People & Places

Local barbershop quartet to perform at international concert

Switchback qualified for Nashville competition in April

Switchback Quartet (from left: Erik Sherard, Lee Thomsen, John Hayden and Terry Blessing) perform the national anthem before racing action at Van Meter Night - Racing to Make a Difference at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Switchback Quartet (from left: Erik Sherard, Lee Thomsen, John Hayden and Terry Blessing) perform the national anthem before racing action at Van Meter Night - Racing to Make a Difference at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Between 13 kids and full-time jobs, four men still find time to sing together in a quartet — and it’s paid off.

Switchback Quartet, a local barbershop quartet, is set to compete this week at the International Quartet Contest at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“I’m looking forward to the rush of the stage and looking out to see the audience out there,” Lee Thomsen said.

Thomsen sings bass, John Hayden is the lead, Erik Sherard is the baritone and Terry Blessing is tenor for Switchback.

All four have music backgrounds. Hayden and Thomsen are music educators in Benton and Marion schools respectively, while Sherard and Blessing sang together at Luther College. Each has been taking part in barbershop quartets for more than 20 years — “we’ve got a hundred years of experience,” Blessing said, laughing.

“What drew me to barbershop in the first place was the ring that’s created when it’s done right, the high caliber singing that we can do together and then the camaraderie and friendship that comes along with it,” Thomsen said.

The quartet will perform “If I Love Again” and “Taking a Chance on Love” in the competition, against more than 50 other quartets from around the world.

“We’re competing to get better every time we go out there,” Sherard said.

The team qualified for this week’s event at a preliminary competition in April in Omaha.

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Switchback has performed in a variety of settings, from a 90th birthday party to Iowa Lottery commercials and performances with the local Harmony Hawks chorus, Hayden said.

“Once we start to sing, it doesn’t matter what’s been going on all day, it’s gone,” Blessing said. “We’re just here to sing and enjoy it.”

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