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Michigan Jake History

Michigan Jake

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Based in: Louisville, United States.

In 1983 Mark Hale and Greg Hollander joined the Barbershop Harmony Society. They quickly became friends and started singing in a quartet together within two months. This quartet, the Sound System, started with Mark on tenor and Greg on Baritone, but soon Greg moved to Bass and Mark moved to Baritone. Along with Phil Kinser, lead, and Mike Wheeley, tenor, they sang together for about five years, winning a district championship and competing at the International Competition in 1988. They retired in 1990.

By 1992 Mark had moved to Louisville and, with David Harrington, formed the Louisville Times Chorus. David's quartet, the Second Edition, had just recently retired and there was a lot of excitement over starting something new. As the chorus began to build steam a new quartet was in the works with David on lead, Mark on baritone, Greg on bass, and Mark Bowman from Cincinnati on tenor. The quartet became known as A Few Good Men and won the right to compete at the International Competition in Pittsburgh in 1994. As luck would have it, David and the other Harrington Brothers were immediately offered a job performing on a professional show in Myrtle Beach, so the quartet was forced to disband after being together only about six weeks.

The desire to start another quartet hit again around the summer of 1995. The Louisville Times had just competed at their first International Competition and were in full swing. The section leaders often would step forward and demonstrate various techniques for the chorus and it was discovered that they had quite a blend.

They were Mark on lead, Greg on bass, Gary Davis on baritone, and Mark's brother Christopher Hale on tenor. Christopher had recently moved to Louisville to attend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pursuing a Masters in Church Music. Shortly after the Miami convention the foursome started to rehearse with the Cardinal District Quartet Contest being their first short term goal. They chose the name Michigan Jake, a takeoff of the Warner Brothers singing frog, because it represented where they had first started to hear the old songs--on Bugs Bunny cartoons. They went on to win the contest by a much larger score than they had imagined.

The quartet placed tenth in their first International Competition in 1996 and then eighth the next year. By March of 1998 they found themselves in need of a new baritone and called upon their friend Joel Wilson. Joel had started singing in the Louisville Times in 1993 when he was sixteen, and had grown accustomed to the singing techniques of Michigan Jake. This, and the fact that he's so darned good, made it easy for him to slip effortlessly into the Michigan Jake sound. With just inside of four months together, the quartet jumped to the second place silver medalist position in Atlanta that summer.

By a strange twist of fate, Christopher had stopped on his way to the Atlanta convention to interview with a church in South Carolina in need of a new Music Minister. He discovered in a message on his answering machine when he returned home that he had gotten the job. The other men of Michigan Jake didn't want to stand in the way of Christopher's career, but they were in a difficult situation. After considering a few options, they decided to call on Drew Kirkman of Terre Haute, Indiana, with Christopher making the initial contact. Drew had sung with several quartets through the years, both on lead and tenor, but most recently with Flash Point, comprised of Drew and three members of the Times. They knew he had the ability if he had the time and desire to step in. With a single audition they could tell that they had made the right choice.

At the 1999 convention in Anaheim Michigan Jake took the third place bronze medal behind crowd favorite FRED, and in 2000 they earned another silver medal with PLATINUM winning the gold. Finally in July of 2001 in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, Michigan Jake won the coveted gold medals besting a field of fifty competitors by a margin of 256 points.

2001 - Barbershop Quartet Champions

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