Barbershop Harmony Society (engl.)
Spotted: the origins of Red Robin restaurants’ name — a barbershop quartet!
While waiting for supper, BHS Associate/Harmony Hall staffer Michele Niec spotted this on the wall:
The official company chronology notes that in the 1940s, “Sam’s Tavern opens near the University of Washington. Sam, the owner, is known to sing ‘When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)’ with his barbershop quartet. He loves the song so much that he changes the name to Sam’s Red Robin.”
Wonder if you can get a free burger if you sing it for them?
Bonus: Just happened to have this lovely performance by Signature handy, so… enjoy!
- The Downeasters
- Sound of Illinois
- Harbourtown Sound
- Brothers in Harmony
- Alexandria Harmonizers
- Great Lakes Chorus
- Big Orange Chorus
- Fog City Singers
- Westminster Chorus
- Voices Incorporated
- Vocal Majority
- Pathfinder Chorus
- Vocal FX
- The Alliance
- Carolina Vocal Express
- Sound of the Rockies
- Great Plains Harmony
- Space City Sound
- Harmonic Collective
- The EntertainMen
- Heralds of Harmony
- Great Western Chorus
- Music City Chorus
- Men of Independence
- Southern Gateway Chorus
- Parkside Harmony
This regular series is intended for music educators and others interested in knowing more about this unique vocal style. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for musicians and constructive solutions for singers.
So you think you know barbershop?
Admit it: the go-to image in your mind of barbershop music is four guys in striped vests and boater hats. From the Dapper Dans serenading Disney World park attendees to Jimmy Fallon’s Ragtime Gals juxtaposing off-color pop songs with the squeaky-clean image of the barbershop quartet, the notion of the barbershop singers certainly is iconic. But barbershop is so much more than that!
African American Roots, Jazz Flavorings
Barbershop is an American form of a cappella singing that has African American roots and jazz flavorings. It includes turn-of-the-century Americana melodies, the Tin Pan Alley oeuvre, and jazz standards. But barbershop singers have always sung the music of their day, so it shouldn’t surprise you to hear tunes like Maroon 5’s “Sugar” or Estelle’s “American Boy” covered in this fun, accessible style.
Rewarding Art Form
Barbershop is a rewarding genre of music that is accessible for beginning students, but can also provide a enjoyable challenge for accomplished singers, notwithstanding the combination of voice parts in your vocal groups. Barbershop singing emphasizes proper vocal technique; in fact, there is no barbershop-specific singing technique. Good singing is good singing, and barbershop asks for that.
Barbershop can help you build strong musicians. It teaches ear training, sight singing, harmonization, and ensemble skills like balance and tuning. Try teaching a tag during your classroom warm-ups. A tag is the term used in jazz and barbershop that means the coda of a song; it typically is just a few measures and has a flourish of chord changes. This opportunity allows one to focus on vowel unification and intervallic relationships found in just intonation.
For a challenge, give an accessible song like Auld Lang Syne or Love Me Tender (Aura Lee) to a foursome and let them teach themselves. These free charts also work great as Solo and Ensemble pieces (check your local state requirements). One important emphasis that barbershop teaches is the art of heartfelt performance, as this quartet demonstrates.
There are many opportunities for your students to become involved. Check out the many resources for youth outreach available: quartet contests, chorus festivals, camps, educational resources, scholarships, and more!
Barbershop Singing Is For All
Listen to men sing in a quartet or in a chorus; experience women singing excellent barbershop in a quartet or in a chorus. Barbershop singing is also for mixed quartets and choruses. If you haven’t taken a look at barbershop recently, take a look it now!
For questions about how to effectively use barbershop in your music classrooms, contact Steve Scott, Music Education Specialist for the Barbershop Harmony Society: [email protected].
Picture 1: Dapper Dans of Main Street, USA and Ragtime Gals.
Picture 2: New Zealand’s Musical Island Boys, BHS 2014 international quartet champion
Picture 3: youth from the NextGen Chorus under the direction of Dr. Chris Peterson
Picture 4: The Ladies, SAI 2016 Rising Star Champions and Pratt Street Power BHS 2016 international youth quartet champion.
This regular series will examine different facets of building musicians in which we hope to dispel myths and inaccuracies. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for music teams provide constructive solutions for singers.
Singers join our chapters for many reasons, but all share the love of singing barbershop chords. Some singers come to us with years of singing experience and they can hop on the risers with no problem at all. Some singers come to us with nothing but earnestness and a love of singing and camaraderie. All should be welcome.
Joining a chapter and singing in a chorus can be intimidating, especially if you don’t feel secure in your singing voice or in your musicianship. Perhaps someone made a joke about your singing voice at one time (see a previous blog post to find out what we think of that!). Perhaps you feel self conscious about your music reading abilities.
In Good Company
Would it surprise you to know that some of our early quartet champs could not sight read music? A research study by choral professor and 1991 gold medal champion bass of The Ritz, Dr. Ben Ayling, showed interesting survey data results of the music literacy of early quartet champs. Of those surveyed, 26.7% indicated that they could not read music upon joining their quartet. Further, 96.5% of respondents indicated that singing barbershop music their ability to read music. How glad we are that they stuck to their desire to sing, despite their perception of their personal musicianship abilities!
Resources To Help
Singers join our chapters for many reasons, but all share the love of singing barbershop chords. Some come to us with years of singing experience and they can hop on the risers with no problem at all. Some singers come to us with nothing but earnestness and a love of singing and camaraderie. All should be welcome.
Joining a chapter and singing in a chorus can be intimidating, especially if you don’t feel secure in your singing voice or in your musicianship.
There are a variety of sources for you to use on your musical journey. Try these free resources:
- Barbershop.org: Did you know we created a free, online musicianship tutorial? It is divided into 4 sections, each with 7 parts. Most of the examples use excerpts from barbershop songs.
- MusicTheory.net: This website has many free exercises to help you build your skills learning. You can go as fast or slow as you want.
- Teoria.com: A great site to learn music notation and even work on ear training (identifying intervals and chords).
- Phitulga.com: A neat site that can help you learn to read rhythms.
- PitchImprover.com: This is a great resource for ear training. Of particular interest was their chord identification section.
- SightReadingFactory.com: This website has a several free exercises to download.
- Eyes and Ears – An Anthology of Melodies for Sight-singing: This free, downloadable book is a great resource to sequentially build musicianship.
If you know of a resource that should be on our list, let us know: [email protected].
No one is born with the ability to sight read music. The process of learning to sight read is often compared to learning a new language. Please exercise patience with your fellow singers, as we are all at different places on our musical journey.
A Place In the Chorus
There is a place for everyone in barbershop. James Howe wrote a clever book in 2013, called Horace and Morris Join the Chorus (But What About Dolores?), (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). Here is a portion of the book description:
Horace and Morris, but mostly Dolores, are back again for another uproarious adventure. When the three best friends decide to try out for the school chorus together, they’re shocked when Dolores (who can only sing notes that no one has ever heard before) is the only one who doesn’t make the cut. After all, they’ve always done everything together.
In an especially poignant moment, Dolores tried not to feel hurt or angry for being left out of the chorus, particularly as her friends are now too busy with rehearsal to play with her. But she felt both of those things. She finally decides to write “Moustro Provolone” a letter and declares, “Who tells a bird she shouldn’t be heard? Singing is just what birds do! So please take my word – I’m a lot like a bird. I have to sing out loud and true!” Her impassioned pleas convince the director to let her in the chorus and Dolores agrees to take extra lessons with the director in preparation for the final concert.
One of the loveliest moment in this book is the care Dolores’ teacher took to personally teach her. By the end of the book, Dolores most of the time “sang notes in the concert that everyone had heard before.” Is there a Dolores that wants to join your chapter, but is worried about how they are perceived? Is there a Dolores now in your chorus that you can help?
Happy, healthy singing, my friends!
Two key factors should be in mind when placing singers on risers:
- The Lombard Effect: the tendency for speakers to increase the pitch and volume of their speech as the ambient noise increases.
- Self-to-Other Ratio notes that the closer choristers stand to each other, the less of an ability they have to monitor their own personal singing output.
