In bow ties and straw hats, more than 300 singers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.

Members of the organization's Salt Lake City and Provo chapters gathered in the Salt Lake City Community High School's auditorium Monday night to sing and honor former Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Jay Welch.Welch was given the "Award of Harmony," and lived up to the honor by entertaining the audience with melodious numbers sung by his own 140-member Jay Welch Chorale.

The anniversary also marked a milestone for Salt Lake barbershoppers who celebrated their birthday after harmonizing together for 35 years, said Hal Birkland, a vice president for the singing group's Western region.

The sweet sounds of the Salt Lake chapter, better known as the "Beehive Statesmen," rang from the auditorium as small groups and large choruses sang old favorites in multipart harmonies.

"It's probably the most fun hobby anybody could have," Birkland said.

Birkland belongs to other clubs that promote community service, "but they don't have as much fun as we do," he said.

The national organization's motto is "We sing that they shall speak," Birkland said. The group fulfills the creed by raising millions of dollars for the Logopedics Foundation, which searches for cures for speech impediments.

In addition to renditions sung by the Jay Welch Chorale, barbershop quartet enthusiasts heard from the groups "Salt City Transfer" and "One More Time."

Gov. Norm Bangerter also spoke to the group, telling them his high school chorus teacher advised he not pursue a career in singing. The governor told the crowd he opted for politics instead.