National Barbershop Quartet Day is observed annually on April 11. Barbershop quartets have a way making the heart flutter. Very often they transport us back to a simpler time or at the least make it stand still.
Barbershop quartets are a style of a cappella or unaccompanied vocal music. Their music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies.
- Between 1900 and 1919 barbershop music found its popularity.
- In the 1920s, it began to fade into obscurity. However, the barbershop quartet saw a revival when the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America was founded.
- This tongue twister of a men’s organization grew quickly as did other similar organizations promoting barbershop music as an artform.
- On April 11, 1938, the Barbershop Harmony Society (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.)was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, marking the official celebration of Barbershop Quartet Day. The image of four men wearing pinstripes and straw hats singing together with complex harmonies could be considered a cultural cornerstone of the 1940s.
- Today, just under 25,000 men in the United States and Canada are members of the SPEBSQSA.
- However, Barbershop Quartet is by no means an American invention; the popularity of barbershops in England amongst men during the time of Shakespeare extended as far as in-house entertainment, often taking the form of a lutist providing a melody to which the queuing patrons could harmonize with.
- A barbershop quartet is a group of 4 men, each with their own unique voices – second tenor, first tenor, bass, and baritone – singing songs in the barbershop style.
- Barbershop quartets have a signature dressing style that includes bright striped jackets, straw hats, and big mustaches.
- How did the oversized mustaches, striped jackets and straw hats become synonymous with the genre? It started with Vaudeville. Barbershop quartets were often used in front of the curtain to entertain while other acts were setting up. In order to be seen by those in the “cheap seats” they donned distinctive costumes.
- The early American barber’s music was probably strummed in the less stodgy and “proper” South.
- In 1882 a New York Age writer noted the growth of home-grown singing alongside Black exclusion from theaters and concert halls.