“A Hard Day’s Night” easier than you’d think

Posted by Adam Scott | Posted in Song of The Week, Uncategorized | Posted on November 13, 2014, 1:48 PM


1596song_of_the_week_trans3This week’s newest, hot chart is by the Fab Four! And who better to arrange a Beatles tune than Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) member Dr. Liz Garnett? Liz also arranged the best-selling “Happy Together,” and a number of other charts in our catalog.

A Hard Day’s Night” has a driving rock tempo with sensible range and easy a cappella treatment. (Popapella, Barberpop, etc).

Looking for other Beatles tunes? Don’t forget When I’m Sixty-Four, Yesterday, and something to the effect…something.. oh, “Something!” When you plan your shows, gigs, and festivals, keep in mind audience connectivity matters. The Beatles had four albums that sold more than ten million copies!

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The Sing Off is BACK!

Posted by Becca Grimmer | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on September 10, 2014, 9:36 AM


The search is on again for contestants of the hit a cappella reality show, The Sing Off!! Sweet Adeline International Quartet Queens, Maxx Factor, were on the first season and we think it has been far too long since barbershop was represented on this show! Who’s going to audition this year?

Los Angeles – Sept. 30
Nashville – Oct. 2
New York – Oct. 4

If you think that they won’t be accepting quartets, have a look at the FAQ.  They’re accepting 4-20 members this year! Sounds like a quartet or a chorus could be contenders this year!

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Chanticleer members sing barbershop off-stage

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Just for Fun, Quartetting, Tag singing, Together, Making The Music That's Making A Difference, Uncategorized, Why I Barbershop | Posted on September 8, 2014, 3:44 PM


Seen on Facebook: They’re one of the world’s most elite and most famous professional vocal groups, and they appreciate the power of a barbershop tag as much as we do. Check out four members of Chanticleer saying farewell with a tag … and a fifth voice at the end that, in this case, was no overtone.

Someone get these guys into a district contest. They’ve obviously got the pipes, and they even already have the matching socks …

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Mid-Winter Quartet Bonus – HARMONY PLATOON

Posted by Brian Lynch | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on September 24, 2013, 4:53 PM



When Mid-Winter comes to the FWD next January, guys who love to quartet will have the opportunity to experience a new convention event: HARMONY PLATOON.

 Here’s how Platoon works. Two months prior to the convention, register at www.HarmonyPlatoon.org to get high- quality learning tracks and music to five songs we’ll be singing in Long Beach. Starting a day before the “official” convention opening, singers will participate in two “random draw” contests and a “Dance Card”, enabling them to sing with all others not on their same part. “Self-selected” quartets emerge from this activity and participate in another fun contest.

Here are the great songs you’ll be singing: “Hello, My Baby!” (David Harrington); “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (Clay Hine); “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” (Jim Kahlke); “Just In Time” (Dave Briner); “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” (BHS).

 Check out the Harmony Platoon website and see what fun you’ll have: www.HarmonyPlatoon.org

Hurry, because the deadline to give you time to learn the songs is November 1.

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New “instant replay” rule in effect for Fall 2013 contests

Posted by Kevin Keller | Posted in Contests & Judging, In the news, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on August 14, 2013, 2:26 PM



A “scoring variance” is defined as when at least one judge awards a song with a score that is significantly higher or lower than the other scores from the panel. Judges have long discussed these variances in the days and weeks following a contest; since early 2012, the Society’s Contest & Judging (C&J) Committee has been looking at methods to address significant scoring differences (variances) before they become official.

One C&J committee studied the data and decided that significant variances should be reviewed; a subsequent committee looked at how that could be done. The judging panels in each of the Spring 2013 contests simulated the process to gather data on how often variances occurred and whether judges would change their scores once a variance is noted. C&J reviewed all of the information in Toronto this July, approved the concept and forwarded the information to the Society Board of Directors (BoD) for approval.

The BoD has approved the program and rule changes. In anticipation, all judges and contest administrators formally trained on the process at Category School and are prepared to go “live” in the Fall 2013 season. If a statistical variance occurs with a set of scores given for a performance of a song, the judges within the category will have the opportunity to review their sheets and potentially change their scores, much like instant replay.


