Christian Aldridge and his friends, Chris O’Meara, Zach Polentini and Brody Burkart, sing the kind of barbershop arrangements Aldridge’s grandfather use to sing.
The Huntley High School barbershop quartet, called The Sharp Set, has something else in common with Aldridge’s late grandfather.
The Sharp Set is the Illinois State Barbershop Quartet champion, a title J.D. Aldridge once held.
“It was huge for my family, it was really, really cool,” said Aldridge, the group’s tenor. His grandfather died when Aldridge was a year old. “My grandmother was so proud. My dad was so proud.”
It’s also huge for .
“Everybody seems pretty excited because it’s such a widespread competition, we took first and second in the entire Illinois district. Everyone is treating it as a very big victory,” said O’Meara, who sings bass.
“Chris and I tried for three years to get a district,” Aldridge said. “It’s a really, really cool experience to finally have gotten it.”
Aldridge and O’Meara joined the group as sophomores. Polentini joined last year and Burkhart was added this year.
For the competition, the quartet sand Heart of My Heart and Who Will Buy — both are barbershop standards, said O’Meara. He also has performed in many Huntley High musicals.
The Sharp Set is the keeper of the competition’s traveling trophy, which will be displayed at the high school until next year. Each member got an individual plaque.
The trophy will remain behind as the four go off to college. Aldridge is headed to Carthage College in Wisconsin and O’Meara plans to attend Oakland University in Michigan.
Polentini, who is attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was drawn to barbershop because he wanted to help get the genre out there, he said. It used to be a much more popular style of music that has become a small niche, he said. Yet, it requires skill and practice, he said.
“As a musician, it was an endeavor very worth getting into,” he said.
His background is guitar and he’s been singing in the chorus since sixth grade. Polentini joined The Sharp Set last year as baritone.
The members of the group have extensive musical background, either playing various instruments or singing in the choir.
Burkhart has been singing all his life. He has another passion, baseball, which he is pursing at North Park University in Chicago. He may join another choir, a gospel choir, to keep his skills up.
The experience with The Sharp Set has been exciting, he said.
“It actually feels really good,” he said. “This is the first year Huntley has come in first and second. It was an eye-opening experience and a good thing to start the history for Huntley.”
The Sharp Set members practiced two days a week and their choir director arranged for a barbershop performers group from an Elgin club to practice with the quartet every week.
The number of barbershop quartets has decreased from 35,000 25 years ago to 24,000 today, lead singer Burkhart said. There is less awareness and not enough people doing it, he said.
“I love it personally, we all do,” he said.