Archive for the ‘Men’s Barbershop Quartets’ Category

BHS International Qualifications…

March 17, 2009


This coming weekend my wife Elaine and I will be in Las Vegas, Nevada at the site of one of the many qualification competitions for the upcoming International Convention and Competition for the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS).  This particular convention will combine both the Far Western and the Rocky Mountain Districts.

The International Convention will be held in Anaheim, California, held from June 29, thru July 4, 2009.  It will be a thrill for my wife and I to attend this International convention since it is close to home. 

This convention will be the first time that a Sweet Adeline Chorus has been invited to attend and perform on one of the shows outside the main competition.

It will also be a monumental calling card to see the 11 time International champion chorus Vocal Majority and the 7 time International champion chorus Masters of Harmony perform together on the same stage.  Approximately 275 men will perform several songs together, as well as separate selections from each of the choruses by themselves.

I will be sure to post results for all to see, and possibly to hear, following the events.

Thanks for reading

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack,  California  USA


American Harmony, The Movie…

March 2, 2009

 American Harmony

 What a boost to the Barbershop Art Form! Here is a reprint from the official BHS website. 

American HarmonyThe Single Biggest Public Relations & Membership Recruitment Opportunity Ever Presented To Chapters of the Barbershop Harmony Society

American Harmony, the documentary, had a very exciting and  successful  screening at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s 2008   International Convention in Nashville. Now the producers, Aengus James (who is also the writer/director) and Colin Miller, want to take it beyond the barbershop devotees. The film, which is a tribute to the  human musical spirit, is more than three years in the making and was edited by Kate Amend, the editor of two Oscar-winning documentaries. 

The movie is an in-depth look at the amazingly rich subculture of a true American art form. It follows the lives of some of the biggest names to emerge from international competition in the Society’s history, as well as interviews with rank-and-file members, called “Joe Barbershoppers.” The film features four prominent Society quartets – OC Times, Max Q, Vocal Spectrum, and Reveille – over a span of years, on stage and at home, in their personal quests for international recognition as they experience the thrill of victory, and the agony of not quite making it. American Harmony received an enthusiastic reception from film distributors and other non-Society audiences.

“The film is a mixture of obsession, singing, zany comedy and nail-biting competition,” says James on the website. “This is the story of several dreamers who journey from their ‘ordinary’ lives to the world stage in the hopes of winning the gold.”


American Harmony was filmed by James and his camera crews during the Society’s last three international conventions and is interspersed with footage and other graphic elements provided by the Barbershop Harmony Society. These elements combine to tell a very compelling story:


Watch the trailer


Thanks for reading


barber-pole2Stay “tuned”


Jerry Braack


California  USA

Masterpiece of Sheer Beauty… revisited…

February 10, 2009
Once again from the Masters of Harmony comes the formation of a championship quality and caliber quartet – Masterpiece! 
Here is Masterpiece competing in the SoCal West Divisional in 2008.  They are getting better all the time!  Their next challenge is the International Preliminary Competition in Las Vegas in March 2009, to be eligible to compete at the Internation Competition to be held in Anaheim, California in late June 2009.
I read Mike’s blog piece on the quartet and realized I couldn’t do any better… so here is a reprint…
Have you heard of this new quartet coming into the limelight? The 5th Wheel has. Maybe not the name, but certainly the members. Yes, it is another quartet made up entirely of previous gold medalists. You may not think it’s fair to those who have never won an international contest to compete against another “power” quartet? I disagree. Masterpiece has the potential to be something very special for this Society and the art form. I’ll tell you why.

The members of Masterpiece are Rob Menaker (Nightlife, 1996), Mark Hale (Michigan Jake, 2001), Alan Gordon (Gotcha!, 2004) and Brett Littlefield (Nightlife, 1996). OK, pick your jaw off the ground and keep reading. Yes, this quartet has some very impressive singers in the group. Rob is a strong and accurate Tenor, Mark sings with musicality that is unmatched, Alan is, in my opinion being a fellow baritone, probably the best baritone in our Society. Alan can fill and sing like a Bass and yet match the musicality and sensitivity of the Lead. Brett… well, Brett is Brett. I believe Brett’s former life was one of the trumpets that took down the walls of Jericho. His resonance and deep voice is tremendous. OK, but we already know this about them. Yeah, they’re good. But what makes them so special?

Masterpiece represents all that is right about our Society and why we sing together. First off, they are all friends.  Read more…

Thanks for reading and listening
Stay “tuned”
Jerry Braack 
California USA

Champions, a closer look…

January 31, 2009



MaxQ, the 2007 Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Champion has set some very high standards for those following in competitions.  Their sound is crisp and clean and very exciting.  The members of course have many achievements during their many years of membership in the BHS.

