Forte Milers playing annual show

Published 9:13 pm Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Forte Milers Barbershop Chorus will present its annual show at the Paramount Theatre Sunday and they are bringing along some old friends.

The group of about 18 members, who have been performing for 52 years, will present “Doo Wop, Barbershop and Family Harmony,” at 3 p.m. . Performing with the group will be The Benson Family Singers as well as the Sopha Sisters.

The show is a celebration of a form of music that’s a distinctive mix of harmonies and melodies with no musical backing and the Forte Milers have been doing it better than most.

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The group is made up of members, ranging in age, from across southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa and has been performing this show ever since the group came into being. Since 2007 it’s been playing at the Paramount.

While the numbers participating in the group have dwindled some over the years, the group is seeing the form of music itself making a comeback.

“I think what’s happening is there has been a resurgence in a cappella singing,” said Dave Sylte, music director for the Forte Milers.

Through that avenue, the group has been working a lot over the years with other a cappella groups to further build on that momentum. The renewed interest in a cappella has also led to a demographic change within the group.

“One of the biggest growth areas with people joining the group has been with younger singers,” Sylte said. “Nineteen-year-olds. It’s because of that resurgence of a cappella in general.”

A lot of what is keeping the group moving forward is the type of music it is learning to embrace as well as its healthy variety. It’s why Sunday’s Paramount show is such a good fit. Sylte explained there is some similarity in the music of doo wop and barbershop chorus.

The Benson Family Singers. Photo provided

“We’ve always had a fair number of doo wop songs in our repertoire,” Sylte said. “We try to have more variety.”

Syltre said he noticed this trend in general during his time in Indiana. It was also there that he noticed how well it appealed to those who were coming to their shows.

“I was in another barbershop chorus in Indiana and some of these arrangements were coming up,” he said. “Songs like ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ is what kind of settled it in that most of us grew up with that music. Both we and our audiences have grown up with them.”

Sunday’s show will last about two hours. The first half will feature the Forte Milers, and the second half will feature The Benson Family Singers and The Sopha Sisters.

The Benson Family focuses on a cappella harmonies, but also plays a variety of instruments including guitar, banjo, bass, violin and mandolin.

The Sopha Sisters were named Sprout Champions in 2014 at the Iowa State Fair’s Bill Riley Talent Competition and have since performed all over the region.

Tickets for the show are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Student tickets are $5 and children five and under are free.

Tickets are available at, the Austin ArtWorks Center or by calling 1-507-434-0934.