Press Release of the Week: Bring Back The B-Sharps

I'm sure people unfamiliar with Barrelhouse assume we're all making millions as journal editors and spend our days sunning ourselves in hammocks or drinking banana daiquiris poolside at the Barrelhouse Mansion. Ah, one day. The sad fact is that, for now at least, we've all got day jobs. One source of great unintentional comedy at my day job is that I get tons of press releases via email, most of which have nothing to do with the industry I cover. And some of which, at least as far as I can tell, have nothing to do with any recognizable reality.

So, herewith, what may become a regular feature here at the Barrelhouse: the Press Release of the Week. This week's winner: Barbershop-Style Singing: Not Just a Hobby … A Way of Life.

The gist of the PR blitz being engineered by our friends at the Barbershop Harmony Society of America seems to be aimed at contradicting the public's misconceptions about barbershop. See, it's not just a niche for fusty grandpas who think all the kids' music is too loud and offensive. In fact, the BHSA wants us to know, "fathers, sons and grandsons" all enjoy the rich harmonies and old-timey hats of America's whitest musical tradition. Maybe white America stole rock and roll, soul, the blues and just about every form of popular music from black culture, but barbershop is one musical style that's 100% Cracker Country.

One such pale face, Mark Fortino, likes barbershop so much he's forced his entire family to get involved, assuring his children years of expensive counseling:

"Mark Fortino, lead in the 12th Street Rag quartet, had no musical training when he walked into a meeting of the Heart of America Chorus in Kansas City, Missouri, 21 years ago.

"'People cannot believe how much fun it is,' he said. 'Those previously unfamiliar with barbershop are quickly drawn in by the 'ring' of the barbershop chord. If someone likes to sing, they owe it to themselves to go to a practice and experience the camaraderie and supportive atmosphere.'

"…Mark's entire family is involved in barbershop. The Heart of America Chorus includes his brother John; their two sons, 12 and 10; his brother-in-law Jerry; Jerry's 13-year-old son; and Mark and John's dad Ron.

"And, the beat goes on. Wife, mom and grandmother Mary attends all rehearsals and is an active member of the chorus' support group, The Heartbeats. This family involvement is repeated in chapters all across America.

"'Although most of our members lack formal training and do not read music,' said John Fortino, 'they have learned to create an incredible sound. They haven learned their musical trade in the Society.'

Evidently, there are also contests for this sort of thing. Someone please contact Christopher Guest post-haste:

"'When I joined a barbershop chapter at age 12, there weren't many young Barbershoppers,' said Jim Kline of international champion quartet Gotcha! and a Barbershopper for 44 years. 'Our Society enables singers to continue singing after their school days in a group other than a church choir. It's a way to keep singing and the fellowship is unbeatable.'"

So there you have it. Barbershop: Not just for the old folks anymore. Up next week -- Unicycles: Reliable Transportation or Public Menace?

1 comment:

TMC said...

Remember when Sarah Strickley said you, Chris, and I looked like a barbershop quartet (apparently missing one member...)? Maybe we were on to something. If we add someone like Lee, or even David Kim, I'll be glad to join the quarteting fun.

But do we have to know how to cut hair?