What, sir, is the barber’s shop quartet of your dreams?

I’d go with David Byrne, Thom Yorke, Dennis Wilson and Rahzel for the bass (and beats, no doubt).

Or alternatively, for an all female ensemble, I’d go with Björk, Mara Carlyle, Masha Qrella and Karin Dreijer Andersson (pitched down for the bass harmonies, natch).

And then make them fight it out with a string of mash ups of forties classics, old school drum and bass, and opera.

Or something.

Of course, while I’m trying to pick people with at least somewhat different pitches to harmonise better, I’m picking some very distinctive (aka weird as hell) voices.

But just imagine the kind of chorus you could get with that lot.

Courtesy of wikipedia, the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) tell us that, “Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions.”

Which is all well and good, but really it’s all about those stripy waistcoats, white trousers and straw hats.

I think that Barbershop is pretty much ready for a revival. There’s something really addictive about those four part harmony lines. It might need a small modernising kick in the ass (see the vocalists above, particularly Rahzel and Björk, both capable of making the most mundane of music exhilarating), but it could really hit the spot.

There’s a dearth of decent vocal harmony in modern pop, if you exclude the irritating journalistic practice of saying that any track featuring the lyric ‘ba, ba, ba, ba, bah’ possesses ‘beach boys harmonies’. (Pet hate #511)

I’m sure there’s a hundred examples I’m choosing to ignore right now, but I think we need more.

To prove myself wrong, here’s an example of something really magic that’s been done with barbershop recently.

And that’s even pretty authentic. They did one of their own songs in a variant of this style, and that one brings me to tears.

Technically not barbershop, but it goes to show that there’s room for this kind of thing. It could even be something other than a cliched nostalgic throwback.

It could be wonderful and magical again.

Because the voice in itself is an incredible thing, and sometimes it takes more than one to bring out the fine lines of that magic.

Take the heart melting power of the Welsh Male voice choir.

Or just go back and listen to those old Beach Boys records again, and tell me you aren’t still excited by those voices?

There is a range of noise we are capable of emitting and it is immense. And its emotional power is unlimited.

So lets make the next march to the retro a really retro one, and start singing like we’re having a good time again.

Because it sure is fun. Next time you’re out, pick a song and sing it with friends.


It’ll feel great, I promise.


Illustration by Maria.

About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
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