Q: Was four part harmony really sung in barber shop's?
A: Yes. In the 1800's when life moved at a slower pace and the town men would gather at the main street barber shop to talk about the baseball game and socialize, they would often join in song in the four part harmony that we call barbershop harmony today.
Q: Do you have to be an accomplished singer to sing barbershop?
A: No. Barbershop music is written for the average voice. When you put a lead (melody), a baritone, a bass and a tenor voice together, the chords that are a formed make a wonderful harmony that we call barbershop harmony.
Q: Is barbershop singing just for men?
A: No. The Barbershop Harmony Society is a men's organization, and their are two organizations for women (Sweet Adelines International and Harmony, Inc.) that also sing barbershop harmony.
Q: What do the wives and families do when dad is out singing?
A: We have several social gatherings a year with our wives and families. A bus trip to the Kinston Indians game, annual picnic for the families, an installation dinner with wives and their attendance at shows and singouts during the year. The wives are also involved in show and festival preparations. Our families offer a great deal of support to the chorus which is greatly appreciated.
Q: Do you have to have singing experience to join the chorus?
A: No. All you need is the desire to sing, be able to carry a tune and be faithful at learning your voice part.
Q: Do barbershop chapters have any religous or racial affiliation?
A: No. Many chapters rent space in churches due to the cost of these spaces but we do not favor one religion over another. One of the items in our code of ethics is "We shall not permit the introduction of political, religous, or other similar controversial issues into the affairs of the Society."
Q: Is there an audition?
A: Yes. At the beginning of the membership process, you will be voice tested to determine whether you have the basic skills which, given dedication will enable you to become an active member of the chorus. The audition is a simple process that tests your ability to sing in tune, your vocal quality and flexibility, tonal memory, breathing, and natural voice range. The ability to read music is not a requirement for joining the chorus.
Q: I thought this was a barbershop quartet organization. What about quartets?
A: There are over 2,000 "registered" barbershop quartets in our Society, and about an equal number of quartets who do not go through the registration process. Quartet competitions are held throughout the year, usually in conjunction with chorus competitions; these events are held to determine division, distict and international quartet champions. A quartet must register before being allowed to compete in Society sponsored contests.
Q: What is barbershop harmony?
A: It is a style of unaccompanied singing with three voices harmonizing to the Melody line. Characteristically, the melody line is ‘within the chord’ – with a Tenor singing above, and the Baritone and Bass below the melody. The style is further distinguished by uniformity of word sounds, precision, and emphasis on close harmony. Choruses & Quartets are dedicated to preserving the beautifully unsophisticated ‘ old songs’ of the period from the 1890s to the early 1920s.
Q: What is the history of the Barbershop Harmony Society?
A: We are the largest all-male singing organization in the world. Founded in Tulsa, OK in 1938, it was named SPEBSQSA – “The Society For The Preservation And Encouragement Of Barbershop Quartet Singing In America.” (Considered a spoof of the many named Government agencies at the time) The founders were middle-aged businessmen who considered harmonizing the old songs as a ‘respite from the cares of the day’. It was truly ‘harmonizing’ because there were no four- part written arrangements. Initially membership was by invitation, and it was quite common for men to come in business attire.
Soon quartets formed and chapters began to spring up in a great many cities and towns – hundreds of them. Quartets performed at festivals and county fairs and such events. Chapters typically did not have a performing chorus in the early days. By the 1950s there were 40,000 members of the organization.
Over the years the Society has continued to preserve the old songs while also adding newer ones, and greatly improving upon vocal technique. Barbershop choruses first competed at the International contest in 1953 and chorus competitions have become ever more popular over the years. The emergence of chapter choruses greatly strengthened the Society because it brought men to together for the comradery, helped them learn more, and more music, and gave every member opportunities to perform.
Today there are about 28,000 members worldwide, with chapters in Canada, England, Sweden, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and there is active interest in a number of other countries. There are 16 districts with about 840 chapters in the US and Canada. Our Society’s headquarters in located in Nashville, TN.
Q: How does the Southern Gentlemen's chapter in New Bern relate to the Barbershop Harmony Society?
A: We are a chartered member of the Barbershop Society – one of about 840 in the US and Canada. This gives us access to its enormous library of arrangements and music, group insurance for any chorus activities, access to coaches, and leadership training, and the ability to participate with other chapters in Society sponsored events. As a member of the Society, were are also non-profit organization (501 C-3).
The Southern Gentlemen Chapter is a part of the NSC Carolina's District – one of 17 districts in the US and Canada. The District is a two-state region (NC, SC) and consists of 27 chapters with about 900 members. Our district conducts learning events and holds spring and fall conventions which feature chorus and quartet competitions. Winners are selected to represent the District at the International Contest each July.