Capital barbershop quartet sweep all before them

Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014
The Musical Island Boys

WINNING SOUND: Wellington barbershop quartet The Musical Island Boys have won the 76th Annual International Barbershop Singing Convention in Las Vegas. From left, are tenor Jeff Hunkin, lead singer Marcellus Washburn, bass Matthew Gifford, and baritone Will Hunkin.

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A Wellington barbershop quartet has won a major competition in the United States, the home of the musical style.

The Musical Island Boys - Matthew Gifford, Jeff and Will Hunkin and Marcellus Washburn - won first place in the 76th Annual International Barbershop Singing Convention in Las Vegas at the weekend.

Shona Murray, who was head of the music department at Tawa College when the boys first got together, was at a party where friends and family gathered to watch the competition live via a webcast at the college.

For the finals, her former pupils sang Now Is The Hour and Hakuna Matata.

The convention was the "absolute biggest" competition in barbershop circles, with up to 17,000 people watching in a large arena, she said. "America is the home of barbershop."

The Musical Island Boys were only the second team from outside the US to win the big prize.

Gifford's sister, Leah Gifford, was also at the webcast party watching as the boys took the top slot.

"It was pretty exciting and also very intense."

She briefly talked to her brother after the win. After the weekend's win they were taken around various "after glow" parties in Las Vegas. "They got home in the late hours of the morning."

They were particularly thankful for all the support they had got from the Tawa, Porirua and local Pacific Island community, she said.

Since getting together at Tawa College in 2002, the a cappella quartet have made their presence felt on the international stage.

In 2006 they were the first quartet outside the US to win the International Collegiate Championships.

In 2010 they were fourth in the open division of the international championships, a feat never achieved by any quartet from outside Europe or the US.

In 2011 they came second in the International Open Barbershop Championships in Missouri.

In Toronto, Canada, last year they became International Barbershop Quartet silver medallists.

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- The Dominion Post

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