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. Today, just under 25,000 men in the United States and Canada are members of the SPEBSQSA. SPEBSQSA often called “SPEBS” for ease is now called The Barbershop Harmony Society.
Sweet Adelines International is a worldwide organization of women singers, established in 1945, committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performances. This independent, nonprofit music education association is one of the world’s largest singing organizations for women. “Harmonize the World” is the organization’s motto. It has a current membership of 24,000 and holds a yearly international singing competition.
We were waiting for a small Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship when we met some folks who lived relatively near us. Karen was also a music teacher and we clicked right away. She belonged to a Sweet Adelines group relatively near me and I joined up.
I loved everything about Sweet Adelines – the singing, the sequins, the wigs, the false eyelashes, the competitions, the conventions – everything but the huge time commitment.
In the early days, we made our own costumes, complete with rows of sequins. Our “sewing room” – now my mom’s room – has an outline on the floor from where I had to spray on Fray Check. Forgot to use a newspaper underneath. Oops!
Then, I got Cushing’s and had to take a lot of time off for surgery and such. I tried going back a time or two but I just couldn’t handle it.
I still have my collection of medals from various competitions over 10 years and some days I really miss it.
I still love to listen to Barbershop and have a large collection in Spotify.
Here’s a favorite from the men:
My old group:
Sadly, the Windjammers have gone out of business. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch was responsible for the loss of the s/v Fantome, a four-masted schooner operated by Windjammer. All 31 crew members aboard perished; passengers and other crew members had earlier been offloaded in Belize.
The ship, which was sailing in the center of the hurricane, experienced up to 50-foot (15 m) waves and over 100 mph (160 km/h) winds, causing the Fantome to founder off the coast of Honduras.
The story was recorded in a compelling book The Ship and The Storm by Jim Carrier.