Oct 10, 2009

The Buzz, Toledo-Area Barbershop Quartet

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Though I never paid a great deal of attention to the musical genre of barbershop music, a friend called me the other day and invited me to the the fourth annual Barbershop Bash. The event was hosted by the Stateline Chorus, who sang well and entertained the crowd, but I was especially impressed with the highly talented headliners, a barbershop quartet known as The Buzz.

The group's well-rehearsed efforts wowed the audience, and I was fascinated with the quartet's ability to not only master the difficult key changes but also the tricky modulations in volume. Even more impressive was the fact that the group's tenor was unable to make tonight's performance, and the replacement tenor had only two weeks to prepare. Yet the show went off with nary an audible hitch, even to this relatively discriminating ear.

The barbershop sound is timeless, even though groups occasionally perform relatively new songs. When I listen to barbershop music I can transcend modernity ( or postmodernity, or whatever you want to call the present) and get a glimpse of a less complicated past. Perhaps this past never really existed except in artificially created memories - like in old films and 78 rpm records - or maybe it did exist someplace, and evenings like this harken back to a time when life was a little simpler and singers actually sang.

Barbershop may never be my favorite form of music, but I think it is an important component of our musical legacy. I hope that there are enough practitioners to keep this vital music alive for future generations.

1 comment:

microdot said...

My father was a member of many Barber shop quartets in the 40's and 50's and a chartered member of the national organization.
I have a passable alto voice and can go into some kind of falsetto if I really have to...I really enjoy singing harmony parts and the greater whole, so to speak of a group...
This music lives on in many genres, the tradition of acapella doo wop is still with us... but in this age of electronic music, it's time for us humans to rediscover the music we can make with out electronic accompanimet, with out samplers or electronic vocal manipulation...
The technology obscures the pure soul and it's time for the voice and the tradition of vocal harmony to give us our music back...