The closer you stand to another singer, the less you hear yourself (Self-to-Other Ratio), and the louder you are likely to sing as a result (Lombard Effect). Most singers in this environment respond by singing with a pressed sound to an increase in loudness – which, in turn, can affect intonation .Riser Placement: It’s About the Space
Dr. James Daugherty at the University of Kansas conducted a series of riser studies, including two featuring barbershop choruses. He found no statistically significant differences in the acoustics between standing in a mixed formation over a sectional formation. However, these studies do point to an acoustic benefit for inter-singer spacing on risers. That is, it makes an acoustic difference how close you stand to your fellow singers. Dr. Daugherty tested three types of spacing:
- Lateral spacing: singers standing with a two foot space measured at the shoulder. Visually represented:
- Circumambient spacing: Lateral spacing plus second and fourth riser step are unoccupied. Visually represented:
The acoustic result of Circumambient and Lateral spacings is, in many cases, a 2-3 decibel change in the aggregate energy in overtones over Close spacing. The effect was particularly noticeable in the frequency range of overtones sensitive to the human ear, called the singer’s formant region. Human ears can detect a change of 1 decibel, thus the change in acoustic energy is noteworthy. This decibel change occurs in choruses of all compositions: men’s, women’s, and mixed choruses.
Inter-singer spacing greater than 2-ft appears to decrease the quantity of decibel change, thus losing some of the benefits of space. This might be due to reverse Lombard Effect where singers feel isolated and unwilling to sing with full energy of tone.
Participating singers reported in the increased spacing more efficient vocal production (due to decreased Lombard Effect) and the ability to hear and monitor themselves singing (Self-to-Other Ratio). Expert listeners reported that choral ensembles with more spacing appeared to sing more in tune.Putting Inter-singer Spacing Into Practice
To implement the Lateral spacing, place the left hand on the right shoulder of the next singer with no bent elbows. Note that the front row may need to stand slightly closer than two feet, and the back row may be slightly more than two feet apart.
Your chorus size and/or riser availability can affect the degree to which you can implement these strategies. Certainly a 140-singer chorus will not be able to achieve the 2-ft spacing in either the Circumambient or Lateral spacing techniques. Variations can include having a double row of singers on the floor, extending singers on either side off the risers, adding additional steps to the risers, and experimenting with varying widths of inter-singer spacing.
Work with the singers to find the optimal spacing. Some singers may feel like they are singing alone; move that singer closer to the next person. Another singer may feel like they are competing with the next singer; move them slightly farther apart.
Changing the way singers have been accustomed to standing for decades can be challenging, even daunting. Have patience as singers and directors experiment.Inter-singer Spacing In Action
Enjoy this video of Central Standard singing with increased inter-singer spacing:
Happy, healthy singing, my friends!
In the case of a member who dies, it is important to report to the Barbershop Harmony Society to ensure the member is recognized and honored. The primary responsibility for reporting falls to chapter secretaries and in general, chapter officers. But, any member may report the information.
To report a member’s death, email the BHS Customer Service Team ([email protected]) or call 800.876.7464. We ask that you share the following information:
- Name of Member
- Member ID#
- Date of Death (if known)
- Name of Next of Kin (spouse or relative’s name)
- Your relationship to the Member (quartet-mate, chapter officer, friend, family, etc.)
Upon receipt of notice of the death, the Society Executive Director will send a personal condolence letter to the next of kin, and all Society mailings to the member will be discontinued, except for The Harmonizer, which, at the option of the next of kin, will be mailed until the deceased member’s regular membership expiration date. There will be no refund of dues or fees.
Note: It is essential that information sent to the Society office regarding a member’s death be accurate to ensure that the Society’s response to the next of kin is appropriate.
Please remember to contact us if a member of your chapter or quartet passes on. This is not limited to current members. If a former member passes on, it’s important that the Society knows. Not only will the member be recognized in the “Chapter Eternal” in our Harmonizer magazine, but further, our districts recognize members during House of Delegate meetings.
It’s nice when your co-workers say nice things about you behind your back. It’s even nicer when those nice words turn into citywide recognition.
An anonymous tip from a co-worker led to Manager of Chapter Leadership and Education Antonio Lombardi being honored in the inaugural class of Employee of the Year awards from the Nashville Business Journal. Antonio was recognized in the category of Best Support, alongside professionals in the health care, media, public administration, and financial sectors.
The adjudication panel particularly praised Antonio’s willingness to step forward to help wherever and whenever needed, regardless of job titles and lines, and were excited to see this level of responsibility and savvy in a worker in his mid-20s.
