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February 27, 2004

Akron Beacon Journal

Jim Elliott confesses his passion for barbershop quartet singing compels him to behave impulsively. He likes to commandeer street corners and restaurants, crossing his heart with his hands and crooning for strangers, smiling from ear-to-ear. Elliott belongs to the not so secret society of like-minded souls in SPEBSQSA, the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, an ungainly acronym devised in 1938 to poke fun at the alphabet soup of FDR's many New Deal agencies.

Barbershop is a true American art form, the practically perfect G-rated family fare, a respite from television, cell phones, video games and cyberspace. The genre is popular. SPEBSQSA has 35,000 members worldwide despite the name. That means dark-eyed troubadours on the far side of the planet are also slipping into something more comfortable, a few silky octaves, a melody -- harmonics -- and a fearlessly optimistic outlook.

Members of the audience are sure to experience the harmonic convergence of barbershoppers, known as ``expanded sound'' or ringing of the chords, a phenomenon that occurs when a quartet of four voices in perfect balance and pitch produce the sound of a fifth voice that is NOT there. Goosebumps surface and chills run up and down your back. It's electric. Barbershop harmony is not rap, nor is it rock. It's popular, but far from the mainstream, a cousin to the currently popular a cappella, a melting pot product, a blend of minstrel, vaudeville, gospel and pop typified by simple, straightforward melodies and heartfelt, commonplace themes and images. More

Posted by acapnews at February 27, 2004 8:46 AM


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