Monday, April 11, 2011

Today is "Barbershop Quartet Day"!

A barbershop quartet is an ensemble of four people who sing a cappella (just voices) in the exacting barbershop music genre  which dates back to the 1900s. These simple songs were often sung in four parts with the melody set in the second-lowest voice.
Origin with the African American community
The first uses of the term, "Barbershop quartet" were associated with African Americans. Henry notes that The Mills Brothers learned to harmonize in their father's barber shop in Piqua, Ohio and this was also common in other neighborhood barber shops in the US. The Mills Brothers moved on to  jazz and pop vocal quartet and help start and sponsor other barbershop groups. Their group consisted of John Jr. (1910-1936) basso and guitarist, Herbert (1912-1989) tenor, Harry (1913 -1982) baritone, and Donald (1915-1999) lead tenor.
Edison's talking machine (the phonograph) spread the harmony nationwide. In the early 1900s, pop music success depended on sales of sheet music to the general public. The coming of radio prompted a shift in American popular music. Song writers turned out more sophisticated melodies for the professional singers of radio and phonograph. These songs did not adapt as well to impromptu harmonization, because they placed a greater emphasis on jazz rhythms and melodies that were better suited to dancing than to casual crooning. 

Radio quartets kept close harmony singing popular with many amateur singers, though‹and these singers were ready for the revival of barbershop harmony that took place in April, 1938, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.While travelling to Kansas City on business, Tulsa tax attorney O. C. Cash happened to meet fellow Tulsan Rupert Hall in the lobby of the Muehlebach Hotel. The men fell to talking and discovered they shared a mutual love of vocal harmony. Together they set out to stop the decline of that all-American institution, the barbershop quartet, and organized a national barbershop society to keep it going with national singing championships.
The Style
Barbershop vocal harmony, as codified during the barbershop revival era (1940s – present), is a style of a cappella, or unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part harmony. Each of the four parts has its own role: generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead. 
In North America most male barbershop quartet singers belong to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), while most female barbershop quartet singers are in either Sweet Adelines International or Harmony, Inc. Similar organizations have sprung up in many other countries. Notable barbershop quartets: The Haydn Quartet or Edison Quartet (1900s), The Mills Brothers, The Buffalo Bills (1950s, Quartet Champions), The Dapper Dans of Disneyland, The Be Sharps of The Simpsons,The Singing Senators (actual U.S. Senators), Nightlife (1996 International Champs). The Dapper Dans, Barbershop quartet at Disneyworld, Florida consist of Neel (red stripes), JC (light blue), Ken (purple), and Dan (in Yellow)

(Source: Wikipedia, &; photo credits: The Mills Brothers,; Victor V Disc Phonograph (Gramophone) ca. 1907, Norman Bruderhofer, Wikipedia; Artist Norman Rockwell's "Barbershop Quartet" (Sept. 1936),; The Dapper Dans, Barbershop quartet, October 2006, Tammy Green, Flickr, Wikipedia)

Today's celebrations

April 11th has a bunch of celebrations to consider:

National Cheese Fondue Day
National Eight Track Tape Day
Barbershop Quartet Day *
Dandelion Day
National Pet Day (2005)
International "Louie Louie" Day (birthday of Richard Berry, 
who composed Louie Louie)
National Submarine Day: 
The U.S. Submarine Force was officially established (1900) ^
The most boring day in 1954, since 1900 
according to the True Knowledge Answer Engine
Christian Feast Day: Antipas of Pergamum (Greek Orthodox Church), 
Gemma Galgani, Godeberta, Guthlac, Stanislaus of Szczepanów
Juan Santamar√≠a Day, which is the anniversary of 
his death in the 2nd Battle of Rivas (Costa Rica)
Schmeckfest (tasting festival), German Food Festival
Liberation Day (Uganda)

(* in posts, previously or to follow)

(^ Photo credit: The Beatles Yellow Submarine, 1968,

This second week of April celebrates:

Garden Week
National Volunteer Week
National Library Week
Be Kind to Animals Week
TV Turn-Off Week
National Building Safety Week
National Guitar Week ^
National Egg Salad Week
National Home Safety Week

(^ Photo credit: