Because today is Barbershop Quartet Day, our Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is Barbershop. If you decide to write a post based on this week’s prompt, be sure to go back here and share your link so everyone can see how you interpreted things! Here’s what I did with it…
Did I ever tell you about the time I was in a Barbershop Quartet?
It all happened when I was a student at Bluefield College. I sang with a couple of different choirs and singing groups, usually as a tenor. Okay, always as a tenor. I still have a pretty decent vocal range if I do say so myself.
During my junior year, one of our choir directors, Chris Sheppard, pulled a few guys from the choir and presented the idea of forming a Barbershop Quartet. Actually… now that I think about it, Chris and I may have had a conversation prior to bringing in the other two.
That semester, I had decided to take voice lessons with Chris. I’d been singing my entire life, but I’d never taken any sort of vocal training to that point. I thought it would be a good idea to take the lessons and see how I could improve as a performer. Not that I ever had intentions of singing professionally. But even if it’s something I’m only doing for fun, no sense in not trying to get better at it.
But since I wasn’t a music major, I didn’t have any specific songs I needed to work on in those lessons. Most of the students taking voice in those days were preparing for end of semester performances that they would be graded on. Me, just doing it as an elective, I didn’t need the grade. So, at some point, I think I may have shared my fascination with the Barbershop Quartet.
A cappella music can be gorgeous if the harmonies are just right. I mean, just look at how successful Pentatonix has become in recent years. And they made three of those Pitch Perfect movies.
Turns out Chris had a previous connection, as he had performed in a quartet before. And he had lots of Barbershop Quartet music. So the idea was planted. But we still needed two others. Because a quartet is four… not two.
There are no Barbershop Duos… at least I don’t think there are.
Obviously, there are four singing parts in a Barbershop Quartet: bass, baritone, tenor, and lead. Chris suggested a couple other guys from choir: Clint would be our baritone and Donald would be our tenor, since he could hit some impressive falsetto notes. Chris would then take the bass line. Leaving me as the lead.
I wasn’t so sure about this. I mean… why should I be the lead? He said it was because the lead should be someone who could really ham it up on stage.
Uh… have you ever seen me on stage?! Of course he had. He’d been directing me in choirs for over two years at this point. If there was anyone at Bluefield College who lacked a stage presence, it was me. Just because I’m a funny guy in certain situations, particularly once I’m comfortable around certain people, doesn’t mean I can just walk out on stage and entertain a crowd.
But the quartet was set. We practiced a number of songs for several weeks. Songs like “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Heart of My Heart.” The classics. I convinced the group that we should do “Good-Bye My Coney Island Baby,” simply because I remembered the B Sharps performed it on The Simpsons. I think we nailed it.
Unfortunately, we only performed in front of an audience once. We called ourselves Late 4 Class. Because all the best Barbershop Quartets have some kind of pun using the number four in their names.
I wish I could say we did more as a quartet, but the nature of college life is that it’s temporary. Clint, Donald, and I were all in different graduating classes. Well… we were until I decided to stay an extra year, then I graduated with Clint. But Chris also eventually moved on, deciding to leave Bluefield in favor of completing his doctorate. Can’t fault him for that.
But I do look back on those few months and a handful of practices with a great deal of fondness. And every now and then, I get the urge to look up some of those old songs and sing along with them. I still remember my part, even 20 years later.
Here’s a group called Main Street… Can you spot the lead?
Thanks to everyone who participated this week and shared your links! Please visit their blogs, give them a follow, and take a look at how they interpreted the prompt.
Be sure to come back on Wednesday for the next Sunday Scribblings prompt! Encourage other bloggers to challenge themselves with the prompt! Remember that there are no rules for what you write, other than responding to the prompt! You can write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, biography, instruction… it’s all up to you!