Barbershop is A Cappella
There’s not a piano, guitar, fiddle or orchestra in sight when barbershoppers do their thing. Singing without musical accompaniment is called a cappella, an Italian phrase meaning “in the manner of the chapel.” It refers to an early Christian belief that God’s praises should only be sung, not sounded on instruments. Over the centuries, both accompanied and unaccompanied music found acceptance within the church, while vocal polyphony flourished outside. Gregorian chant is an example of a cappella sacred music, while barbershop is one example among many of a cappella secular music.
Barbershoppers sometimes jokingly call themselves “ninja a cappella singers,” because they perform without a safety net—no musical accompaniment, no printed music in hand. If you’re in a quartet, you memorize words and notes, and sing in harmony with three other men who are singing different words and notes. Life is simpler in a barbershop chorus, since you’re part of the bass section, the baritone section, the lead section or the tenor section. You have to know your stuff, but you’ve got support.
Singing barbershop is a bit of a challenge, but that is part of the fun. Harmony Express provides its members with learning materials: printed music for use at rehearsal, CDs for use at home or in the car, and a website Learning Center for use wherever you and your mobile device happen to be. The chorus also has an excellent Director, Kris Zinkievich, and solid section leaders willing and eager to help new members develop their skills. Over time, you get it.
The popularity of a cappella harmony has surged in the past several decades. Many colleges and high schools now have excellent ensembles performing in a variety of styles. Founded in 1938, the Barbershop Harmony Society is perhaps the best-established a cappella singing society in the United States. We build on a long, proud tradition.