The following detailed explanation comes from Kevin Keller, chair of the Society Contest & Judging Committee:

Probably all of us have experienced or heard “war” stories about the effect that one or two “outlier” scores may have had on the outcome of a contest — I know I’ve questioned some scores that some of my groups have received!

As a former Category Specialist (CS) and now as C&J Chair, a top priority for me has been the improvement of scoring consistency. No matter what other feedback gems a judge may share, you’ll have a hard time hearing or accepting anything he says when a questionable scoring inconsistency has been left unresolved. More importantly, there are cases in which quartets and choruses have missed cut-offs from Division to District, and from Prelims to International based on one score Read the rest of this entry »

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What the Music judges discussed at Category School

Posted by Jim Kahlke | Posted in Contests & Judging, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on August 7, 2013, 1:02 PM


NOTE: Every three years, all Society judges and candidate judges wishing to certify are required to attend Category School. Held during the three days prior to Harmony University, judges and judging candidates receive instruction and testing; they also officially acquire, maintain or lose their certification. Category School is also the point in which any formal tweaks to the scoring or interpretation of the rules are formalized and calibrated among all judges. All tweaks, shifts in focus, or other modifications are based on the prior three year’s feedback from competitors, judges, audiences, Society leaders and others.

Below is a summary of the adjustments discussed by the Music judges, presented by Music Category Specialist  Jim Kahlke. The Music category had fewer changes than others due to the higher number of changes implemented during the previous cycle.

The Music category has changed little in the way the competitors interact with us for scoring. The barbershop style, as defined, remains the same. We shifted our focus slightly in thinking more about the songs we compete with globally, as opposed to a laser focus on chord-by-chord analysis, though we reinforced that skill as well. We resolved some differences in the way various terms in the Music Category Description are being handled in evaluations. Read the rest of this entry »

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What the Singing judges discussed at Category School

Posted by David Mills | Posted in Contests & Judging, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on August 7, 2013, 12:59 PM


Every three years, all Society judges and candidate judges wishing to certify are required to attend Category School. Held during the three days prior to Harmony University, judges and judging candidates receive instruction and testing; they also officially acquire, maintain or lose their certification. 

 Category School is also the point in which any formal tweaks to the scoring or interpretation of the rules are formalized and calibrated among all judges. All tweaks, shifts in focus, or other modifications are based on the prior three year’s feedback from competitors, judges, audiences, Society leaders and others.

“The most noticeable change for the Singing category following the 2013 category school is the renaming of the “Artistry” scoring element to “Vocal Expression.” For many competitors, there has always been some confusion with the terminology in the first sentence of our category description, “… achieves artistic singing in the barbershop style” when contrasted to the last sentence, which includes, “When artistry is present, these elements…”.  This has often led to the somewhat ambiguous explanation that while Artistry was indeed one of the five elements that we consider when determining a score, there is also the larger (more holistic) context of evaluating “the degree to which the performer achieves artistic singing in the barbershop style.”  This has even caused some judges to refer to the element as “little Artistry” and the other concept as “big Artistry” within the context of our Singing Category Description. Read the rest of this entry »

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What the Presentation judges discussed at Category School

Posted by David Leeder | Posted in Contests & Judging, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on August 7, 2013, 12:50 PM


Every three years, all Society judges and candidate judges wishing to certify are required to attend Category School. Held during the three days prior to Harmony University, judges and judging candidates receive instruction and testing; they also officially acquire, maintain or lose their certification. 

 Category School is also the point in which any formal tweaks to the scoring or interpretation of the rules are formalized and calibrated among all judges. All tweaks, shifts in focus, or other modifications are based on the prior three year’s feedback from competitors, judges, audiences, Society leaders and others.

A new Category Description has been formulated. It has not changed as much as it has been condensed and focused on the barbershop performance as an art form.

Comedic performances and length of performances are being studied as to how they entertain our barbershop audiences.

Presentation Category will:

• Continue to reward performances that exhibit clear performance plan

• Reward performances which communicate passions and emotions

• Identify performance skills that build communication with the audience

• Acknowledge entertaining performances

• Nurture stage worthy performances, actions, and attire


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On Myths and Legends

Posted by Brian Lynch | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on August 7, 2013, 9:42 AM


Deke Sharon’s excellent Total Vocal blog discusses the path from really good to excellent:

You cannot get better at performing by thinking about it. You cannot become a better singer by studying vocal pedagogy texts.


