Editor’s note: “There’s nothing to do in the Tri-Cities.” It’s a common complaint, but it’s just not true — and we’ll prove it. In an occasional series called Go Tri-Cities, the Herald highlights activities around the region, from board game nights to art classes, hikes and salsa dancing.
Go to www.tricityherald.com/go to read this and other stories.
Paper Street Brewing Co. was busy — full of patrons drinking and having a good time.
Then, Ted Miller stood up on a bench.
“We’re going to start with No. 7,” he said, sheet music in hand. And the Richland alehouse erupted into song.
“Dough, the stuff that buys me beer. Ray, the guy who serves my beer. Me, the guy who drinks my beer. Far, a long, long way for beer,” Miller and others sang, to the tune of The Sound of Music’s Do-Re-Mi.
Paper Street, in The Parkway, is the site of monthly gatherings of a new, loose Tri-City musical consortium — one that’s about singing and fun and beer.
It’s called Beer Choir: Atomic Chapter.
It’s sponsored by Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, an auditioned choir that aims to transform lives through the power of choral music.
“We believe that there is power in voices being raised together,” said John Masulonis, Mastersingers board president.
“In this setting, we aren’t doing fine, classical music that is perfectly tuned. We’re just relaxing and having fun. And it becomes contagious, and I love that,” he said.
With the local Beer Choir, you don’t have to be part of Mastersingers. In fact, you don’t have to be a singer at all.
“You just have to want to have fun,” said Miller, a Mastersingers board member who helped lead the singing last week.
Fun was in abundant supply at Paper Street. Beer Choir singers started arriving a little before 6:30 p.m.
Soon, copies of the “Beer Choir Hymnal” were passed around and the singing began.
The Beer Choir sang Dough-Ray-Me. They sang Drunken Sailor, a rousing tune that had people pounding hands and beer glasses on tables and feet on the floor in time.
They sang the Beer Choir Theme Song. “The Beer Choir is the choir that sings while drinking beer,” it goes. “… So, bottoms up! Cheers! Let’s sing while drinking beer!”
The local Beer Choir is part of a growing network of chapters around the country — and part of a long tradition of singing and drinking in pubs.
Reg Unterseher, Mastersingers associate conductor, learned about the network at a conference. The first Beer Choir: Atomic Chapter event was in late June, and it drew several dozen people on short notice.
About 30 minutes into last week’s Beer Choir gathering, Paper Street was packed and more people kept pouring in.
Justin Raffa, Mastersingers artistic director, said his group sees Beer Choir as a way to break down barriers.
People sometimes are intimidated at the thought of attending a choir concert, or they’re too self-conscious to trying lifting their own voices in public. But Beer Choir is informal and the songs are easy to learn. “It’s like a big, simple group singalong,” Raffa said.
At Paper Street, some people showed up especially for Beer Choir.
Others just happened to be at the alehouse when the singing broke out.
That was the case for Ken and Terrie Mead of Richland. They were offered hymnals but preferred to listen.
They liked what they heard. “It’s good. It’s fun,” Terrie said.
Another couple, Joe and Rosemary Nelson of Richland, also seemed to be having a good time.
They heard about Beer Choir and wanted to check it out. They ordered drinks, played cards and sang along when the music broke out.
“I think singing makes people happy,” Rosemary said.
“Especially when combined with beer,” added Joe.
Rosemary nodded and smiled.
“I just think it lifts your spirit when you sing,” she said.
Beer Choir: Atomic Chapter meets the fourth Thursday of the month at Paper Street Brewing Co., 701 The Parkway.