By Rubin E. Grant
Gil Franks can hardly wait for the Warblers Club to take the stage again.
The singing group has been around since 1929, when it was formed as the boys glee club at Woodlawn High School. In the mid-1970s, the Warblers existence as a high school group ceased, but in 1988, many of the group’s alumna decided to form a men’s choral group, which has performed regularly for the past 30-plus years for private and public functions.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group was forced to go on hiatus and hasn’t performed a big show since its 90th anniversary show in 2019.
That will change next month, when the Warblers will perform a concert called “We Meet Again Tonight” on July 23 at 6 p.m. at Samford’s Fine Arts Center along with the popular Three on a String ensemble.
“Normally, we would have had a show in 2021,” said Franks, co-chair of the Warblers’ show committee. “The only thing we did during COVID was a virtual concert that we recorded individually and then mixed together for a Christmas card for people. So, it’s great doing a show again because it’s a unique group of men who do a unique style of music.”
The Warblers perform in the four-part harmony style. The group sings Southern Classics, spirituals and patriotic and Americana music. A few of the members break out into a group called Sam Banana & The Bunch and perform doo-wop numbers.
Most of the current, active performers were members of the Woodlawn High Warblers during their high school days. More than 40 men will be involved in the show and have been rehearsing for more than a year.
“The music is still the same, the enthusiasm is the same and the energy and excitement is the same,” said Franks, who sings tenor and once travelled with the Drifters vocal group. “The stamina and singing ability may not be the same, but we’ll put on a good show.”
For Franks, who turns 68 on June 22, the opportunity to perform again will be somewhat of a miracle. In 2021, he sustained a severe head injury when he fell 10 feet off a ladder and landed head first in an empty swimming pool at his home in Mountain Brook.
He required brain surgery and spent weeks in intensive care and rehab, not knowing whether he would walk or talk again — or whether he would be able to sing with the Warblers again.
He eventually recovered and said that, once he started singing with the group during rehearsals, “It was like therapy.”
Donovan Harris, who joined the Warblers in 2019 and sings baritone, also is eager for the group to perform.
“My wife, Becky Fadely Harris, is a 1971 Woodlawn graduate and introduced me to the Warblers several years ago,” said Harris, a longtime resident of Hoover. “I attended a few of their shows and then eventually I joined the group. Being a member has certainly been one of the highlights of my years since retirement in 2018.
“It’s going to be a big show, and pretty intensive. We’ll do several black light numbers with choreography.”
Tickets cost $30 and may be purchased from any active Warbler or online at www.warblersclub.org. Part of the proceeds from the show will benefit the Woodlawn High School band and the Birmingham Boys Choir.