The problem is not a lack of goal, vision, or desire for excellence. The problem is an understanding of and persistence trudging through the marshes and the weeds. It’s a long, difficult march, and while you’re on the path, you not only know you’re not great, you can likely hear your peers’ low voices as they analyze your imperfections, just as you analyze others. And yourself.


Legends are made, not born. When you see Straight No Chaser or Pentatonix, you do not know the extreme effort behind their seemingly effortless rise into the public eye. Both have a work ethic that is second to none. They’re proud of their success, but realize the elements of luck and timing, and do not take it for granted. You should not either.


There is no guarantee of excellent, but there is a guarantee of mediocrity. You must pass through the trials of self-doubt and question your own abilities. Perhaps for years.

via On Myths and Legends | A Cappella Music – The Contemporary A Cappella Society.

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The option of one District contest per year

Posted by Kevin Keller | Posted in Chapters, Chorus, Contests & Judging, Harmonizer, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on June 12, 2013, 7:20 AM


Hzr May-June page 18

You saw the article in The Harmonizer. (For full version of the issue, including the full version of this article, log in at eBiz.barbershop.org.) Do you have any questions? Ask them here!

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Casting call for new NBC Show

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on November 6, 2012, 3:27 PM


NBC NOW CASTING “THE WINNER IS!!!” From the creator who brought you the hit series “THE VOICE” & “Deal or no Deal” comes a groundbreaking prime time game show where you have a chance to WIN A MILLION DOLLARS simply by using your voice! We are searching NATIONWIDE for contestants.

All you need is a great singing voice, a big personality, and the ability to size up your competition. We are searching for individuals and groups who can sing ANY style of music – from country, pop, barbershop, rock, hip hop to opera and everything in between!

Serious inquiries only. Please send your name, occupation, city/state, brief bio, two pics, and video/audio of you singing to Tijana Srdanov, NBC producer at tiege3@gmail.com. Keep it simple, we just need to get a sense of your voice!”

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Ask a Judge, Talking on Stage

Posted by Kevin Keller | Posted in Contests & Judging, Uncategorized | Posted on July 23, 2012, 6:45 PM


From Al Spence


I’m puzzled by the scores awarded to the Salem chorus.  I thought C & J was trying to enforce a cutting-down of the amount of talking in a contest set.  This set lasted approximately 25 minutes, most of which was talking.  This is supposed to be a contest, not a chapter show.  Did they actually sing a complete barbershop arrangement?  I totally lost track with all of their breaks to say a bunch of “ughs”.  Did their so-called parodies receive all of the required authorizations?  I was shocked to see them awarded 5th place medals!  What would happen if every chorus in the contest did 25 minute sets with that much talking?  The contest with breaks and intermissions would last about 20 hours!!  Could you please explain why the judges didn’t disqualify them?

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Ask a Judge, round 1: Crossing categories?

Posted by Kevin Keller | Posted in Contests & Judging, Uncategorized | Posted on June 14, 2012, 7:01 AM


From Stephanie Dingle:

How are members to handle situations when a judge, during evals, openly admits to crossing categories?  A Presentation judge spends more time discussing singing or music … a Music judge saying there was a lack of musicality but I scored higher because of energy.
These are a few vague issues I’ve heard myself, but I still question the idea that each category can be judged independently of each other.  But the manual does claim this is the process.



Thanks, Stephanie – you ask a great question and one that is often asked.

Ultimately, we all watch exactly the same performance, just with different filters on how we view and evaluate a performance. One of the distinct changes that was made 20 years ago, when we went from the four-category to three-category system, was that we recognized that there is significant overlap in the different viewpoints – each element influences the other.
At times over the past 20 years, the pendulum has swung a lot, from being able to say anything under the claim of “common ground” to “stay in your category.” Neither was appropriate, and I believe we’ve found a balance that recognizes some natural boundaries and yet recognizes that all components come together – that we can’t talk about our own view without recognizing the influence it has from others. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Ask a Judge”

Posted by Kevin Keller | Posted in Contests & Judging, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on June 14, 2012, 7:00 AM


Despite our current judging system having been in place for almost 20 years, many of you still have questions about aspects of the judging system. Rumors and myths still abound. If you know a judge or feel bold, you may have contacted a judge in the past but many of you might never ask your question.

