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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

♫Harmony in a Barbershop♫

For many of us, images of high-backed chairs, white-draped figures, shaving foam and old-fashioned razors with leather straps bring back memories of barbershop days. If you never frequented a barbershop, you surely passed by the red and white revolving pole outside which never went unnoticed. Out of the barbershop era came a special genre of music consisting of unaccompanied, four part, close-harmony singing still a popular a cappella music sung around the world today. Even though its day of celebration was April 11, the music of the barbershop quartet is still very much a part of the fabric of American culture deserving of recognition on any given day.

The Barbershop Quartet


On April 11, 1938, the Barbershop Harmony Society (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.) was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, marking the official celebration of Barbershop Quartet Day. The image of four men wearing pinstripes and straw hats singing together with complex harmonies could be considered a cultural cornerstone of the 1940s.

What exactly is a Barbershop Quartet?

A barbershop is a place of business, a shop where men go to get a haircut. Quartet implies a group of four people gathering to play music or sing together. A logical conclusion for a Barbershop Quartet would be four men passing the time in a barbershop playing music or singing as they wait their turn for hair cuts.  

That comes pretty close to nailing the definition.  
Barbershop quartets originated with African American men socializing in barbershops; they would harmonize while waiting their turn, vocalizing in spirituals, folk songs and popular songs.
Source: enwikipedia.org
What makes the music behind the Barbershop Quartet so distinctive?

There are two important areas of distinction for the Barbershop Quartet. First, there are no accompanying instruments. The performance is a cappella. Second, four distinct vocalists perform in a Barbershop Quartet: one lead vocalist (singing the melody), one tenor (harmonizing above the melody), one bass (singing the lowest harmonizing notes) and one baritone (completing the chord, usually below the lead). The singers harmonize using their vocals. The music is lighthearted and allows for full range of the vocalists' skills.

Is the Barbershop Quartet all American?

Although barbershop quarter singing is associated with the United States, the Barbershop Quartet is by no means an American invention. The popularity of barbershops in England amongst men during the time of Shakespeare extended as far as in-house entertainment, often taking the form of a lutist providing a melody to which the queuing patrons could harmonize. This idea and practice became popular in America in the West during the late 1800s, though a banjo was often used instead of a lute.

While the Barbershop Quartet itself is not all American, perhaps the rendition below is nothing but American all the way!

Typically Barbershop Quartets are characterized by an all-male or all-female choral group. Here are some different performances of which you can determine your own preference, male or female.