Monday, September 20, 2004

How I got started

Every Barbershopper has a story about their introduction or induction into the Barbershop world. Some start as kinder at their parent's knee and some don't discover it until very late in life. Each one of us loves to tell our story.

Mine started only a few years back. Although I knew about Barbershop while I was growing up in Miami, Florida, many moons ago [The Miamians were an International Champion Barbershop chorus and they produced one of the most reknowned Champion Quartets of all time - The Suntones], somehow, I never got around to going over to their Chapter meeting. As a result, I missed out on thirty years of musical joy. I didn't get reintroduced until 2000.

At the time, I was second-bananaing [yes, that is a word] a local, talk radio show during morning drive-time. I can't recall where I saw it but I became aware that a local Barbershop group was offering Singing Valentines you could send to a loved one anywhere in town. This sounded like just the kind of thing we could bring onto the show for some diversion and entertainment so I called the number listed.

I got voice mail. Do you hate voice mail? Anyway, the President of the Chapter called back and said he'd be glad to get a bunch of his singers together and bring them over. Since this was a morning show, he wasn't too keen on 0800 but we settled on a time as late in our slot as possible and set a date for their appearance.

The Surfside Chorus arrived that morning with their President, Dick Nickel, and their Director, Patti Gallagher, to give our listeners a sample of what they might expect their loved ones to experience if they sent them a Singing Valentine.

By the way, as a digression, Barbershop Singing Valentines [and other greetings] are available nearly everywhere in one form or another. If you visit, you can find links to a quartet or chorus near your loved one.

We gave them a place to warm up and then crammed about 20 bodies into the talk studio designed for four. It was a wonderful sound and we got many calls asking for details. Surfside had a good response for their program that year.

That might have been the end of it except for one thing. Their President happened to frequent a gym across the street from the radio station and he and I had talked about singing in general and he found out that I was a singer from way back. That's all he needed to hear. Nearly every morning he'd be tapping on the studio window that faced the street in the room where I was running the show. I'd go to the door and he'd ask, "Are you coming to the meeting tonight?" Surfside meets on Tuesday and Tuesdays are very busy around here with various government meetings that we covered for the show. A dark Tuesday in radio-land was rare so I always said, "Can't make it this week." That didn't deter him at all. After about six months of this 'harassment' [grin], he happened to hit me on a Tuesday when nothing of import was happening in the real world and I finally said, "Okay. I'll be there."

I got to the meeting place [the choral room at Daytona Beach Community College] about thirty minutes early. I was immediately met at the door by about six Barbershoppers, including Dick, and whisked over to see the Director. We spoke briefly about my singing experience and what my voice part was and then I was introduced around to the other members. I was given a Guest Book [Barbershop music in a binder for newbies] and placed in the Bass section between their oldest Bass and their Music V.P. [and the Director's husband] then the meeting [or rehearsal as most would think of it] began.

It was a wonderful sound. That's the thing that catches your attention first. For those of you who sing, you'll never have a more concentrated version of the a cappella [without accompaniment] experience than Barbershop. About halfway through the meeting, they took a break and several of them took me aside to teach me a tag. A tag is a Barbershop for the last eight to twelve bars of a song, usually where the big finish is located, although some tags are just tags and not part of any song. The one they taught me is a Barbershop classic, "When It's Sleepy Time Down South." It took me several tries to get the hang of memorizing the Bass part to a song I'd never heard before in a combination that was quite different from any solo or standard chorus singing I'd ever done. But once I got the hang of it, WOW, what a sound and what a feeling!

Needless to say, from that moment on I was completely hooked and I've been there ever since. I've even had a couple of jobs in the administration including my current position as Vice-President of Marketing and Public Relations. Next month, I'm running for Chapter President for 2005. It really grows on you. [grin]

That's how I got started. You add your own stories by clicking on the comment link below.

That was my Barbershop chorus introduction. Next comes the story of getting to the root of Barbershopping, the Quartet.

The purest sounds you'll ever hear

Are you a closet singer? I don't mean do you sing in a closet [maybe you do but I'm not going there]. I mean do you sing all the time? Do you sing in the car? In the shower? At the water cooler? Driving your cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store? Can you carry a tune from here to there without the aid of a musical instrument or karaoke track? Are you dying to have someplace where you can really sing out without drawing bewildered stares? Then maybe I have just the ticket for you.

Have you ever considered Barbershop harmony? It's easy. It's designed for the average singer. It's divided into four parts depending on the natural range of your voice. You don't have to be able to read music. It covers musical styles from the 1800s to the present. And the best thing is that Barbershoppers will teach you everything you need to know while making you part of the Barbershop family.

You probably didn't know it but there are Barbershoppers all around you. Most cities have at least one Barbershop chorus or quartet within driving distance. It used to be one of the best kept secrets in the world but Barbershop has spread all over the world and can be found almost anywhere.

In North America, there are two main Barbershop outfits - one for guys and one for gals. If you're a guy you'll want to go here:

and check out The Barbershop Harmony Society. If you're a gal you'll want to go here:

and visit Sweet Adelines International. Both these groups have members everywhere just waiting to take you on a journey of musical discovery like nothing you've ever experienced before.

And if you are outside of North America, you'll find plenty of starting points in your neck of the woods, too. You can start looking here:

at The Ultimate Barbershop Links page. If they haven't got it, it doesn't exist. [grin]

In any case, this could be the most fun you've ever had. It's a family and it's family-oriented. The only four-letter words you find in our music are words like: love, moon, June, etc.

This blog is going to be my attempt to bring Barbershop to yet another corner of cyberspace and spread the word: "Singing is life! The rest is just details."