By Jennifer Von Ohlen
WRIGHT, MEEKER COUNTY, MN As county and state fair participants prepare for the annual events, many spend time caring for their best produce, finishing a craft or project, or training and cleaning livestock all in hopes of winning a prize.
Some Dassel-Cokato High School alumni, however, chose to compete by warming up their vocal cords.
This summer, Kenneth Danberg and Seth Danberg, both of Cokato, Cody Ewald of Darwin, and Warren Pringnitz of Dassel decided to show off their musical skills at the Wright County Fair talent show. They performed the barbershop selection, “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig,” a song from the 1973 animated movie “Charlotte’s Web.”
The group, called Bellicoso Euphony, consists of seven young men, though three of its members were unable to participate this year: Joe Corcoran and Jared Nordberg, both of Dassel, and Ryan Peterson of Cokato.
The term bellicoso is a musical adjective which describes a sound as warlike or aggressive. Euphony, however, refers to a sound with a “pleasant effect” on the ear.
“We picked the name because the two words are contrasting and a musical oxymoron,” stated Kenneth Danberg. “As a singing group of men, we like to see ourselves as warlike, but we sound good too, so Bellicoso Euphony is perfect.”
The septet attended Dassel-Cokato High School together, and connected musically during their years in choir and choral extracurricular.
When Kenneth and Seth Danberg would be scheduled to sing special music in their church, the boys asked the others to join them. They did, and together performed at some of the area churches “quite a few times.”
As the boys moved toward graduation Nordberg and Kenneth in 2013; Peterson in 2014; and Ewald, Seth Danberg, and Pringnitz in 2015. Corcoran will graduate June 2017 they wanted to continue singing together, even as some members attended college and others began working. In response, the young men officially formed Bellicoso Euphony in spring 2015.
It was later that year that Kenneth learned about the state fair talent show. In researching the competition, he learned that if the group won the county level competition, they would advance to the state level.
The group was enthused to go for it, but found out they were too late to participate in that year’s show. They decided to perform the following year.
At the Wright County Fair 2016 talent show competition, Bellicoso Euphony competed in the open division category open to amateur groups and individuals 20 years old or older.
“We were one of the last acts to perform at the Wright County Fair, and we were nervous because there were two very good female soloists that sang before us,” said Kenneth.
“We performed well, and the crowd seemed to receive us well with their laughter and applause,” he added.
Bellicoso Euphony won first place, advancing to the Minnesota State Fair talent show.
While the group did not win the state competition, Kenneth was proud that the group advanced to that level.
Kenneth also believes Bellicoso Euphony’s state performance was its best performance to-date.
“Our group is very critical of how we perform, and we always critique ourselves in order to better our abilities,” he stated. “We reviewed the video from the state fair, and our group members agreed that we sounded great.”
While the group will not be able to compete at the Wright County Fair again, having already won first prize, it does plan to attend the Meeker County Fair next year, as some of the group members are from that area.
If the group wins the Meeker County Fair competition, but loses the state fair, it can audition to be admitted directly into the state fair amateur talent show.
“I see us going to the state fair for quite a few years, and maybe even winning the whole talent show,” stated Kenneth.
Since the Bellicoso Euphony group members are scattered with jobs and college, they do not rehearse together regularly, but do try to schedule practices when everyone is home for upcoming singing events.
Each of them having a talent for sight-reading and “plunking notes on the piano,” the members learn the music on their own before coming together for a group rehearsal.
The group started preparing for the Wright County Fair a month in advance, making rehearsals a daily occurrence during the final two weeks.
Following the county fair, the men practiced for the state competition intermittently, increasing the number of rehearsals the week of their performance.
While Bellicoso Euphony makes all its musical decisions and interpretations, the group owes “a tremendous amount of gratitude” towards its past high school choir directors, Ryan Luhrs, Michael Lajko, and Nate Raabe.
Through their vocal direction and technique, these men taught the young singers “the fundamentals of choir, instilling in [them] a passion for vocal music, and inspiring [them] to be great musicians,” stated Kenneth.
“Barbershop harmonies are complex,” he continued. “But because of our experience in music and Cody’s great piano playing skills we were able to make [‘Zuckerman’s Famous Pig’] great.”