Posts Tagged ‘barbershop harmonies’

American Harmony, The Movie… Revisited

April 20, 2009

ah20poster-imagesmall

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

Orange Crush… On The Move…

April 10, 2009

orange-crush

Elaine                 Sally                  Tracey                  Anna

My wife Elaine’s Sweet Adeline quartet “Orange Crush” is moving strongly towards the first “Official” Competition since they put this combination together. (the addition of Elaine to replace their lost Tenor). Their performances are getting powerful, magical, inviting and most of all pleasurable.

They have been getting specific quartet coaching for the quartet as well as going to visit various chapters, both men’s and women’s and singing a “set” of songs which will be their contest performance on stage in Pasadena, CA on April 24 & 25.

Last night I had the privilege of video recording a session where a small group of very capable people in the “know” (judges and the like) had Orange Crush run sets, and then critique them on what could be made better.  It was a great session and the quartet (who sounded GREAT at the begining) learned a few more little tips that will make their performance on stage (and therefore their scores) all that much better.

We all look forward to hearing them on stage and seeing how happy they are with the high scores they attain after doing the superb job we know they will do.

Stay “Tuned”

Jerry Braack

California USA

BHS International Qualifications…

March 17, 2009

moh-nashville1

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

Harmony Youth Program Hits Another Home Run…

February 12, 2009

diva-day-2009-1

The Harborlites Chorus of Anaheim California hit another home run as they hosted “DivaDay” in Orange County at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa last weekend.

Comprised of over 130 women, the Harborlites Chorus meets weekly to sing, dance, teach and learn the art of vocal a cappella harmony.  Under the leadership of their gifted director, Pam Pieson, women of all ages and backgrounds hone their craft and share the art of barbershop harmony.

 Based in Anaheim, California the Harborlites Chorus was founded in 1960 as a chapter of Sweet Adelines International to encourage and promote barbershop singing for women.  In the ensuing decades, Harborlites has grown both in numbers and recognition, winning both Regional and International Championships.  Their performances incorporate excellent singing along with innovative choreography, plenty of heart, and their trademark energy!

 

diva-day-2009

Young women from 29 high schools from all over Southern California came for a day of learning the art of barbershop music and then were an integral part of a magnificient show put on that evening. Over 250 young women had the time of their lives and will surely take the education and energy back home with them and could possibly become members of Sweet Adelines International at some point in their lives.  The purpose of this event is to merely expose young ladies to the art form in hopes of continuing the art form for generations to come.

Becki Hine was the clinician for the “Divas” and brought all of her talent and experience for the day.  Becki is the director of the award winning Song of Atlanta Show Chorus, having been a member there for over 22 years.  She has conducted clinics in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.  Everyone was thrilled she was here.  The event was a phenomenal success!

Thanks for reading

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Masterpiece of Sheer Beauty… revisited…

February 10, 2009
Masterpiece
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

The Up & Coming Youth Movement…

February 1, 2009

Yesterday evening my wife and I were privileged to attend the “Young Women in Harmony Festival” show on the campus of California Baptist College in Riverside, California, which highlighted the day of learning more about the Barbershop style for some high school girls in the Inland Empire (Southern California).  There was even a quartet from one of the high schools.

Harmony Stars

The young women called “Harmony Stars” spent the day with members the Inland Empire chapter of Sweet Adlines International, under the direction of Bonnie TerKeurst since 2000.  Bonnie is a certified Sweet Adelines Director, and holds a BA in music, plays piano, organ and bass guitar and has accompanied many local groups.

The Clinician for the “Harmony Stars” was Bobette Gantz, a Sweet Adelines chorus director singce 1970 and is currently the co-director of the Channelaire Chorus in Ventura, Californaia.  Bobette is a Master Director, a Judge Specialist, an International Facility member, and has been a Certified Sound Judge since 1971.

Hypnotic

Hypnotic… a local quartet all of whom hail from the Harborlites Chorus in Anaheim, California came and shared their talents for the day with the high school girls.  Hypnotic is the Sweet Adelines International, Region 32 3rd place medalist quartet. This quartet has youth on their side as well as some pretty strong music backgrounds like majoring in music, teaching music and music theater  as well as joining the society at age 11 (2 of them) and age 19 (1 of them).  They are looking forward to the upcoming Regional Competition at the end of April.

 It is always a pleasure to see members of Barbershop organizations sharing and encouraging youth to be involved in music.  I believe it is as tough as ever growing up in todays society, and music can provide balance and harmony to create stronger young men and women to become the strength of our world in the years to come.

Thanks for reading and commenting

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

SAI & BHS Overtones, The Fifth Voice Creation…

January 31, 2009

Panache Sweet AdelineHere is one of my favorite quartets from the Sweet Adeline society singing one of the songs they won the International championship with “Sweet Adeline“. They are truly wonderful ladies, lending their talents to directing, coaching, quarteting and not the least of which is their long term dedication to the barbershop style of music! They all hail from right here is Southern California.

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)], and Sweet Adeline 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.”

Thanks for reading

Jerry Braack

California  USA

Champions, a closer look…

January 31, 2009

 

MaxQ

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

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 1…

January 20, 2009

Dapper Dans Disneyworld

The defining characteristic of the barbershop style is the ringing chord. This is a name for one specific and well-defined acoustical effect, also referred to as expanded sound, the angel’s voice, the fifth voice, or the overtone. (The barbershopper’s “overtone” is not the same as the acoustic physicist’s overtone which is known as heterodyning).

The physics and psychophysics of the effect are fairly well understood; it occurs when the upper harmonics in the individual voice notes, and the sum and difference frequencies resulting from nonlinear combinations within the ear, reinforce each other at a particular frequency, strengthening it so that it stands out separately above the blended sound. The effect is audible only on certain kinds of chords, and only when all voices are equally rich in harmonics and justly tuned and balanced. It is not heard in chords sounded on keyboard instruments, due to the slight tuning imperfection of the equal-tempered scale.

Gage Averill writes that “Barbershoppers have become partisans of this acoustic phenomenon” and that “the more experienced singers of the barbershop revival (at least after the 1940s) have self-consciously tuned their dominant seventh and tonic chords in just intonation to maximize the overlap of common overtones.

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA