Skip to main content
West Midlands Barbershop Harmony Club

Submitted by John Eardley on Tue, 29/03/2016 - 11:34

Originally submitted by George Badland on Wed, 24/06/2015

There has been some intense debate recently about where we, as a chorus, should be heading. Views held by some individuals feel we should be looking to the future and altering our artform to take account of the perceved  preferences of younger audiences. Well, before we explore the pros and cons of that thought, we should perhaps spend a few minutes considering what barbershopping is about.


Well to me, barbershopping is about a number of things but surprising as it may be, the music that we sing and the style we adopt is not at the top of the list.


To me, a true barbershoppers is is a guy who, without even a second thought,  I can turn to in an emergency. An old mate of mine used to say that barbershopping is one of the five emergency services available to us. The police, the fire service, the ambulance service, the AA / RAC and barbershoppers. I have to say that the main service that I have had to call on, maybe fortunately, has been barbershoppers. And unlike many who have been forced to call on those other services, I have NEVER been let down. If you are not prepared to respond to a call from one of your chorus or quartet members, you aint, by definition, a true barbershopper.


So with that thought out of the way what is the singing side of basrbershopping about?


Well a barbershop song should be able to be sung by your average lead. Not just the specialsit professional lead or the freak guy with and incredible range, but your average joe barbershopper lead  Any song that doesnt allow that is not really a good barbershop song. OK there may be the odd instances where passing the melody over to either the tenor of bass for a couple of bars will solve a particular range problem and that is OK but predominantly the melody should be within the range of your average Joe barbershopper lead.


What about the lyric? Well it should be a down to earth lyric that is easy to understand and does not contain words that can be construed as affensive to anyone. The sort of lyric that you would be happy to listen to in the company of your maiden aunt. In other words is should be plain unoffensive English.


Clearly there are other requirements like the number of barbershop sevenths  and a limit to certain other chords, the melody must be predominantly in the lead voice, but these things are more to do with the arrangement of the song. However the songs primary harmony is important as it must imply these specific chords. 


But in a geeral sense for me, barbershopping has quite a lot to do with a way of life and how one responds to others. The fact that the music and harmony are to die for is just an added bonus.


What do others think?