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Program 1020

1. the Kentuckians Chorus
2. the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
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Fayette County

For more information:
The Kentuckians Chorus, (859) 272-0575
Barbershop Harmony Society

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographers: John Breslin, George Murphy, Brandon Wickey, John Zehnder
Audio: Charlie Bissell, Brent Abshear
Editors: Joy Flynn, Dan Taulbee


Sweet Har-mo-ny

The Kentuckians Chorus

Who needs instruments? Take one lead singer, one bass, one baritone, and one tenor, and you can make the beautiful a cappella music known as barbershop quartet singing. Assign multiple singers to each of the parts, and you can have something like the Kentuckians Chorus, which stars in this segment.

The members of the Lexington-based Kentuckians Chorus are not professional musicians. They get together and sing to express their creative sides, to form and sustain friendships, to develop their musical skills ... and just to have fun. As one member has put it, “You can’t be angry and sing at the same time.”

That’s not to say they don’t take the music seriously, of course. On our visit, we see the chorus rehearsing for and then performing in a regional competition in Louisville.

We also learn a little about the history of this distinctive American musical form, which originated around the turn of the 20th century. Though the stereotypical image of the barbershop quartet is of white men with handlebar mustaches, straw hats, and striped jackets, the music probably grew out of traditional African-American forms based on call-and-response patterns, strong rhythms, and close harmony. It is related to various other types of harmony singing, from gospel quartets to street-corner doo wop, but distinguished from them by a unique vocabulary of chords and voicings codified in the 1950s.

For many years, the arbiter of all things barbershop was SPEBSQSA, the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. The organization, now known by the somewhat easier-on-the-tongue name Barbershop Harmony Society, runs competitions nationwide as well as various outreach efforts to get more people involved in barbershop singing—thus preserving the “encouragement” part of its former name.

Guests and prospective new members are always welcome at the Kentuckians Chorus practices every Tuesday night at Lexington’s Grace Baptist Church. The group is men-only ... but ladies who might be interested in barbershop singing are encouraged to seek out a local chapter of the Sweet Adelines.

Watch This Story (14:42)




Fayette County

For more information:
Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Lexington, KY 40506, (859) 257-4302

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographers: Jeff Franklin, Haven Miller
Editor: Dan Taulbee


From the Colleges to the Communities

Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

At Kentucky Life, we work hard to get around the state and into as many different communities as we can. In the first segment for this edition, we salute another organization dedicated to reaching out to all Kentuckians: the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

The basic idea behind the CES, which was formed in 1914, is to take the things being learned in research facilities at universities and translate them into ways to better the lives of the citizens. It is based at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and administered in conjunction with Kentucky’s other land-grant college, Kentucky State University. But people throughout the state usually come into contact with the Extension Service much closer to their own homes, thanks to the network of local extension agents—one in every one of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

The extension service is part of UK’s College of Agriculture, and since the start many of its programs have been aimed at helping farmers. (KSU also started out as an agricultural/mechanical training school and teacher’s college for African Americans in the days of segregation.) But as Kentucky’s population has become more urban-based, and as the universities’ research efforts have expanded into a multitude of other areas, CES activities have evolved, too. Today, extension agents run programs and offer resources on everything from disaster relief to individual health. The official statement of purpose lists five main areas of emphasis:

  • sustaining agriculture and forestry
  • protecting the environment
  • maintaining viable communities
  • developing responsible youth
  • developing strong, healthy, and safe families

Also like Kentucky Life, the Extension folks produce a regular TV program about their efforts. Our sampling of the far-flung activities of the service, ranging from 4-H clubs for Hispanic youth to a project that helps senior citizens get Internet access, features clips from that series, Extension Today: On the Air.

Watch This Story (8:33)


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