Before they sing their swan song, The Coursemen a cappella barber shop quartet of Davidson faculty members wants to demonstrate its support of the college's athletic teams one more time. For the past 25 years, they've tried to sing the national anthem for at least one home contest for each of Davidson's 19 teams.
To keep their record intact, they'll be performing the anthem at four contests being played during Family Weekend. They'll begin on Saturday, Oct. 29, with the field hockey game at 11:30 a.m. Then it's the football game at 12:50 p.m. and men's soccer at 6 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 30, they'll sing for women's soccer at 1 p.m. Only once before have they performed at as many as three events in a single weekend. To facilitate logistics, the athletics department is providing them a six-person golf cart.
They plan to cover the remaining sports later this year, but the future beyond that is foggy.
"This is probably the last academic year where we'll be trying to do the entire schedule," said Dave Grant.
Increasing age and its consequences are making it difficult for this merry band of songsters to guarantee continued performances. They hope to sing at a Methodist church "Prime Timers" luncheon, and for residents of The Pines retirement community, but they feel the curtain closing.
"Some of our fun repertoire with songs like Hard Hearted Hannah and Dangerous Dan McGrew gets more challenging with time," said Grant.
The Coursemen have been a fixture at college and community functions for more than a quarter century. In addition to their athletic contest performances, they've dabbled in opera as a bumbling police force in a college production of The Pirates of Penzance. They've also shared the stage with the student a cappella group Androgyny, and added to the cheer of Christmas in Davidson with a concert in Raeford's Barber Shop. They've performed at venues big and small, from Time Warner Cable and Belk arenas to farmers markets to retirement homes.
Musical comedy brought the original Coursemen together in 1991, when professors Grant, Dennis Appleyard, Homer Sutton and Robert Williams, who were all members of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir, tried out for and were cast as the barbershop quartet in the Davidson Community Players production of The Music Man.
The professors had enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that they didn't want to stop when the production ended.
"It was such a ball we knew we were going to stay with it," Grant said. "In fact, one of the numbers in our repertoire is Ain't We Got Fun."
The membership of the quartet has changed over the years, with a total of eight professors filling the four voice parts. This weekend's roster will include Dennis Appleyard, Dave Grant, Ed Palmer and Durwin Striplin.