In an effort to help further educate, C&J (Contest and Judging) is hosting an interactive blog here at barbershopHQ.com.  The process will be simple.  Submit a question to C&J Chairman Kevin Keller (kkbari@charter.net) and the selected questions will be placed on the blog, followed by an answer from a judge. After that, anyone is free to comment on the post with further questions or insights. Other judges will also join in the conversation. Hopefully all of us will learn something by discussing the issues.

We’ll run it at least through the end of the year.  If it remains popular, we’ll continue beyond that. Hope to see you contribute!


Kevin Keller

Society Contest and Judging Chairman, 2012-2013


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CEO search continues

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in In the news, Leadership, Uncategorized | Posted on January 30, 2012, 2:58 PM


The following statement was recently released by Society President Alan Lamson:

In July of 2011, the CEO Search Task Force, appointed by Society President Alan Lamson, was charged to solicit, accept and review applications for the position of Society CEO and present qualified candidates to the Board of Directors for consideration. The task force’s robust and thorough process sought candidates with a unique set of skills and qualifications to lead the Society into the future. During the Midwinter Convention in Tucson, the Society Board conducted interviews with the candidates presented by the CEO Search Task Force, and, while the slate of candidates was excellent, the Board has decided to continue its search for our next CEO.

Larry Deters, current Interim Executive Director will continue in this position until the Board of Directors completes its search.

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It’s easy to talk about what you love to do

Posted by Alan Lamson | Posted in Harmonizer, Membership growth, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on December 8, 2011, 9:01 AM


In the last issue of The Harmonizer, my column discussed the coming Operation Harold Hill and that the only impediment for finding potential singers for your chapter among total strangers is ourselves.  As Poag says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  (Here is a copy of the column in PDF form: Lamson column 10-2011)

Many barbershoppers have told me how easy it is to simply ask someone whether he likes to sing. Nobody is ever offended by that question, and the worst anyone can say is “No.” But many of the people say yes, or they know someone who likes to sing. Many are also looking for a place to sing. The next enthusiastic member of your chapter could be standing right next to you in a grocery line.

If you wear my button, you don’t even have to bring up the subject of singing — somebody else may start the conversation for you!  It has worked for me exactly like that on several occasions.

In either case, once this conversation has started, what do you say next?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Harmonizer Caption Contest round 8

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on September 15, 2011, 10:09 AM


See round 1
 for the rules.

Today’s picture: The Suntones.

***Spoiler Alert***

They were awesome!


***Spoiler over***

You say the rest. (Hint: You don’t have to say something funny!)

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Harmonizer Caption Contest round 1

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, Harmonizer, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on September 6, 2011, 7:52 AM


Just like last year, you can get your name and work in the convention issue of The Harmonizer by writing the winning caption for the above photo.

We’ll be adding one new caption contest post EVERY BUSINESS DAY for the next little while. Each of these photos will appear in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue. Contest closes when I’m good and ready to wrap up this issue.

A bit of background on this picture of Sound of the Rockies: The chapter claimed that arrangers David Wright and Aaron Dale never return their calls, so they needed to figure out how to put together a gold medal-winning package on their own. They attempted the trademark routines of several past championship choruses, with less than stellar results.

Top that. (PLEASE!) Read the rest of this entry »

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Two videos you don’t want to miss

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, In the news, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on July 26, 2011, 10:49 AM


Did you know that Australian Seniors champ Benchmark is in the FINALs of Australia’s Got Talent? And there’s much more to the story than that. Check out the most recent video below, but not until you’ve grabbed a tissue:


Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Barbershop Elevator Speech

Posted by Alan Lamson | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on June 20, 2011, 7:00 AM


Click this link to read my column from the May/June issue of The Harmonizer. In it, I discuss the concept of an “elevator speech” or an “elevator pitch.” It’s a business term for having a quick and impactful way to explain who you are and what you do to a total stranger — one that could take place in less than the length of a ride in an elevator. (Explanations and examples from the business world are here, here and here.)

