Mention ‘Barbershop’ to most people and the first image that comes to mind is four chaps in straw boaters and natty, candy-striped blazers. That’s where barbershop started, but it’s come a long way in the past 100 years! Barbershop is a style of close harmony singing, sung in four parts: Tenor, Lead, Baritone and Bass.
Barbershop is usually sung in single sex groups, either in a quartet or a chorus. It differs from traditional choirs or choral singing, not only by the use of very close harmony, but also by the choreography involved. From the emotive movements in a ballad, to the more complex dance choreography in an up-beat tune, Barbershop is as much about the visual performance, as it is the audio. The singers perform without the safety net of music sheets or piano accompaniment, so keeping a performance in key is often one of the biggest challenges. To aid this, singers do not stand in blocks according to the part they are singing, but will instead be mixed up with other parts, to help them to hear and blend with the voices around them.
One of the best bits about barbershop is the way that – when the singers get it absolutely right – the chord stacks up to produce an overtone. That’s a note that is audible but isn’t actually being sung. When you get five notes from four voices and the room suddenly fills with a rich and resonant sound….that’s barbershop.
If you’re intrigued and you want to find out more, or are just thinking of joining a choir and want to get a taste of how we sing, why not drop in to one of our rehearsals on a Wednesday evening? Visit the Join Us page to find out more!