So in my spare time, I sing in a barbershop choir–I mean, chorus, as they keep reminding me–as part of the international organization of Sweet Adelines. My chorus does a concert in the winter or fall and sings for various other events, but we also compete along with other Sweet Adeline choruses and quartets.
You probably think of barbershop as men’s quartets, possibly thinking of the guys in The Music Man, singing “Lida Rose” or “Goodnight, Ladies.” So did I. The first time I knew that women could be in barbershop quartets was when I saw MAXX Factor on the show The Sing-Off. And it wasn’t until I was looking for a choir to join that I found out that there were choruses.
Barbershop is a cappella music, featuring four vocal parts–in order from highest to lowest: tenor, lead, baritone, and bass. Even with women singers, the parts retain these names. My part is lead, which means that 90% of the time I have the melody (phew). This is pretty different from choirs that I grew up with, where the first soprano part–the highest part, which corresponds with the tenor part in barbershop–has the melody. The tenor sings harmony over the lead, the bass is our foundation, and the baritone completes our chords. One thing we strive to do is ring a chord so that a fifth note appears to be included, an overtone.
The music we do spans many decades, but traditionally, barbershop sings music from the 40s. But, for variety, we had a quartet sing us “Poker Face” (the Glee version done for four voices instead of two). For competition, every chorus and quartet sings a ballad and an upbeat song, and the performances I saw this weekend followed that format. It’s great because some people get bored during ballads, while others prefer the emotions in them, so you are guaranteed the variety with each chorus/quartet’s performance.
This weekend, my chorus met with others in the region. Apparently during this convention, there are usually many vocal techniques given to us, but this year they focused on two things: choreography and attracting younger singers. That was fine by me because I had a sore throat and I miss zumba, so spending a weekend dancing was lots more fun than straining my voice when I could be saving it for rehearsal.
While there I met a high school choir (chorus?) who came to learn along with us, even though they don’t belong to Sweet Adelines. A group of us had them sing for us, and they were great! And later on, there was a contest for quartets with younger women (under 25) to see who would be sent to the Rising Star contest. (BTW, here‘s the winner of the most recent competition, if you want to get an idea what that’s like.) And as I was watching them, I was thinking of the girls’ stories and how unique each one was, and what must have attracted them to barbershop (thanks a lot to those presentations on how to get them interested), and it sparked an idea for a novel!
So I’m sure that I’ll have more on that when I get closer to writing it, but for now I need to do more research. I’m still really new to barbershop (I’m sure my chorus friends will come on here and laugh at how basic my barbershop info is in this post), and I’d like to get more experience under my belt before I go writing anything about it. Besides, I have a novel to rewrite and another to start querying again. 🙂
Lots of love,Sage