The men’s barbershop chorus I sing with, Harbourtown Sound, competed recently in Orlando FL, at the 2018 International Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society. The BHS boasts more than a thousand active men’s choruses, most of them in North America.
Member choruses also hail from such faraway places as Australia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Barbershop quartets are included in the society, as well, bringing the total number of active singers to more than 80,000 worldwide.
The BHS was formally established in 1938 as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA). The current name was adopted in 2004.
Membership in the society is open to everyone—people of every age, background, gender-identity, race, sexual orientation, political opinion, or spiritual belief. Every person who loves to harmonize has a place in the society. The BHS vision is to bring people together in fellowship to enrich lives through singing.
It has certainly enriched mine. Raised in a family that loved to gather ‘round the old upright piano for sing-songs at every gathering, I learned the words to so many songs from the 40’s, the ‘30’s, and even earlier before I was ten years old. For a long time, my favourite singer was Al Jolson, for goodness sake!
For reasons that escape me, however, I never pursued a music education. Not until I was cajoled a couple of years ago to audition for Harbourtown Sound, did I even sing in a choir. But I was always a singer, mostly in the shower, sometimes in karaoke, and frequently while alone in my car. And I always the loved the good old harmonies.
Now I get to sing many of them, and more, with a group of brothers on a weekly basis—and in performance in front of live audiences on frequent occasions throughout the year. What’s not to like!
Our chorus—almost a hundred men strong, most of us at or beyond the venerable threescore-and-ten—is not of the calibre of the top choruses in the world. But of all such groups worldwide, we do rank in the top 24, based on the results of our recent competition. We’re proud of that.
The 2018 champion is a chorus of more than 150 men from Dallas TX, Vocal Majority, a group that has won the title thirteen times dating back to 1975. Listening to them is an emotional happening.
But so, too, is listening to us. And you don’t have to just take my word for it. Many of our songs—including Bridge Over Troubled Water, Five Foot Two, Hallelujah, That’s Life, Your Cheatin’ Heart, You Belong With Me, and You’ll Never Walk Alone—are available on YouTube. A performance of one of them may be found right here—
I’m sure you’ll agree with my assessment after giving us a listen. After all, in the whole wide world of barbershop singing, Harbourtown Sound is near the top.
Top 24, in fact!