American Harmony, The Movie… Revisited

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American Harmony

Barbershop singing like you’ve never imagined

By MEG DOWNEY • The Tennessean • April 14, 2009

Start humming…
Gonna take a sentimental journey.
Yes, sentimental, fiercely competitive, charming and obsessive. American Harmony, a music documentary about barbershop singing, exposes the passion and friendship of the men drawn to this peculiarly American style of a cappella singing.
Influenced by African-American gospel and European hymn chorales, the music, for some, may seem stuck in the early 20th century. We think of men with sleeve garters, handlebar mustaches and straw skimmers on heads bent together in harmony on “Sweet Adeline.”

Get past that. Today, many may dress more like dons and sing 1960s pop. The film sets up four gladiator quartets seeking to be No. 1 in the international competition held by the eminent Barbershop Harmony Society, which is based in Nashville.
Max Q is the revered dream team of older singers who’ve won before with other groups but can’t seem to get the gold; the OC Times (for Orange County, Calif.) are attractive young turks who could easily wow American Idol fans; Reveille is a group of middle-aged friends with a comedic bent; and Vocal Spectrum is a foursome of upstarts just out of college.

These musical Olympics attract 10,000 fans, and the singers practice with the intensity of Lance Armstrong, while mowing the lawn, playing poker and for hours in front of a coach. The blissful ringing chords they produce are only half of it. Watch their faces contort with emotion — eyes popping for surprise, eyebrows bent up in sincerity, half-closed eyes and crooning lips oozing love. They are all hams, and that’s the kick.
Shawn York, the tenor with the OC Times, works as a manager in a Chick-fil-A, then suits up and becomes a rock star on stage or enchants a waitress when his quartet spontaneously erupts with “So In Love” in a luncheonette. No wonder these guys have groupies following them.

As Joe Hunter, a baritone with Reveille, said: “It’s you, your voice and the audience, and when it’s done right, it moves people.”
While winning may drive the singers, it’s the camaraderie that binds them. American Harmony shows that effectively. The teams deal with challenges from rookie nerves to brain cancer. The 86-minute film, written, produced and directed by Aengus James, is a rose in the lapel for these songsters.

Stay “Tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

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One Response to “American Harmony, The Movie… Revisited”

  1. Dan and Deanna Says:

    Jerry, that sound like the kind of movie that we like to see. We will be on the look out for this one. Thank you for telling us about it. We hope that your wife’s group is doing good. Tell them good luck with all that they do.
    Thank you for this fun blog.
    Dan and Deanna “Marketing Unscrambled”

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