In my column I discussed how wearing the pin at the left (get your own here) has helped me and members of many chapters start conversations about barbershop harmony and about their chapters. People see the pin and want an explanation. The natural next step is to know what you are going to say to them in response. Here’s your opportunity to share and refine your own!

What’s yours? Share it here!

Do you have any other successful conversation starters? Any other openers for sharing the message of barbershop harmony with friends and strangers alike? Share them here, too!

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Larry Deters appointed as Society Interim Organizational Manager

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in In the news, Uncategorized | Posted on June 17, 2011, 2:48 PM


Larry Deters (center) was introduced to Society staff in Nashville on Friday, June 17. With Larry are Society President Alan Lamson (left) and retiring Society CEO Ed Watson.













Society President Alan Lamson has announced the appointment of Larry Deters as the Interim Organizational Manager of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Beginning Monday, June 20, Larry will work in tandem with Ed Watson until Friday, July 15, Ed’s final day as Society Executive Director/CEO. (Ed announced his resignation on March 28, 2011.) As Interim Organizational Manager, Larry will direct all the day-to-day activities of Society staff and will assist in the transition to a permanent CEO/Executive Director, who will likely begin work before the end of 2011.

Larry is a resident of Brentwood, TN and is currently the Executive Vice President of the Dixie District. He provides a wealth of experience as a barbershopper and as a professional executive. A 41-year member of the Society, Larry has been a member of four districts and has held many chapter offices, including music director, Music VP and Chapter Development VP. He has also been district VP-Chorus Director Development and VP-Contest and Judging.

A 30-year member of the contest and judging community in Singing and the former Sound category, Larry was a member of the category’s board of review, a category specialist and a member of the Society Contest & Judging Committee. He has also performed on the International stage in both the quartet and chorus contests and holds a chorus gold medal. Larry has judged more than 100 contests, including six at the International level plus an additional three Harmony, Inc. international contests.

Larry has been on the faculty of Harmony University, is a certified Standing Ovation evaluator, and is a certified CDWI instructor.

Prior to his retirement, Larry was employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, concluding his career with 15 years service as Medical Center Director in Nashville, TN, with oversight of 1,200 employees and an annual budget of $380 million. He also spent three years as Mid-South Region Medical District Director (CEO) of seven hospitals and 14 outpatient clinics, with responsibility for 12,000 employees and an annual budget of $1.5 billion.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a person with such outstanding barbershop and professional credentials for the interim position,” said Lamson. “Larry is excited by the opportunity to serve our Society and he already lives in the Greater Nashville area. His service will allow the Society Board and the search committee to focus on recruiting our new CEO, knowing the staff functions of our Society are in very capable hands during this transition period.”

Job requirements for the new CEO have been drafted and are pending approval by the Society board during its July meetings at the 2011 International Convention in Kansas City. Soon thereafter, a CEO Search Committee will likely be appointed, which will release further details about the CEO search.

Larry can be reached at LDeters@barbershop.org.



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Let’s fill up our “thankful jar”

Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on November 23, 2010, 11:42 AM


Every Thanksgiving morning, I join my wife and four kids in the living room to fill what our kids call the “Thankful Jar.” We start with huge bags of Jelly Bellies, M&Ms, Skittles and other small candies and fill the jar one piece at a time while stating something for which we are thankful. You get to repeat what someone else said but not what you’ve already said.

The jar is probably at least couple of quarts (that’s 2.2 liters, if you’re Canadian), maybe three, so we usually take a small handful when it’s our turn and rattle off a bunch of items at a pretty fast clip. A lot of the big stuff goes fast, and after a while you find yourself needing to come up with a lot of little stuff to keep the pace:

“I’m thankful for:

  • Grandma May
  • The Bill of Rights
  • George Washington
  • Instant Replay
  • Central air conditioning
  • 2nd Thessalonians
  • Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • The feel of grass under bare feet
  • E=MC2
  • Peace on our shores
  • Uncle Allan’s safety in Iraq
  • Surge protectors
  • and Popsicles”
  • After a while, the kids find themselves trying to out-random each other and make everyone laugh. But it turns out that even the random “little” stuff isn’t that little after all. We feel so blessed when we realize just how much we do have–and how much we’d miss it if we didn’t have it.

