April 11, 2015

Harmonize It!

S.P.E.B.S.Q.S. A.  

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you ever heard four-part barber shop harmony? Well, 
S.P.E.B.S.Q.S. A. is the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, and today is a celebration of Barber Shop Quartet Day!  

It was on this day, April 11, 1938, in Tulsa, Oklahoma that S.P.E.B.S.Q.S. A. was founded to promote and preserve barbershop music as an art form.  The barbershop quartet, however, is by no means an American invention.  The idea dates back to men in Shakespearean England, as a type of in-house entertainment, often taking the form of a lutist playing a melody as three guests harmonized.  The same idea became popular in America in the west in the 1800's although the instrument was usually a banjo.

Today the society is known as the Barbershop Harmony Society and has 25,000 members in the United States and Canada, with similar organizations around the globe.  You might recognize the names of some of the Society's members over the years which include politicians such as President Harry S. Truman, and  Senators John Ashcroft (R-MO), Jim Jeffords (R/I-VT), and Trent Lott (D-MS), as well as Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX). It also includes actors Burl Ives, Ned Beatty, Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, and a guy I hung out with on occasion at barbershop competitions in the Mid-Atlantic Region when we were teenagers, Mike Rowe. 

If you would like to learn anything more about the Society or its members, come down to the library and use our internet stations, or check out one of the following:  Harry S. Truman: America's 33rd President by Otfinoski; A Twinkle in Your Eye (sound recording) by Ives;  Memoirs of a Mangy Lover by Marx; Bing Crosby: A Pocketfull of Dreams the Early Years 1903-1940 by Giddins; or any of the Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe DVDs.

And if you ever have the opportunity to listen to a barbershop quartet or chorus, take a few minutes and enjoy this beautiful four-part a cappella music. It might just make you smile!

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