A Barbershopper since age 15, Antonio joined the Society staff in 2016 after many years in leadership of the Northeastern District, as District Secretary, organizer of youth camps, and as an active quartet singer in youth and open divisions. His main focus in the education department is supporting the Healthy Chapter Initiative with resources, leadership training, and liaison to development activities of the Leadership Operations Project Team, plus ongoing support of Harmony University.
With typical humility, Antonio reflects the praise back onto his co-workers at Harmony Hall and the Society as an organization. Earlier this year, the Society received recognition as a “Best Place To Work” by both The Nashville Business Journal and by The Tennesseean. “It says a lot about the Society that we’re recognized as a great place to work, but it comes down to having a great group of employees.” Being one of the few nonprofits honored reflects the quality of the work we’re doing for the greater good, he says. “If we can continue to be of service not only to our colleagues and members, but to the great community as a whole, we’ll be going in the right direction.”
Antonio is particularly grateful to his barbershop mentors growing up. “I started at age 15, and it hasn’t been just about the music, but about becoming a better person, becoming a more career-focused individual, and I owe a lot of that to people within the organization.”
An awards luncheon hosted by the Nashville Business Journal is planned. We’d bet Antonio recruits some singers before it’s finished.
This regular series will examine facets of vocal health by which we hope to dispel myths and inaccuracies. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for those who have experienced vocal concerns and provide constructive solutions for singers.
First, an understanding
Vocal health has been a hot topic recently, thanks to high-visibility performers such as Adele, Sam Smith and Michael Buble and others being forced to cancel shows dues to damage to their voices. Some observers exercise kindness and a measure of understanding when discussing someone else’s voice and health. Others, perhaps even those with good intentions, are less than kind.
Singers are more prone to vocal trauma than other kinds of voice users. That is a simple statement of fact. The sheer quantity of voice use exposes us to greater risk. Barbershop singers and other choral singers are at additional jeopardy as individual singers rarely use personal amplification. If someone experiences an interruption in vocal health, it is our opportunity to be compassionate, rather than judgmental. Healthy dialogue around vocal care is an important part of our experience as singers (and directors and coaches and judges, etc.).
Understand that voices come in all shapes and sizes. Many factors influence phonation (speaking and singing): genetics, upbringing, regional diction, general health, and voice use and type. Phonation is also affected by hormone levels, external and internal stress, and allergens in the environment. Any number of reasons exist for an interruption in someone’s vocal health.
Have a care when discussing someone’s singing! Each human voice is unique and, whether consciously perceived, is linked to an individual’s identity. Sometimes our comments about another’s voice can be taken as a value judgement of the person themselves. These types of remarks can do lasting damage. How many been people in choir were admonished to “just stand in back and mouth the words” or asked, “shouldn’t you let (insert singer here) sing this song instead?” How many singers were encouraged not to sing by someone who thought they were being funny (or just cruel)? How many of you have wished you would have found barbershop at an earlier age, but were perhaps afraid or shy about your voice?
Vocal health and barbershop
The article cited above does a good job at bringing to light something that was considered taboo: talking about vocal injury. It explains what happens and why singers sometimes are at risk. Think about the hundreds of thousands of microcollisions that the vocal folds experience during a concert, and the cumulative effect on the vocal mechanisms and structures. What the article doesn’t really do is talk about preventative maintenance nor what to do to recover from a vocal injury.
Subsequent articles in the Vocal Health Series will address a variety of topics, including preventative measures and recovery processes and topics related to the lifespan of the singer, including the aging voice and the developing or changing voice.
Barbershop singing doesn’t normally use instruments, so attention to vocal health needs to be correspondingly higher. The BHS recently announced its efforts to contribute to the vocal success of its members by offering voice lessons and coaching. If you would like to have a vocal assessment, contact [email protected].
Happy, healthy singing, my friends!
In your first year of barbershopping, you’ve been absorbing a tremendous volume of information. You’ve been learning the musical style, the nuances of performance, the many acronyms, and a few dozen baritone jokes. You may have had a chance to attend a convention, or sing in a major show, or even form a quartet.
Many of the resources of the Barbershop Harmony Society are aimed at supporting you as an individual. The education programs, vocal instruction, merchandise, even online performance videos, all support your desire and ability to learn, grow, and enjoy the actual moment you open your mouth and make music.
Beyond that, though, lies an extensive portfolio of activity in the Society that exists to create the environment in which harmony takes place. These support systems extend from your chapter through the geographic districts and onto the international barbershop harmony movement. Our pooled financial resources drive the work of thousands of talented volunteers and paid headquarters staff to support all facets of your chapter life and barbershop career.
Thriving, busy chapters are the ecosystem of barbershop — the habitat for harmony, if you will, where generations of singers find a continuous experience of friendship, musical satisfaction, and service to the community. If you and your chapter are not tapping these resources, you’re depriving yourself of a deeper, more enriching barbershop experience.Creating leaders to build healthy chapters
Like every volunteer organization, a chapter runs on the volunteered strength and brains of its members. Rarely can a chapter afford to hire all the brains and labor hours needed to operate. The painful volunteer paradox is that those who are most active as performers, teachers and singers also end up being drafted into administrative roles — the classic problem of asking the busiest people to do still more, at the risk of burnout. Admittedly, more people join for singing than for leading/managing, but a deeper bench of leaders and project team members would almost certainly lead to better, more vibrant chapters.
That said, skills developed while leading a barbershop chapter can prove valuable in careers and life. Many younger Barbershoppers find that the lessons of collaboration, peer leadership and administrative willpower make them better employees, entrepreneurs and professional colleagues. Presenting chapter leadership as career development might encourage more early-career members to take a more active role. Leadership development resources via the Healthy Chapter Initiative help all leaders respond to chapter needs with effective programming and goal-setting.Support for your chapter from the Healthy Chapter Initiative
Good leaders need a knowledge base to draw on. The Healthy Chapter Initiative organizes many tools for Chapter Assessment, and a portfolio of Chapter Solutions for weekly programming, recruiting and promoting your chapter. A full-time staffer at Society headquarters can help guide you to further answers and nearby resources.Help from barbershop talents in your neighborhood
Volunteer leadership in the Society’s 17 geographic districts forms the backbone of accessible, face-to-face education experiences. These vary in schedule and timing, but are generally 2-3 days long and located centrally to each district.
District conventions are typically the largest regional gatherings. In addition to chorus and quartet contests, these often include educational activities, seminars, shows and leadership meetings.
Leadership Academies, held in many districts during the Fall and Winter months, teach the marketing, management and leadership aspects of chapter life. Spring and summer bring more music-intensive schools, with the emphasis primarily on coaching for quartets and choruses as well as personal musical development. These schools often feature faculty consisting of championship caliber directors, coaches and quartets. For current schedules, see the Map of District Schools.Direct support from district leaders
While much of the work of the Society’s Districts is delivered at their schools and conventions, many districts also provide direct personalized support to their chapters.
Resource people known under various titles of chapter counselors, chapter advocates, and chapter coaches, are available to help chapters find their way.
Standing Ovation evaluators provide direct feedback on chapter show performances and suggestions for improvement. Chorus Director Workshop Intensive events an be arranged by your district to help train your directors in your local area on a Saturday.
Most districts are also deeply involved in staging youth harmony camps that expand awareness of the style and Society to educators and students.If you don’t know…ASK!
Eager new members have millions of ideas on how to share and extend barbershop. If you have a great idea, and want to find a way to make it happen, talk with your chapter leadership, and your district leadership. Energy, brainpower and “can-do” spirit propel the entire Society.
The Barbershop Harmony Society has been working towards a new system of payment for chapter and district dues. Some of you may be familiar with these efforts that we started over a year ago described as the ACH Transition Project. As you may know, the current traditional system we use consists of mailing dues checks quarterly. Then, the recipient has to take it upon themselves to deposit the check, assuming the check made it safely. Or, when checks are lost or sent to past Treasurers, BHS reissues the check and the process starts over.
With our new process, not only will we almost completely eliminate the risk of losing the payment, but also it provides direct deposit into the chapter or district’s bank account, taking any burden of depositing off the recipient.
We are hoping to switch entirely to processing payments via ACH (Automated Clearing House). For those not familiar with ACH, it is a network that processes electronic financial transactions. Specifically, the Barbershop Harmony Society would use it for direct deposit of your chapter/district dues payments. The processing currently applies to just U.S. chapters/districts but we hope to identify a solution for our Canadian chapters to provide options since we currently do not collect Canadian chapter dues.
Not only will you be helping your chapter and district by receiving your payments faster and reducing the risk of lost checks, you will be helping streamline payment processes for the Society as a whole.
By providing your bank account the information, the Barbershop Harmony Society will only have the ability to deposit payments into your bank account. We will not see any of your chapter’s transactions, balances or related financial information.Chapters/Districts Who Have Already Provided Information
There are a number of chapters and districts who have already provided us the necessary information to move forward with testing this new system. The president, secretary, and treasurer of those entities should have received an email summarizing next steps. If you didn’t receive that email, please contact us at [email protected].Add Your Chapter or District to the Program
If your chapter or district has not provided the necessary information, treasurers, please submit through this secure form by CLICKING HERE. If you’re uncomfortable providing this information electronically, you may call Finance Department at 615.673.4119 to provide the information over the phone.
The information that is needed to facilitate the ACH deposits is:
- Bank Name
- Bank Routing Number
- Bank Account Number
- Bank Account Type (i.e. Checking or Savings)
Please submit the information through the secure form above. Do NOT email the above information.FAQ’s:
For a list of FAQ’s about the BHS Chapter & District Direct Deposit program, please CLICK HERE.
For questions or concerns, please contact [email protected].
12:00pm Central Daylight Time
When online sales open on Starting November 1, you can register for some of the most desirable seats on the first day!
Early Bird pricing saves $60 per person
Beginning November 1, get the best deal on the best week of the year. Make your plans now, and save hundreds over regular pricing.
Members and Associates save additional $30 on each registration
Being a part of the Society means additional savings on our biggest events. Enter your membership number at checkout to get our best rate.
Special rates for younger guests
Bring your younger kids for just $99 each. Make it a family affair! Plus, we’ve made it affordable for adults age 18-25 with a special rate with valid ID.New! Get your seats on November 1 for
“Pitch Perfected: The 2018 AIC Show”
Now you won’t have to wait — you can get the best seats right now! We’ve designed a floor plan with great seats at all price points — including some main floor seats under $40!
It starts on Wednesday, November 1, at www.barbershop.org/orlando.
The energy and interest are starting to build for the Next Generation Barbershop Festival and Contests. Full registrations are now open for 2018’s Varsity Quartet Contest and Varsity Chorus Invitational, and 2019’s Junior Quartet Contest and Junior Chorus Invitational.
Trying to get something started in your school? Download these handy posters, print and hang.
These words break our hearts every time we hear them: “I’m tone deaf. I can’t sing.” It’s usually accompanied by a smile or laugh, but the message is both clear and absolute. And wrong.
A great story on Toronto’s Ludwig-Van.com classical music site delves into the widely-held misconception that most people cannot sing.
“That’s a blatant lie.”
Of all creative endeavours, singing is perhaps the most poorly understood. To the chagrin of vocal teachers everywhere, singing is the one pursuit where you will be told, you can’t sing, so don’t bother. Parents will readily pony up the resources for acting lessons, or soccer, but when it comes to the ability to sing, many people are still under the impression that it’s something magical – you either have it, or you don’t.
A study of undergrads at Queen’s University, found that about 17 percent reported themselves as being tone deaf. It’s such a common fallacy in our society that it has led to a world of singers — the small minority — and non-singers — the vast majority. But is that really based in reality? Science — and those vocal teachers — say no.
Sean Hutchings is the Director of Research at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. His lab looks into how music affects the mind, and how the mind affects music, in essence. He calls singing a “structured coordination of vocal muscles” at its most basic level. “Just like any type of muscular activity, it’s amenable to practice. We know that practising motor control can help. You can certainly learn to be better.” As he points out, speaking is already a form of muscle control. So, why is it that our society has put singing into such a rarefied category?
“Part of the reason that there has been a source of anxiety over singing is inadequate music education.” He points out that in older generations, in particular, the sole emphasis was on performance. When school children who couldn’t naturally hit the right notes, rather than training them, they would simply be told to mouth the words, and not sing at all. “There’s no better way to make sure someone is bad at something than to tell them they can’t do it.”
Read –and share — the entire story at Think You Can’t Sing? Science Doesn’t Believe You.
Donor dollars power the future of barbershop, and you can see how in the new Annual Report of Harmony Foundation International. You can gain insight into the breadth of programming supported by the generosity of donors, ranging from leadership education through the Healthy Chapter Initiative, to director scholarships to Harmony University, to our youth activities and Festivals.
