Breaking down barbershop quartet harmony

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
My mother's side of the family was involved in Barbershop singing, mostly chorus but also quartet. I can't even count the number of conventions and competitions I went to during my younger years. The competitions were usually held over a long weekend, and the evenings were always dedicated to hospitality rooms (basically an open motel room) that each chorus would host (as most quartets were formed out of members from the same or neighboring choruses). What usually happened at the hospitality rooms, aside from an open bar 😁, were the quartets that circulated between all the hospitality rooms. You could visit one hospitality room for a couple of hours and hear maybe a dozen different quartets who would stop by to sing a song or two.

Is it any wonder that after decades, I still know what SPEBSQSA stands for? 😁

I was looking through one of my YouTube channels and seeing which videos I had posted, and came across a link to the following video. This is the Main Street quartet, giving a breakdown of Barbershop harmony to a local school. I've never heard the parts broken down and described as well as the lead does in this demonstration.

 

GDBY2LV

Well-Known Member
Interesting. My cousin just went to the National convention 3 weeks ago. I believe it was in N. Carolina. I sang for about a year in the mid 80’s. Lots of fun, but a major commitment, and demanding of spare time, so I had to stop. I sang tenor and then lead for a bit. Baritone is the hardest part to learn. Some of those quartets are amazing. I was just in the main chorus of about 40 members at the time. Fun topic.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
The men in our chorus usually do a barbershop arrangement of one song or two. I used to be a bass, but find my range is better in the baritone part. At first I hated that because it's so difficult, but I've warmed up to it. The baritone is usually the "heart" of the chord.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
I sang for about a year in the mid 80’s. Lots of fun, but a major commitment, and demanding of spare time, so I had to stop.

I never got into the singing part (why torture innocent ears? 😁) but my grandfather attended the barbershop events and rehearsals for decades. Just this morning I found a 350+ page book that various chapter members compiled about the chorus he was in, the chapter being founded in 1945 after a few members split off from a major metro area chapter at the time, and absorbed members from a couple other chapters that were dwindling. I discovered that he was in the chorus from 1958-1991 (when he was in the seniors club), and my two uncles were in it from 1958-1975 and 1964-1975. All three were officers and board members in the chapter.

I also looked through the site of winners for the district that this chapter is in, and seeing a few familiar names, especially the chorus director, who was involved with the chapter from 1954 onward, and was the district president when this book was assembled in 1995. He was chorus director starting around 1966 and was still director in 1995. Several of his brothers, two sons, and a nephew were in the chorus over time as well, his oldest brother being one of the charter members.

I did have a funny and unexpected flashback in the mid 90s. I saw a homeless person strutting down one of the main highways through our area, wearing one of the loudly striped jackets that the chorus wore for about a year in the late 1970s. Hard to miss! 🤣 I always wondered if it came from a Salivation Army store, where the family of a barbershopper might have donated it.

In the book, I came across this paragraph in the member biographies, written by one of the long-time members who was one of my grandfather's friends...it makes me wonder!

We sang at the convention in Windsor. Kohler didn't come over until Saturday. He stopped at a coffee shop on his way over and somebody swiped his striped coat. When ever I went downtown I was always on the lookout for a striped jacket but I never saw one.

This same member had a member bio stretched across eight pages--he had a lot of great stories about the old days! And I know the guys had fun, and a few pranksters amongst them, even the long-time director.

One member, "Doc" (who actually was a doctor and chief of staff at a local hospital), had a son who was a judge in the county I grew up in, and two granddaughters who are now county judges as well (they are my age).

Lots of memories...
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom