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October 23, 2007

New generation of barbershop singers learn to harmonize

Journal Gazette (IL):

It was a new generation of barbershop singers in the making. Spread throughout rooms in the Eastern Illinois University Union, local- middle- and high-school songbirds tested their skills Monday on a unique type of singing unlike what they learned in their schools’ choral programs.

For the third consecutive year, the Coles County Barbershop Singers invited local students to the East Central Illinois Youth in Harmony workshop, a day of learning to sing in the a capella barbershop style that culminates with an evening concert with three popular barbershop quartets from Illinois and New York City.

Youth in Harmony is a workshop held in different locations across the country each year. The Coles County Barbershop Singers brought the event to Charleston in hopes of giving students of chorus and their teachers a new experience to take with them to school and through life, said Tom Woodall, co-director of the Coles County Barbershop Singers.

As some members of the Coles County Barbershop Singers start to retire from the hobby, Woodall said he hopes to pique the interest in barbershop singing in the younger generation. “We hope to experience some growth over the years,” Woodall said.

The style of harmonizing and singing a cappella that barbershop quartets do appealed to high school freshman Alexis Teichmiller of Dieterich, who after a few hours at the workshop said she was enjoying the experience of singing without any musical accompaniment.

Having been a member of chorus for as long as she has been in school, Teichmiller said she came to the workshop in hopes of improving her bass singing. However, being at the workshop, Teichmiller said she was quickly learning learning barbershop singing also means learning how to harmonize with a group. “I am definitely going to know how to harmonize better,” Teichmiller said of her experience at the workshop.

As a senior at Shelbyville High School, Zach Brown is taking his first year of jazz choir and decided the barbershop workshop gave him a chance to experience a style of singing he had not yet done. “I just decided to come and see what I can do,” Brown said.

With the limited experience he has in chorus, Brown said he noticed some of the notes in the barbershop style were more difficult than what his jazz choir sings. Although, Brown was unsure whether he would have any future with barbershop singing, he said the rest of his jazz chorus was excited to be using this new style of singing.

The main differences between what choral students learn in school and the barbershop style are the chords barbershoppers use and the varied definitions of what makes a person a tenor, baritone, bass, or lead, said Tim Pashon of Sterling, workshop clinician.

The workshop clinicians know barbershop singing cannot fully be taught in a day and some notes would be missed when it came time for the concert, but they wanted to give students a glimpse of how barbershop quartets have fun by breaking into spontaneous song without the help of lyrics or musical accompaniment. “The most important part is to have fun,” Pashon said.

The event drew approximately 450 students from local high schools and middle schools and was sponsored in part by the Charleston Area Charitable Trust Fund, Woodall said.

Posted by acapnews at October 23, 2007 10:29 PM


I am chairman of Barnburgh Male Voice Choir and have been charged with the task of finding a new uniform for our members. I am looking to bring us into the 21st century and would like something with a bit more flair than the grey flannels etc that we seem to be doomed to! Does anyone know of suppliers that might be interested?

Posted by: Adrian Cattley at May 23, 2009 5:31 AM

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