Take a minute to browse around the Foundation’s refreshed web site, and see other stories of lives changed — both as recipients and as donors.
Nearly forty years after The Buffalo Bills made barbershop history in the stage premiere of The Music Man, a new show featuring a quartet has scheduled its night on Broadway.
The Apple Boys: A New Barbershop Quartet Musical will premiere on Wednesday, November 8th at Ars Nova, a midtown theater known for presenting new work. (Sorry, both performances are already sold out!) Featuring an original score, the story is set at the turn of the twentieth century in Coney Island, where a strongman, a hotdog vendor, a roller coaster operator and an apple delivery man meet and discover the magic of barbershop harmony.
The cast of four includes Tony-nominated actress Emily Skeggs (Fun Home.) You can view some highlights from the show on YouTube.
We’re always excited to see artists expanding the range of ways that barbershop harmony can be incorporated into new works. Recent years have seen multiple regional theater productions of a contemporary show about race, identity, and yes, barbershop harmony. As with many new theatrical works, the development budget for The Apple Boys is slight, and the producers would of course welcome your interest in the project.
A music educator once changed the course of Mike Rowe’s life, and in his new Facebook video series, he pays tribute to another influential teacher in a big way.
When health issues forced world-class trumpeter Tim Wilson to give up a performance career, he turned to teaching, and gave his talents and treasure to an instrumental music program in an impoverished school district. Mike sought him out and provided a tremendous surprise and… well, better you watch for yourself.
Rowe, who became an Honorary Life Member of the Barbershop Harmony Society in 2017, credits his show business career in part to the influence of his high school choir director, Fred King, who also happened to be a world champion barbershop quartet singer. (Read Mike’s touching memorial tribute to Fred, or listen to him tell the story.)
In your first year as a Barbershopper, the entire world seems ready for harmony. The puzzled stares people throw as you hum along to your bari learning track while riding the bus now seem quaint, not embarrassing. You’ve become adept at explaining to airport security that the metallic disc in your carry-on brings harmony, not harm. Regretting that you hadn’t started barbershopping years earlier, you resolve to help young people discover this music and lifestyle right now.
But where? How?
Outreach programs of the Barbershop Harmony Society exist to create experiences that inspire people to sing in harmony for the rest of their lives. Our multifaceted approach is to
- reach and support music educators who become lifelong influencers; and
- reach students and young singers with “mountaintop moments” that will spark a lifelong love of singing together in harmony.
Notably, these aims are not “recruiting young people into barbershop membership today.” While our enthusiasm may be high, our local product may not be appealing or suitable for young singers. Most importantly, we want to ensure that by singing and competing alongside peers, they can attach themselves to the style and see a long horizon of opportunity for themselves.
Fortunately, we have a wealth of ways that you can offer to younger singers wishing to get a taste of harmony.Next Generation Barbershop events get young men and women singing
Our primary showcase activities are designed around the “peak experiences” principle. Our chorus and quartet events for male, female and mixed-voice groups provide singers with a pathway to perform for enthusiastic crowds at our major conventions.Easy access for high school singers
The Midwinter Convention, held each January, hosts the Next Generation Barbershop Junior Chorus Contest and the Next Generation Barbershop Junior Quartet Contest . Designed for male, female and mixed-voice groups age 18 and under, these are positioned as accessible activities for high school-aged ensembles.
Each group sings for adjudication and plateau recognition, but the depth of learning comes in individual coaching and group clinics. World-class clinicians such as Kirby Shaw, Deke Sharon (music director of the Pitch Perfect movies), and International Chorus Champion Westminster Chorus lead the combined choruses in workshops to develop a great ensemble sound, culminating in a command performance that caps the convention week.
The Barbershop Harmony Society makes it an attractive destination event because we’ll pick up the lodging and shows! Details: www.barbershop.org/nextgenerationShowcase events for college-age men
The BHS International Convention, held each July, hosts the Next Generation Barbershop Varsity Quartet Contest and the Next Generation Barbershop Varsity Chorus Invitational. Targeted at young men ages 18-25, these events offer more mature young voices a competitive event and full immersion in barbershop culture.