 Listen to just a sample of one of the CD’s they have produced.  It is  from an Irish lullaby “Fare Thee Well Love”, and sure to grab you and tug at your heart strings.  Be sure to read their Bio’s on the MaxQ quartet website

They are one of many championship caliber people who have joined, stayed and enhanced the barbershop art form.  Those of us who have the pleasure of listening to and knowing them are truly blessed.

I for one had the pleasure of singing in the Masters of Harmony during the time when the bass of MaxQ, Jeff Oxley directed our chorus to the International Championship in 1999. He commuted from Dallas, Texas at least once a week for rehearsals and more for performances.  One of those performances was the appearance of our chorus on the Jerry Lewis Telethon, where we brought a lot of people to tears with our rendition of “To Dream The Impossible Dream”. It was a moment in my life I will never forget.

Thanks for reading and listening

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Even Walt Disney Knew the Value of Harmony…

January 27, 2009

Dapper Dans - Sandman The Dapper Dans are some of the best entertainment in the world.

Yes even that phenominal man the entire world knows… Walt Disney knew the value of harmony, balance and excitement.  Couple all of that with some unbelieveable imagination, and you have Disneyland.

He built amazing, exciting and awe-inspiring theme parks all over the world.  Here is just one example that is focused on Barbrshop Harmony and the style of that music.  Give them a listen

Part of that vision with a unique instruments to accompany them called Deagan Organ Chimes.  This is one of the aspects that the Dapper Dans are known for.  The instrument truly do add to the presentation.

These men are a very special asset to the Barbershop style of music… some a cappella, and some accompanied, but no matter what you were always entertained!

Thanks for reading

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

The Strength of Youth, Balance and Harmony…

January 24, 2009

OC TimesHere is a treat for you…  OC Times. Barbershop Harmony Society International Champion Quartet (2008) that hails both from the Masters of Harmony and Westminster choruses in Southern California.  They are such a treat to listen to with a balanced, focused and exciting sound. Give them a listen!

These 4 young men a just one example of the exciting times currently being experienced in the world of Barbershop Harmony.  The BHS is totally committed to bringing the barbershop style of a cappella singing to young people around the world.

This is in direct response to the slowly decreasing numbers of men and women in the various barbershop singing associations.  Being an art form born in the USA, it is vital that this style of singing flourishes and continues to grow both in numbers and quality of music.

Even though I am not currently active in the BHS (diabetic feet just don’t stand up to the rehearsals of the Masters of Harmony), I still am a very strong supporter of the music and the fellowship and harmony and balance it very often brings to people who sing it and people who listen to it.

I am humbled to be able to write this blog and champion the cause of Barbershop Harmony, and will continue to do so for a long time.  It creates in me that which I have dedicated this blog to… balance and harmony and friendship.  Thanks for reading and posting your comments.

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Ringing Chords the Barbershop way Part 2…

January 21, 2009

Hi-fidelityHi everyone, This is a wonderful and unique quartet called Hi-Fidelity, check out their website and listen to them singing a very entertaining song in a competition setting on

Here is the second in a series of posts on what drives the Barbershop singer to come back time after time to this fantastic art form called Barbershop. The Barbershop Harmony Society, BHS continually strives to develop even better ways of enhancing the “a cappella” experience in music through Barbershop Harmony.

What is prized is not so much the “overtone” itself, but a unique sound whose achievement is most easily recognized by the presence of the “overtone”. The precise synchrony of the waveforms of the four voices simultaneously creates the perception of a “fifth voice” while at the same time melding the four voices into a unified sound. The ringing chord is qualitatively different in sound from an ordinary musical chord e.g. as sounded on a tempered-scale keyboard instrument.

Most elements of the “revivalist” style are related to the desire to produce these ringing chords. Performance is a cappella to prevent the distracting introduction of equal-tempered intonation, and because listening to anything but the other three voices interferes with a performer’s ability to tune with the precision required. Barbershop arrangements stress chords and chord progressions that favor “ringing”, at the expense of suspended and diminished chords and other harmonic vocabulary of the ragtime and jazz forms.

The dominant seventh-type chord… is so important to barbershop harmony that it is called the “barbershop seventh…” SPEBSQSA (now BHS) arrangers believe that a song should contain dominant seventh chords anywhere from 35 to 60 percent of the time (measured as a percentage of the duration of the song rather than a percentage of the chords present) to sound “barbershop.”

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Barbershop Quartet Champions down through the years…

December 19, 2008

Here is a list of the Barbershop Harmony Society’s international quartet champions by the year in which they won. Quartets can only win once, though up to two members may appear together in another quartet and compete again. A few men have won two quartet gold medals, and three men, Joe Connelly, Tony DeRosa, and Jeff Oxley, have won three.

