Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. The melody is usually sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonizing above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord.
The melody is sometimes sung by another voice to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags and codas, or when some appropriate embellishing effect can be created. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.
Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies whose tones clearly define a tonal center, major, minor, and Barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard meter.
Artistic singing in the Barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, unmanufactured and free from apparent effort.
The presentation of Barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic presentation artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.
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After World War II, barbershop singing was growing increasingly popular for men. In 1945, a small group of women wanted to participate in the chord-ringing, fun-filled harmony that the men were singing. These women organized "Sweet Adelines in America." From its humble beginnings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sweet Adelines International, as it is now called, has grown to a membership of almost 30,000 women in countries all across the globe.
If you want to stay informed of the all the happenings of the female barbershop music scene, subscribe to Pitch Pipe, which is put out by Sweet Adelines International each quarter. It's full of news, reviews, and previews of coming events and competitions.