New Name, Same Sweet Harmony



Grace Phillips

For The Beacon

   The featured artist for Broadway Nights in May will be EKHO, (Eastern Kentucky Harmonic Order) with a concert on May 27 at 6 p.m. on Broadway Square in downtown Ashland. Many of you may ask “who is EKHO”….the name may be new, but the group has a long history in our community.  I’m sure most of you have heard of “The Singing Kernels”….they are the same, just a new name.   In December of 2021 the group decided it was time for an update and name change.  

   The group was originally formed in 1989 when four men that loved four-part harmony came together to form a quartet.  This was the foundation for what eventually became the Singing Kernels.  For more than 30 years, the group traveled and sang in the area at many events. The chorus enjoyed participation and success in various levels of chorus and quartet competitions, including plateau championships, most-improved chorus awards, and so on. Additionally, they were the home chapter of the 1993 International College Quartet Champion, Heritage Station. Current Director of the group, Carl Taylor, is a two-time gold medalist in the Senior Quartet division. 

   Carl Taylor said at one point a few years ago some of the younger members approached him about changing the name of the group.  “They thought it sounded corny.” He also learned that some of them thought the music was not challenging…just old and boring.  After a lot of thought Carl decided what the group needed was not just a name change but a total reboot from music to the name.

   Brian Sparks, current president of the group, said not only has the group changed their name, they basically rebranded the entire chorus.  They began singing more difficult music, harder arrangements and pushing each member to be the best vocalist they could be. “Generations change, what was new 20 years ago is now old and considered the “good old songs. We have to keep up with those trends.”

   The name EKHO was suggested by current member Jordan Huff.  Sparks said, “it is an anachronism of the group’s name but it is more than that. A true echo is sound bouncing back. That is exactly what EKHO does. The music we sing will always be true barbershop tradition, but we are now focusing on new songs arranged in true barbershop harmony…..EKHO good sound bouncing back.”

   The group currently has approximately 22 members.  They meet every Monday from 7:15-9 p.m. on the second floor of the Sky Tower located at 1212 Bath Avenue in Ashland. The EKHO always welcomes new members that shares the same love of harmony and music.  They invite you to “give us a spin.”  Drop by for an evening just to see if this is something you would like to do.  Sparks said that is how many of their current members joined. The chapter encourages quartets among their group.  There are currently two quartets among the members, Commonwealth Quartet, and Qualitones.

   If you would like information about joining EKHO to book the chorus or one of the quartets you can contact Carl Taylor, 606.923.0934 or Brian Sparks at 606.571.9020.