Ever since I saw The Music Man I have loved barbershop quartets. I’m not sure they actually have anything to do with barber shops other than the general red and white poll type outfits most quartets wear. These good-natured vocal groups perform perfect 4 part harmony, normally featuring a great deal of humor taking us back to the roaring 20’s when apparently life was a lot more fun.
No one knows for sure who started Barbershop Quartet Day but most think it has something to do with The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, whose home is in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The harmonies in a barbershop quartet have gone on to be used in other forms of music – rock, jazz, Broadway… and while the quartet may not be as popular today as it use to be, we hear it’s roots over and over again in music today.
While traditionally a male dominated field, women’s barbershop quartets have sprung up in recent years. They seem to follow the tradition of the barbershop quartet by adding their voices to it’s heritage. While generally filled by a bass, baritone, tenor and screaming tenor, the quartet can be any combination so long as a four-part harmony is observed.
Visit nearly any theme park across America and you are likely to find a Barbershop Quartet performing somewhere. If you are lucky enough, you might even run into Jimmy Fallon performing with one at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida.
How to celebrate – Form a Barbershop Quartet of your own! Join an already existing Quartet. Watch The Music Man and listen to one of the most renouned Quartets ever, The Buffalo Bills.
What can be more fun than listening to a Barbershop Quartet? Four part harmony that blends together a Lead, Tenor, Baritone and Bass. (Normally male but there are also many female quartets as well.) Now you might think that these quartets come from Gospel and Minstrels and of course, many do. However, even back in Shakespeare’s day there were groups that performed exactly like the modern, or more modern, day groups. They were often accompanied by a lute but nothing else.
The Barbershop quartet became popular in America during the late 1800’s, often accompanied by a banjo. In more recent years most barbershop is done a-capella, without musical accompaniment. On April 11th, 1938 the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, named April 11th as Barbershop Quartet Day. Songs like, “Shine On Harvest Moon”, “Hello, Ma Baby” and “Sweet Adeline” have become classics for the Barbershoppers.
If you stop and think about it, rock and roll, R&B and many other modern day forms of music owe a lot to the barbershop quartet. 4 part harmony, a mainstay of many hits started with barbershop techniques. The Beatles, Doobie Brothers, Mamma’s & Papa’s, all have roots deep in the barbershop history. If you ever watched the film, “The Music Man” it was filled with barbershop quartet material. The Buffalo Bills performed at Robert Preston’s will bringing a lighter and funnier side to the movie. And who hasn’t taken that ride at Disney where the barbershop grave quartet perform on a “nightly” basis.
To celebrate, listen to a barbershop quartet. Try singing in a barbershop quartet. Come up with your own list of modern-day musical performers that use barbershop stylings.