NATIONAL BARBERSHOP QUARTET DAY
On April 11th, toes start tapping to four-part harmony thanks to National Barbershop Quartet Day. Barbershop quartets have a way of making the heart flutter. Very often, they transport us back to a simpler time or at the least make it standstill.
Barbershop quartets are a style of a cappella or unaccompanied vocal music. Their music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies.
Between 1900 and 1919, barbershop music found its popularity. In the 1920s, it began to fade into obscurity. However, the barbershop quartet saw a revival when the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America was founded. This tongue twister of a men’s organization quickly grew, as did other similar organizations promoting barbershop music as an art form. Today, just under 25,000 men in the United States and Canada are members of the SPEBSQSA.
But men aren’t the only ones singing four-part harmony. Across the country, organizations like the Sweet Adelines bring women of all ages together, melding their voices together and making crowds swoon to fun tunes. Much like the men’s organizations, the women also compete. They tune their voices and rehearse while also performing locally.
HOW TO OBSERVE #BarbershopQuartetDay
- Do you have the pipes to harmonize with a quartet? Join a barbershop organization near you. Lend them your voice! You never know who you will meet or whose life you might impact with your music.
- Attend a barbershop event. They host performances throughout the year and provide excellent (often humorous) entertainment, too!
- Learn more about the history of the barbershop quartet. Read Four Parts, No Waiting by Gage Averill, or watch the documentary American Harmony directed by Aengus James.
- Read about On the Brink, a barbershop quartet out of Bismarck, North Dakota in Celebration Voices.
- Use #BarbershopQuartetDay to post on social media.
- Educators, visit the National Day Classroom for more information designed for the classroom.
NATIONAL BARBERSHOP QUARTET DAY HISTORY
The birthday of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America is April 11, 1938, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Founded by Rupert I. Hall and Owen Clifton Cash, prospective members were not even required to be able to sing. According to an article in a June 13, 1938, issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cash was quoted as saying, “All we ask is just that said prospective member THINK he can sing.”
Barbershop Quartet FAQ
Q. Do you have to be a barber to be in a barbershop quartet?
A. No. While the phrase reflects the history of the music, you do not have to be a barber to be in a barbershop quartet.
Q. Why is it called a “barbershop” quartet?
A. There was a time when barbers supplied their own improvisational music to their customers, and it was called barbershop music. In the United States, barbershops formed social clubs that eventually gave way to acapella-style singing groups.
Q. What is four-part harmony?
A. In barbershop music, four-part harmony is a type of song written for four voices. In a barbershop quartet, each singer performs one of the four parts without instrumental accompaniment.
Q. Do barbershop quartets choreograph steps to go with their songs?
A. Many barbershop quartets include choreography in their performances. The addition of choreography provides a visual component and enhances the overall enjoyment of the performance.