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Hereward Harmony... a brief history

What is Barbershop Singing?

Barbershop Roots

Hereward Harmony...A Brief History

Christmas 1987
saw a group of friends get together and having a sing–song around a piano.

One or two had a ‘bit of a bent’ for music and it was suggested that they try and harmonise their voices. ‘That sounds great’ or ‘that was good, let’s try some more’ was the response. In fact David Bache had a lot of previous experience in music and in a'cappella singing. It sounded so good they decided to form an a’cappella club

The advertising was carried out, a venue located and, as with all good things, a meeting was arranged.

On the 18th January 1988 the Club was formed and the name 'Hereward Harmony' entered the scene of entertainment in the Peterborough area.

At that time it is doubtful that the founder members, David Bache, Derek Parmenter, Stuart Hatch, Ron Brown and Richard Abbott realised what they had started.
They soon had a chorus of 20 plus members.

Some of the original members are in fact still members of the Club. At least three of founder members continue to sing a’cappella... Derek Parmenter, instrumental in organising the BABS Convention, sings with the Cotton Town Chorus from Bolton.

We entertain at many venues... East of England Show, Serpentine Green Shopping Centre, Cathedral Green Retirement complex, John Clare Theatre, and we tested the sound systems for the Broadway theatre, just to mention a few.

We get many requests to sing at parties and corporate functions. Christmas time is a very busy period for us.

Club membership numbers fluctuate.
Some go to do other musical things, amateur dramatics, male voice choirs and other hobbies with a musical air. Some even go to other barbershop choruses within a shorter travelling distance of their homes.  One ex member used to travel an hour by train until he changed clubs! (That’s how hard the bug can bite)

Not everyone is a musical genius, far from it.
We do have members who are able to ‘read the dots’ and interpret them in the correct sequence.
However, the majority of our club members are able to hold a tune and the lack of musical literacy doesn’t prevent them from singing in tune and enjoying themselves.

We entered the BABS National Competition in May 2007 for the first time in eighteen years and came 38th in the country.
In May 2008 we entered the same competion, held in Cheltenham and increased our standing by 8 places to finish 30th! We missed being presented with 'The Most Improved Chorus' award by one place!

2013 saw the 25th anniversary celebration of the chorus.
On 17th January, some 80 plus members, former members and visitors crammed into Orton Wistow Community Hall. We even had two of the original ‘groupies’ present! We enjoyed refreshments and drinks as well as various singing treats. The five men who set up the club in 1988 were present and no less than one former chairman of BABS and four gold medallists attended. All in all, a very well attended evening and good singing made it an unforgettable day.

2014 saw Hereward Harmony attending the 40th Birthday Celebration of BABS. We took part in the Chorus Competition. We had neither improved or declined in our standards as far as the Judges marking went, but our many fans thought we were GRRRREAT!

In 2015 we hope to travel to Llandudno, North Wales and see if we can improve our standing

What Is Barbershop Singing?

Barbershop Harmony
is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterised by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonising above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonising notes, and the baritone completing the chord.

The melody is not sung by the tenor except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags and codas, or when some appropriate embellishing effect can be created. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.

Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies whose tones clearly define a tonal centre and imply major and minor chords and Barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard metre.

The basic song and its harmonisation are embellished by the arranger to provide support of the song's theme and to close the song effectively.

Barbershop singers adjust pitches to achieve perfectly tuned chords in just intonation while remaining true to the established tonal centre. Artistic singing in the Barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, un-manufactured and free from apparent effort.

The presentation of Barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic presentation artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.

Barbershop Roots

As far as research
can ascertain, there was no such thing as ‘barbershop singing’ in the U.S.A until after 1607.  That is when English settlers founded Jamestown. Their main occupation was growing tobacco.
The Spaniards had settled in what is now called Florida, forming what was probably the first permanent settlement in America.

In 1597, the ‘Thomas Morley Guide to Practical Music Making’ said of barbershop singing ‘You sing you know not what. It would seem you come lately from a barbershop.’

In the 1600’s before Mozart and Rossini dreamt of operatic barbers, there was written in a music publication an article that went as follows:-
The Practice of Harmony Barbers
Each barber himself, in strictest rules,
Master or Batterer in the music schools
How they, the mere musicians out do go
These ones have more than one string to their bow.

In 1604 in the novel by Miguel D’Cevantes, Don Quixote is a passage, ‘To make the business glow, they sang inventing harmonies as they go. Most are players or fun makers and teeth or blood letting sitters’

In the 1700’s the barber’s shop was becoming less of a place to sing as fewer people wanted their hair cut. Wig wearing was taking over as the fashion. However, a’cappella was now established in the USA and continued to be used right up until the demise of vaudeville and advent of ‘wireless’

The revision of a’cappella singing was taken up again when a tax lawyer, called Owen C. Cash decided that for the art to die out would be a shame. He garnered support from an investment banker called Rupert Hall. Both came from Tulsa, Okalahoma.
Cash was a true partisan of quartet singing; who advertised the fact that he did not want a’cappella to fall by the way-side.

A meeting was called and at 6.30 pm on Monday April 11th 1938, 26 men gathered on the roof garden of the Tulsa Club in the Alvi Hotel. They eventually burst into four part harmony singing.
The police were called and had to ask the participants to ‘keep it down’. The sound of their singing had reached ground level and all traffic stopped to listen, wondering where the harmonic sound was coming from.

Cash had struck a chord, albeit unwittingly, and soon, across North America, men responded in their thousands and later in the same year the ‘Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Signing in America’ was set up

It was known by the acronym SPEBSQSA. This was at a time when many institutions in the States, were in the habit of using multiple initials to denote their function.

However, SPEBSQSA was changed to a simpler BQS (Barbershop Quartet Society) and this too was changed a couple of years ago to BHS (Barbershop Harmony Society).



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