Singing about Love with The Black Canyon Barbershop Chorus

By Liesl Greathouse

Members of the 2012 Black Canyon Barbershop Chorus perform. Courtesy photo.

MONTROSE—(January 1) Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if you are trying to come up with the perfect gift, a Singing Valentine may be just the thing.  And the men who perform these unique gifts are part of The Black Canyon Barbershop Chorus.

The Black Canyon Barbershop Chorus was started in 1976 by a small group of men who liked to sing.  It is the only premier a capella male barbershop harmony chorus in the Montrose, Delta and Cedaredge area.  It is a non-profit organization, singing at state parks, nursing homes, public events and private gatherings.

Barbershop Singing is where a group of men sing in harmony without instrument accompaniment, normally in quartets and sometimes in a chorus.  It is great for men of all singing types, whether they are experienced or beginner musicians.

Dennis Olmstead has been part of the Black Canyon Chorus for eight years and is on the board of directors.  “We are just a bunch of guys who love each other’s company and who like singing,” he said.  “We provide excellent music to the community while having fun doing it.”

The Black Canyon Chorus sings a variety of old and new songs.  They sing western, pop, show, gospel, love, and even some humorous songs.  They also sing traditional barbershop music such as Sweet Adeline and Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Members of the Black Canyon Chorus come from all over the Gunnison and Uncompahgre River Valleys in Delta and Montrose Counties. They presently have 33 members and are always welcoming to new people.

One of the main events that the Black Canyon Chorus does is Singing Valentines.  This year they will perform their Singing Valentines on Thursday Feb. 14 from 9 a.m.-7 p.m, in Cedaredge, Delta, Olathe, Montrose and Ridgeway.  For $40 a person can get a quartet to sing to their loved one, with a rose included.  For $50 a quartet will come and sing to a group at an office (although, no roses).

When they do their Singing Valentines, the group occasionally gets some unusual requests.  “Normally our unusual requests have to do with where we sing,” Olmstead explained.  “We have sung to guys at factories and construction sites, as well as to teachers in their classrooms.”

The Black Canyon Chorus is also available to sing at fundraisers, parties, or social events.  Fees depend on the length and type of performance.

Recently, the Black Canyon Chorus performed at a birthday party for a man’s 80th birthday.  “His children wanted our whole chorus to perform, which can be hard to gather together,” Olmstead said.  “But we did it, and all 23 of us at the time went to the party.  Apparently the man, earlier in his life, was a barbershop member, so he was really surprised and happy.  We had a lot of fun and so did he.”

Funds obtained from their annual show, which will be on June 15, and the Singing Valentines allows the Black Canyon Chorus to purchase music, hire a professional music director, make a donation to the church where they practice and to cover the expenses of their annual show guest quartet and the Pavilion.

“There are no requirements to becoming a member,” Olmstead explained.  “You just have to be male and have an interest in singing.  People can go to our website to learn more information and then visit one of our meetings.”

The Black Canyon Chorus meets every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at the Olathe United Methodist Church, 518 Hersum Street in Olathe.  People are always welcome to come watch or join in the singing.

Olmstead said that the best part of being in the Black Canyon Barbershop Chorus is making people happy.  “We really have a great time singing to people,” he said.  “I just love bringing music to people in the community.”

For more information, go online to, call 970-596-3196 to learn more about the Singing Valentines, or call 970-486-0126 to learn more about the Black Canyon Chorus itself.