We can hear many beautiful voices harmonizing and they’re telling us it’s National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day this July 13. A yearly event to celebrate barbershop music — a style of voice-only, acapella-style music — this day is not to be confused with another barbershop-themed event: National Barbershop Quartet Day. People of all ages, genders, and nationalities come together to perform at various public or private events, singing melodies across genres. In a pop culture world, this day is a little slice of nostalgia, beauty, and authenticity combined.
History of National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day
Barbershop music may have originated in England in the 1600s and has since grown in popularity due to American influence. Barbers would keep a ‘cittern’ in their shops for customers to play while they waited. Some customers eventually began inventing their sounds, placing pebbles inside tin cans, and so on, resulting in ‘barber’s music.’ In his now-famous journal, the famed English naval administrator Samuel Pepys described this music as ‘amateur instrumental music.
By the 1830s, this music had found its way to America, and as the local barbershops were the preferred haunts for local men, the barbershop music became the music of the nation. African American culture and their traditional music took this style of music to another level. Folk songs and hymns were sung in four parts, leading to the barbershop music’s distinctive style being established.
However, this music only hit its stride in the 1900s, becoming insanely popular by the 1940s. However, the only official organization singing these songs was all-male. The women whose husbands were part of the male barbershop music society — Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.) — were particularly inspired. They had first-hand experience of how much fun this style of music could be. So, on July 13, 1945, Edna Mae Anderson invited the wives of other S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. members to her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a singing session, and the Sweet Adelines was born on that very day. Today, this organization is one among many barbershop music groups popularizing this style of music across America and the globe.
Traditional songs are still sung, although barbershop music now includes more current styles of music — including pop, rock, and show tunes — to attract a younger audience.
National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day timeline
On March 23, the U.S.-based barbershop music group opens its first branch outside America, in Canada; they later change their name to reflect their new member base, becoming Sweet Adelines International in 1991.
A Broadway musical — “The Music Man”— features a very famous barbershop quartet of musicians called The Buffalo Bills; they help make barbershop singing a household name.
The American sports film “Hoosiers” features a barbershop quartet singing the national anthem before a game; this tradition continues in real life too, before various basketball and football games.
Sweet Adelines International marks the 60th anniversary of its founding by creating Barbershop Music Appreciation Day.
National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day FAQs
What is Barbershop Quartet Day?
Held on April 11 each year, National Barbershop Quartet Day celebrates the birth of one of the world’s foremost barbershop groups — the Barbershop Harmony Society.
When did barbershop music become popular?
Barbershop music became increasingly popular in the 1900s, especially in the period between 1900 to 1919.
What is a polecat barbershop?
The ‘polecats’ are a set of songs all barbershop singers around the world learn to properly show off barbershop songs’ chords and arrangements.
National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day Activities
Get your tune on
It doesn't matter if you can hold a tune or not — sing along to songs popular in the barbershop music genre like ‘Shine On, Harvest Moon’ and ‘Come Fly with Me.’ Make it more fun (and challenging) by singing your favorite song in this style.
Learn more about barbershop music
Read up on everything that interests you about this music, including its history, current influences, details of performances, and more. Information is easily available online or at local libraries. You can also actually join a barbershop group and get real-life knowledge of this style of music.
Spread the (barbershop music) love
Organize fun family events with barbershop music featuring prominently. Attend local barbershop music events, and share details online. Get more and more people interested in this genre of music, and you'll eventually benefit from a community of like-minded music lovers!
5 Fun Facts You Need To Know About Barbershop Music
A very large membership indeed
The Sweet Adelines women-only group is one of the largest such organizations in the world, boasting nearly 21,000 members globally.
This genre has influenced many
It includes famous Jazz musician Louis Armstrong, who joins the ranks of celebrities Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Groucho Marx, and Abbott and Costello.
The first-ever email attachment
In 1992, American computer scientist Nathaniel Borenstein emailed a picture and audio clip of his barbershop quartet, the Telephone Chords, to his colleagues, making them the first email attachments in the world.
The traditional costume's background story
The oversized mustaches, striped jackets, and straw hats linked to this style of music came from an old form of theater entertainment called Vaudeville — apparently, they wore these eye-popping clothes so people could see them.
Barbershop music and acapella
This style is defined by its vocal harmonization without instruments — and so, all barbershop music is acapella but acapella music can cross genres and styles and is not necessarily only barbershop music.
Why We Love National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day
We love angelic the music sounds
This genre of music is famous for having a 'ringing' sound — aka music notes that are perfectly in tune. The effect is so wonderful that countless music critics and listeners describe it as being in the presence of an 'angel's voice'.
It's all about the talent
People performing barbershop music have nowhere to hide. Their voices ring out unaccompanied by any musical instrument; they engage audiences with only this and some facial and body movements.
It's a quintessentially American tradition
Although — probably — adopted from the British, barbershop music is now closely linked to American hair-cutting establishments. That, plus the existence of multiple American barbershop establishments makes it even more of a U.S.-centric pastime, and one we love to explore.
National Barbershop Music Appreciation Day dates