This is quite a challenge since the music, interpretation, vowel matching and chord structure must all be rebuilt.  This is especially true when you realize the sound of the music first came from the voices of men with little to no training in the art of vocal production.  Over time development of the craft and production of The Barbershop Art Form have developed a richer more pleasing sound which enhances the overtones and makes the art form more enjoyable for everyone who hears it… for the first time or 10,000th time.

 BHS Gold Medal

2008 OC Times, 2007 Max Q, 2006 Vocal Spectrum, 2005 Realtime, 2004 Gotcha!, 2003 Power Play, 2002 Four Voices, 2001 Michigan Jake, 2000 Platinum,

1999 FRED, 1998 Revival, 1997 Yesteryear, 1996 Nightlife, 1995 Marquis, 1994 Joker’s Wild, 1993 Gas House Gang, 1992 Keepsake, 1991 The Ritz, 1990 Acoustix,

1989 Second Edition, 1988 Chiefs of Staff, 1987 Interstate Rivals, 1986 Rural Route 4, 1985 The New Tradition, 1984 The Rapscallions, 1983 Side Street Ramblers, 1982 Classic Collection, 1981 Chicago News, 1980 Boston Common,

1979 Grandma’s Boys, 1978 Bluegrass Student Union, 1977 Most Happy Fellows, 1976 Innsiders, 1975 Happiness Emporium, 1974 Regents, 1973 Dealer’s Choice, 1972 Golden Staters, 1971 Gentlemen’s Agreement, 1970 Oriole Four,

1969 Mark IV, 1968 Western Continentals, 1967 Four Statesmen, 1966 Auto Towners, 1965 Four Renegades, 1964 Sidewinders, 1963 Town and Country Four, 1962 Gala Lads, 1961 The Suntones, 1960 Evans Quartet,

1959 Four Pitchikers, 1958 Gay Notes, 1957 Lads of Enchantment, 1956 Confederates, 1955 Four Hearsemen, 1954 Orphans, 1953 Vikings, 1952 Four Teens, 1951 Schmitt Brothers, 1950 Buffalo Bills,

1949 Mid States Four, 1948 Pittsburghers, 1947 Doctors of Harmony, 1946 Garden State Quartet, 1945 Misfits, 1944 Harmony Halls, 1943 Four Harmonizers, 1942 Elastic Four, 1941 Chord Busters, 1940 Flat Foot Four,

And last but not least, the first Quartet Champions in 1939 were the Bartlesville Barflies.

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Barbershop Music Origins, another take…

December 18, 2008

As referenced in Wikipedia…

The first uses of the term were associated with African Americans and also references that “The Mills Brothers learned to harmonize in their father’s barber shop in Piqua, Ohio. Several other well-known African American gospel quartets were founded in neighborhood barber shops, among them the New Orleans Humming Four, the Southern Stars and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartette.” Although the Mills Brothers are primarily known as jazz and pop artists and usually performed with instrumental accompaniment, the affinity of their harmonic style with that of the barbershop quartet is clearly in evidence in their music and most notably, perhaps, in their best-known gospel recording, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well,” performed a cappella. Their father founded a barbershop quartet, the Four Kings of Harmony, and the Mills Brothers produced at least three records in which they sang a cappella and performed traditional barbershop material.

Barbershop harmonies remain in evidence in the a cappella music of the black church. The popular, Christian a cappella group Take 6 started in 1980 as The Gentleman’s Estate Quartet with the tight, four-part harmony by which barbershop music is known. Early on, the quartet added a fifth harmonic line, but the group’s pedigree, like barbershop music, is traceable directly to the black church—and the jazzy renditions of artists like the Mills Brothers, as well.

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA


Competitions help make the Barbershop Art Form even better…

December 13, 2008

Within the Barbershop Harmony Society BHS, there are Divisional competitions within each District.  The Divisional qualifiers move on to the District competitions. There are 16 Districts across the United States with some extending up into Canada.  Cardinal, Central States, Dixie, Evergreen, Far Western, Illinois, Jonny Appleseed, Land-O-Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, Ontario, Pioneer, Rocky Mountain and Seneca Land


BHS Districts

BHS Districts


The District Champions and other qualifiers who attained the required scores then move on to the International Competition.  All of these competitions are held to encourage excellence in the craft, and often times the winning groups from competitions within other countries around the world are invited to the International Competition which is held for the most part within the boundaries of the United States of America.  At this competition, one of the requirements is that all contestants must sing in English.

It is exciting to attend a competition at the International level and listen to the competitors sing.  It can be very difficult for people who speak languages other than English, to create the proper vowel sound and then have everyone in the group, be it a quartet or chorus, match that sound in order to structure the chord properly. This is only the beginning as then the challenge is to do that same thing on all the following chords in that song… or both songs… or even 4 (6 if it’s a quartet), should the group make the final elimination of the competition.



Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

Caifornia  USA