January 2015
Barbershop & Baritones

Dr David Wright gave a keynote address entitled The Future History of Barbershop at the Barbershop Harmony Society's Mid-Winter Convention in New Orleans in January 2015. In it he identifies what he considers the key features of barbershop harmony — of barbershop music. The slide he uses (and has used for years) says this:

Characterizing Features of Barbershop Harmony:
  1. Consonant four-part harmony; a capella; solid voicings; harmonic variety; few passing tones
  2. Melody in the second tenor, first tenor above, bass usually on solid chord tones, baritone fill
  3. Embellishments continually converging to homophonic chords
  4. Freedom with the song
  5. Chords tuned with an ear towards lock and ring
With item number 2 he talks about the barbershop voice parts, especially the baritone part.
The melody is in the second tenor. There's a first tenor above, bass filling in on solid chord tones, and baritones filling in what is left. I have seen many kinds of music, vocal and instrumental, and I have never seen anything in music like the barbershop baritone part. There is nothing that abandons normal voice leading like barbershop baritone. I see that in no other kind of music. That alone identifies barbershop uniquely. By itself. You don't have to go any further than that.

This portion of Dr David Wright's presentation is available here; these comments are in the first minute and a half. The entire talk can be found here.


If you enjoy barbershop style music, watch for our next show and come hear us sing.
Or come sing with us. It's really fun!

The New MexiChords is an a cappella barbershop chorus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, affiliated with the Barbershop Harmony Society.
 


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