Founded in 1992, the quartet contest has been the launching point for hundreds of singers who have gone on to become world champs, chorus directors, Society leaders, and satisfied lifelong barbershoppers. The Barbershop Varsity Chorus Invitational is an extension of previous youth chorus festivals, providing a bigger stage and level playing field for more mature voices.
All Varsity Quartet and Chorus singers take part in an Honors Chorus that performs two songs in various venues throughout the convention week. World-class coaches work with the group to bring it to peak performance — an unforgettable growth opportunity. Details: www.barbershop.org/nextgenerationHow you can help
- Listen. Go to school music concerts, hear what local students are singing. Listen to what educators say they need. Be there to help, with no strings attached.
- Share with students and educators. It starts with showcasing the possibilities. Our YouTube Channel features hundreds of performances of men’s, women’s and mixed-voice youth groups. Your school could be among them.
- Provide a stage. Your chapter show stage offers an enthusiastic audience ready to applaud and motivate new ensembles. Help raise funds with a benefit show or free-will offering.
- Help subsidize travel. Nothing convinces the district arts supervisor like funds.
The Barbershop Harmony Society is proud to announce our host cities for our International Conventions in 2021, 2022, and 2023.
2021 – Cleveland, OH
2022 – Charlotte, NC
2023 – Louisville, KY
These cities rose to the top in a rigorous selection process that weighed the following criteria:
- Suitability of the venue(s) for events, including contests, shows, educational sessions, meetings, social activities, and tag singing
- Proximity of the venue(s) and hotels; walkability
- City attractions, both near the convention site (restaurants, nightlife, etc.) and in the vicinity
- Ability of BHS to engage the community and make a positive impact during the convention (community engagement, MegaSing, etc.)
- Accessibility for those traveling by air and car
- Cost to participants, including travel, hotel rooms, and meals
- Cost to BHS, including venue rental and labor
Prospective host cities first submitted proposals for consideration in 2016, which were reviewed by a BHS team led by Director of Events Dusty Schleier. After extensive due diligence and site visits, five cities were invited to Harmony Hall to make their case in Spring 2017. The finalist cities were charged with presenting a plan for how they could help the BHS create an event to support our goal of “A Better World. Singing.”
“I’m really excited about our upcoming convention locations,” says Dusty Schleier. “Each one has something different and unique to offer. One city is brand new to us, one city we’re returning to after more than half a century, and the third city has changed so much since the last time we were there that it might as well be a brand new location.”
Watch the videos below to find out more about where we will be in 2021, 2022, and 2023!
Photo: New York Times
Directors, have you wondered why your chorus sometimes seems out-of-sync or ragged? This choppiness might be something you’re demonstrating with your gesture, even though you might not be aware of it. This is due to something called mirror neurons.
Mirror neurons are the brain cells that pick up on social and emotional cues from other humans. If someone is hurt or upset, we can usually tell just by looking at their face or body language. This is not new information to us. What is interesting to note is that viewing someone hurt or upset can trigger a similar response a in our own brains, causing us to feel, at the very least, empathetic.
Dr. Jeremy Manternach demonstrates the lip-rounding condition.
How does this apply to chorus directors? Several studies measured the effects of nonverbal conductor gestures on singers. In one study by Dr. Jeremy Manternach of the University of Iowa, participants sang one phrase of song several times while watching videos of a prerecorded director. The baseline director videos showed the director with a neutral expression, while other videos showed the director with an identical expression but with rounded lips on two words. The research showed that participants rounded their lips significantly more during the rounded conductor conditions than in the neutral positions. Participants unconsciously mimicked the director.
This is a powerful position for chorus directors to be in, as it has a lot of implications for the conducting gesture. Effective gestures can turn ideas into music. Ineffective gestures can disrupt the singers’ storytelling. One way you can detect your effectiveness as a director is to film yourself from the front and honestly watch what you are nonverbally asking your group (watch with the sound off). If you are ever confused by a gesture (or shoulders or knees or lips, etc.) then adjust accordingly.
For more information about mirror neurons check out these videos: 1 , 2 and 3. For research on the effect of gesture on choral sound, check out the International Journal of Research in Choral Singing.
Join in the conversation in our Barbershop Chorus Directors group on Facebook. As always, feel free to reach out to the BHS Education Team for further resources and assistance at [email protected] or 800.876.SING.