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National Barbershop Quartet Day is on April 11, and we have all the information needed to make this day a musical one. Like its name, this type of music was first documented in the late 1800s while men waited to get their hair cut. They passed the time by singing and harmonizing songs with the barbers and fellow customers in the shop. From this introduction in classic barbershops until now, barbershop music has become increasingly popular and portrayed in film and television. Even today, talented men and women quartets compete nationally and around the world.
History of National Barbershop Quartet Day
Barbershop music is deeply rooted in African American history. Throughout the 1880s in the South, men mingled with barbers and others in the shop while waiting for their haircut. They sang and harmonized together for entertainment. This sound turned into a genre called barbershop music and continued thriving from then until the early 1900s. In 1910, a song titled ‘Play That Barbershop Chord’ was recorded and released to the public as a prime example of barbershop harmony. This art of harmonized singing was to produce a style of a cappella without the need for accompanying music. Each quartet sang songs with easy-to-understand lyrics and catchy melodies.
After 1929, barbershop music started to become less popular and even less common during The Great Depression. In 1938, two men: Rupert Hall and O.C. Cash sent out invitations for a songfest to 14 people who were encouraged to invite others. On April 11, approximately 25 men met in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and held a quartet singing competition. They continued to meet and grow in numbers, consequently creating a revival in barbershop music and founding the Society of Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA). Thankfully, since 2004, they are more commonly known as the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Not long after the founding of SPEBSQSA, a woman formed an all-women organization in Tulsa named Sweet Adelines International in 1945. A little less than a decade later, in 1957, several women split from the Sweet Adelines in an effort to be more accepting of admissions from African Americans. From this act of protest, Harmony, Incorporated, was founded in 1959 in Rhode Island by a group of five women. Now diverse men and women are allowed and accepted in the same quartet and compete all over the world.
National Barbershop Quartet Day timeline
African American men started singing in barbershops with impromptu songs as a way to mingle and pass the time in between cuts.
The song, ‘Play That Barbershop Chord’ is recorded and released to the public as a primary source of barbershop harmony.
The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA), now known as the Barbershop Harmony Society, is founded.
Sweet Adelines International, an all women’s singing organization, is founded.
National Barbershop Quartet Day FAQs
What are the four voices in a barbershop quartet?
A barbershop quartet is a four-part harmony that consists of the lead, tenor, bass, and baritone.
What is a barbershop chord?
The barbershop chord is known as the seventh chord. It is a major-minor chord that is sung at a lower pitch than the average chord.
What is a female barbershop quartet called?
All-female barbershop quartets used to be called beauty shop quartets, but since there are men and women barbershop groups that have the same four voices, this name is outdated.
How to Celebrate National Barbershop Quartet Day
Listen to barbershop music
If you are unfamiliar with barbershop music, then we highly recommend becoming more acquainted with its pleasing sound. You can type “barbershop quartet” into YouTube or look up specific quartets such as the Buffalo Bills, American Quartet, or After Hours.
Join a quartet
For the ones who can carry a note, share your musical chops with others by joining a quartet. Check your local area to see where the nearest organization or chorus group is or grab three of your friends and start a quartet!
Attend a barbershop music performance
You’ll likely be able to find barbershop quartet performances happening nearby, especially in honor of National Barbershop Quartet Day. Experience something unique from your everyday routine and attend a local show.
5 Facts About Barbers And Barbershops That Will Shock You
Tomb paintings of barbers cutting hair and relics of razors found throughout ancient Egypt show that barbering is an age-old profession.
Urine used as shampoo
Early barbers used a shampoo called ‘lotium’ made from stale urine.
During the Middle Ages, barbers treated wounds, performed surgeries, did dental work, and various other duties in addition to cutting hair.
Evil be gone
In ancient cultures, most barbers were priests who trimmed, shaved, and styled hair in a way that kept evil spirits from possessing people.
The grim barber pole
The barber pole signifies when barbers were surgeons and used to hang bloodied bandages from bloodletting out on a pole to dry.
Why We Love National Barbershop Quartet Day
We learn about its timeline
From the late 1880s until now, we can see how barbershop music has grown from inside barbershops to onscreen production. Barbershop music is in movies and television shows such as “The Music Man,” “Sing,” and “The Simpsons.”
Barbershop entertains us
The harmonized song from a four-person quartet gives its listeners something to pique their interest. Since quartets sing well-known songs with clear melodies, we can sing and nod our heads along.
We can experience a traditional pastime
Barbershop music portrays its beginnings in the 1880s when people came together to listen and report news, sing, and have fun. Some of them even went on to produce jazz. This day allows us to go back in time and focus on the overall enjoyment and creation of music.
National Barbershop Quartet Day dates