering” to help defray costs, and, we will also provide refreshments after the program.
Many times, I stand back and look at the connections I have made over my lifetime and am surprised about how they weave into and out of my days. This is one connection that I am happy to have kept, and after you hear Two and a Half Tenors, I think you will be happy about it, too.