« Sweet Honey moves more into the rockin' | Main | A cappella on new Neil Young CD »

April 22, 2006

Barbershop singers a cut above

Sydnie Hixson, 11, is the youngest member of the Georgia Connection barbershop chorus under the direction of Luke Lindsay. The group has won in the Southeast district for 10 years straight.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA):

The barbershop singers of the Georgia Connection have racked up 10 years of vocal victories. And there isn't a straw hat, striped vest or waxed mustache among them. "The men invented it," said tenor Amy Johnson, of the barbershop style. "The women perfected it."

For the uninitiated, the Lilburn-based Georgia Connection is an a capella chorus of 24 women who compete against other barbershop singers and claim to have beaten their competitors for first place in the Southeastern region for a decade. They did it again this month in Jacksonville, Fla., nudging out Atlanta Harmony Celebration from Norcross, which came in second among the five competing groups, one from Savannah and two others from Florida. Atlanta Harmony won the most-improved award.

So far the top title among all six regions has always eluded Georgia Connection. They're looking to add some strong voices so they can beat back the other six regions in the United States and Canada and take home international bragging rights at the competition this November in Jacksonville. The group invites potential members to try out Monday at the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Lilburn. "It's a true American art form," said Cathy Hix, who sings lead and bass, of barbershop harmony.

The female version of the barbershop quartet and chorus has been around since 1945 when the larger Sweet Adelines International was founded in Oklahoma. Harmony Inc., which comprises the Norcross and Lilburn groups, began in 1959. It follows in the tradition of the barbershop style, considered an American art that sprang from ear-harmonizers of the early 1900s. But the women's lyrics are as likely to be from the saucy "Hey, Daddy," a kind of barbershop version of "Material Girl," as the sappy "Shine on Harvest Moon." "There is no such thing as a barbershop song," chorus director Luke Lindsay said. "There are just songs that are set to the barbershop style."

The women explain that they don't have to hit the depths of their male counterparts when they sing the barbershop parts of bass, baritone, lead and tenor. They have one regional and one international competition a year and they fill out the months by singing at engagements. But, like most barbershop choruses and quartets, it's the amateur status that is the draw. The singers, who range in age from an 11-year-old to 70-something, become friends, and their weekly Monday practice becomes a social get-together of its own to perfect the century-old, harmonizing tradition. "We want to become better singers," said Jill Wade, a baritone and spokeswoman for the chorus.

To do so, they get their pitch, hum with vibrating lips, and make 20 voices sound like 40 through harmonic coordination. On one night they break into "Hey, Daddy," a tune that should make the average husband or father shiver, and an audience applaud.

"I want a diamond ring, bracelet, everything. ... make it two carats. ...

"... I want a brand new car, champagne, caviar. ... Honey are you listening? ...

"I want more money, honey. ..."

Even if the males in their lives wouldn't qualify as sugar daddies, the ladies know they can still treasure Monday nights.

Posted by acapnews at April 22, 2006 12:43 AM