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The singing pilot

Maj. Christopher Moran, 924th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot and Traditional Reservist, sings with members of his Barbershop group, Smorgaschorus, during the 18th Air Refueling Squadron Change of Command ceremony Dec. 2, 2018, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.  Moran, a 924th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot and Traditional Reservist, has been a member of the local group for more than three years.

Maj. Christopher Moran, 924th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot and Traditional Reservist, sings with members of his Barbershop group, Smorgaschorus, during the 18th Air Refueling Squadron Change of Command ceremony Dec. 2, 2018, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Moran, a 924th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot and Traditional Reservist, has been a member of the local group for more than three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

For most people, barbershop music conjures images of an old-timey looking quartet of men with round hats and bow ties, but when Maj. Christopher Moran belts out barbershop melodies, he sometimes performs in his flight suit.

Moran, a 924th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot and Traditional Reservist, has been a member of the local Barbershop group, the Smorgaschorus, for more than three years, but he has always enjoyed singing from an early age.

“My mom’s a good singer, so I’ve always been able to sing,” he said.

The Kentucky native began singing in high school in general choir and was also part of a traveling choir.  His love of singing also continued through college at Cedarville University in Dayton OH. 

During his more than six years at McConnell on both active duty and the reserves, Moran parlayed his love of singing into his church’s choir and orchestra, where he eventually met Matt Webber, the Smorgaschorus director. The group formed in 2012 and consists of 53 community members.

Before this encounter, Moran had no idea about the whole Barbershop world, but the self-admitted “music nerd” quickly took a liking to it.

 “I fell in love with it instantly because of the harmony, and the type of music they sing,” said Moran.   “It gives you goosebumps every time you hear the loud harmony lock in during a song’s big ending.”

According to Webber, Barbershop is an American style of acapella singing that was made popular in the early part of the 20th century.  It's believed that the style originated in the barbershops and taverns of towns where men would gather and one would sing a melody while the others would try to find a harmony.  Barbershop is characterized by ringing chords and nostalgic memories that put a twist on older and current songs such as “If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley to “Sugar” by Maroon 5. The barbershop harmony society started in 1939, and it has grown to an organization of more than 40,000 members around the world. 

Webber asked Moran to join the group at their church while they were both in choir.

“Chris is a talented bass vocalist and his experience with the trombone makes him a well-rounded musician, said Webber.  “He loves the brotherhood aspect of the chorus and his connections with the Wichita community and McConnell AFB has helped us further our mission of enriching the community through music.”

In addition to performing three concerts per year, the group hosts youth outreach events for high school and college students.  These events provide an opportunity to instruct in a different type of music that isn’t typically taught in the education system.  This in turn broadens the experience and skill of those who have a love for music and further advances the exposure of the barbershop style music and the Harmony Society.

The Smorgaschorus also performs at McConnell, including various promotions ceremonies and changes of command.  According to Moran, the military events are what the group looks forward to the most.

“The guys in the group really see it as an opportunity to support the military,” said Moran. 

The group recently performed at the arrival ceremony for the KC-46A Pegasus.

Though Moran’s hobby may seem like a far stretch from his military career, Moran sees a lot of similarity between the two.

“There’s a lot parallels between the teamwork and the chain of command [in Barbershop] in that we all have sections leaders and a board for decisions and approvals.  But acapella music, even more so with barbershop, the chord structure depends on each individual to lock in and ring.  In the same way we depend on each other in the aircraft to do their job for a successful mission, we have to depend on each member singing the same vowel, the same note with the same technique in order to have the elite sound that has garnered us a ranking of nineteenth in the world ,” said Moran.

The diverse backgrounds coming together for a common purpose, is also part of Barbershop.

“You get guys from all walks of life who probably wouldn’t hang out together on a normal basis, but do because of our love for music.” Moran said.  “When we all come together with a common purpose we all do what we need to do to continue the success of the chorus.”

If you want to hear them in action as they debut “A Million Dreams” of the Greatest Showman, they have a spring concert at Wichita Collegiate Upper School on April 6, at 7 p.m.

For more information about the Smorgaschorus, or to join, contact Moran at christopher.moran.8@us.af.mil, or check out their website at http://www.smorgaschorus.net/.