Everybody knows the face and emotional expression of that baritone in the front row; but how much do you know about the man, Ira Allen?
Ira was born in Charleston, SC, and is the middle of three boys in the family. The family moved to Norfolk, Virginia shortly after he was born, and then to Baltimore, Maryland when he was six. He graduated from Randallstown High School, and attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he met Elizabeth in 1979. The two were married in 1983, and they have two children, Kelly and Eric.
Ira went on to medical school at the UM in Baltimore, and did post-doc research at the UM medical school before moving on to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA (the Mayo Clinic of the East) for his residency in pathology. When asked how he chose pathology, he says that he enjoys medicine, but not the one-on-one contact with patients. He saw pathology as a route where he could make an impact in helping people on a larger scale than one-at-a-time in general practice.
Ira, Elizabeth, and the kids moved to the Puget Sound area in 1991, when Ira accepted a position with Eastside Pathology, Inc., covering pathology services at Valley Medical Center. He became Medical Director of the clinical laboratory at Valley just two years later, and has been there ever since.
Some other members of Ira’s family are musical, like his mother, who would play the piano and sing. His dad sang barbershop and one of his brothers also sings barbershop. As a child, Ira took piano lessons and some music theory classes at a private music school in Baltimore. Ira also played some trumpet and French horn in elementary and high school, and has picked up some guitar, “just for fun.” His first singing was with two high school buddies when he was in the 11th grade, figuring out harmonies to Beach Boys’ songs. He says he always liked the harmony parts, and just enjoys making chords.
Ira found barbershop because his father-in-law knew a guy in a chorus that sang every New Year’s Day at a piano bar in Baltimore. He had his barbershop epiphany when he attended a local chorus’ annual show and an “average” quartet came out and sang. He thought, “I gotta do that!” He learned the baritone part of Little Pal from an album, and where mere mortals usually try something like My Wild Irish Rose, Ira used it for his “audition piece” with the guys at the piano bar.
Ira joined Northwest Sound when he moved to the Seattle area in 1991. His most fun quartet experiences have been when he sang with his brother in Parade (Mid Atlantic District), and as part of Dad’s Night Out with Dick Gode (bass), Bob Schumacher (lead), and Dave Brasher (tenor). The four built a relationship that outlived the quartet itself, due in part to their barbershop-enabling wives, who got along great. Although the quartet broke up in ’98, the members still do things together, including trips abroad. Isn’t barbershop wonderful? He’s been in other successful quartets, including New Seattle Sound, and sang baritone in Evergreen District champion, Flashpoint, in 2001, which placed as high as 23rd at International, before retiring in 2006. His goal has been to make the top 20 at International, and he’s within reach with his current group, 4.0 (Four Point Oh).
Even with all his success, he says he’s still learning. When asked about his participation on the NWS Visual Team, he says he just enjoys performing. He also acknowledges the journey when he claims to have been “a stick” on stage with his first quartet. Hmm, from being a stick to being a presentation coach for the Quartet Champions of Evergreen District (QCED). That’s a pretty nice progression.
We’re just happy that he continues to share his love of barbershop harmony with us at Northwest Sound Men’s Chorus, and we look forward to many more years of brotherhood and singing with the man, Ira Allen.