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August 25, 2015

A Reluctant Teenager, a Barbershop Quartet, and a Revelation

New York Times:

The memory is hazy, but I can’t imagine that I went enthusiastically into a concert hall in Portland, Maine, on May 18, 1974. The groups on the bill were not the kind that most 19-year-olds were flocking to see. Yet my mind was blown just as thoroughly as if I’d seen Kiss or Queen. It was blown by a barbershop quartet named the Gentlemen’s Agreement.

I was in my first year of college at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham, still living with my parents. I realize that a lot about that sentence says “loser,” but I was at least making an effort to be cool. My record collection had three Frank Zappa albums in it.

Why my father secured tickets to a barbershop concert is unclear. My mother, now 94, thinks that perhaps my Uncle Larry, a barbershopper in his college days, was visiting. Also unclear is why I agreed to go along on an old-fogey outing.

It was, I believe, a concert put on by the local chapter of the preposterously named Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, which these days is generally called the Barbershop Harmony Society. As I remember it, the show included a number of groups, all building up to the headliners, the Gentlemen’s Agreement. When those four men started to sing, an unremarkable evening turned into a revelation. I don’t remember what they sang, but I remember being astonished by the seamlessness of it, the intricacy of the harmony, their ability to invest the songs with personality, no guitar or drum kit in sight. I had expected stodgy and instead got stunning.

Read more.

This is a great article and a ringing endorement of all we like about a cappella harmony. A highly recommended read.

Posted by acapnews at August 25, 2015 12:44 AM

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