    Barbershop harmony has a lot of that. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Open discussion: The two-year chorus rotation proposal

    Posted by Ed Watson | Posted in Contests & Judging, Harmonizer, Leadership, Uncategorized | Posted on September 29, 2010, 9:51 AM


    By now, you may have seen the 2-year proposal article in the July-Aug 2010 issue of The Harmonizer concerning the proposal to change the International Chorus Contest to a two-year rotation. If you haven’t read up on the plan, everything is at www.barbershop.org/2year. Perhaps you’ve even taken the poll, where you had a chance to leave anonymous comments.

    Here’s the place to make your comments in public. What are your thoughts on the proposed plan? What do you like, what do you not like? Do you like the plan, but you would have tweaked it differently? Or do you see a whole different route to achieve the objectives outlined in The Harmonizer article?

    Any and all comments are welcome!

    Ed Watson,

    CEO, Barbershop Harmony Society

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    Harmonizer caption contest – round 10

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, Harmonizer, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on September 8, 2010, 7:00 AM


    It used to be that a 92.3% score was knocking at the door of a gold medal. In this year’s record-setting contest, that was good enough for 4th place for Sound of the Rockies, who presented an amazing military set. Director Darin Drown didn’t get the color of medal he wanted from his troops, but the bari of Storm Front still went home happy with quartet gold.

    Beat that caption, PLEASE! The best one gets published in The Harmonizer!

    To read the rules, click here to go to the initial post.

    Have at it!

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    Harmonizer caption contest – round 6

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, Harmonizer, Just for Fun, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on September 1, 2010, 3:29 PM


    Here’s 2010 Silver Medalist Old School in the opening round of competition. There are five gold medals in this quartet — and that’s just on the left side! Turns out the veteran power-chorders were in first place after two rounds, but they couldn’t overcome eventual champion Storm Front‘s crazy antics–and Presentation scores–in the final round.

    Beat that caption, PLEASE! The best one gets published in The Harmonizer!

    To read the rules, click here to go to the initial post.

    Have at it!

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    A $1 million check — what would you spend it on?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Just for Fun, Leadership, Members, Membership growth, Uncategorized, Youth in Harmony | Posted on July 29, 2010, 3:30 PM


    Imagine that a Society member or Associate was ready to write a million dollar check to Harmony Foundation.  But he or she needs a cause that they are certain would be a great investment.  Would YOU know what to tell them?

    I’m pretty sure I already know what Harmony Foundation would tell them. They already gave $450,000 to the Society in 2009  to fund our entire Youth in Harmony program and to help dozens and dozens of chapters improve via Director’s College scholarships. And I know they’re hard at work trying to raise money for additional Society priorities: Read the rest of this entry »

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    Here’s to the Winners! Gratitude for the champs among us

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, Uncategorized | Posted on July 8, 2010, 9:31 AM


    With permission, I’d like to share a personal correspondence from Jeff Selano, whose head is still in the clouds after winning gold while singing tenor with Storm Front:

    Look at this photo and it all becomes very clear.  We sat down with our wives after Anaheim and said, win or lose in Philly we have to know that we didn’t leave any stones unturned. And that means likely not being home for most of the next 12 months. Way too many weekends, practicing all day Saturday on shows and then staying late Sunday to practice more!! Our wives had to hold down the fort (all of us with small kids) too many times. Through sicknesses and hospital trips, missed special events etc, our wives gave us 1 year to get this done.  After that we would still compete, but we would have used up all that “extra grace” we had been given for just 1 year.

    I think you can see in this Grady Kerr photo how relieved we are.  But it’s not even close to the expression on their faces!!

    Just an idea of what goes into these incredible performances we’ve been accustomed to seeing every year. I was amazed by the Four Freshmen in Philly, and I hope I’m taking nothing away from them when I point out that some of our top “amateur” groups are in the same musical league. (The vocal part, anyway. Ain’t nobody but the 4F can sing and play that well!)

    How do our best amateurs sing at a professional level? They put in professional-level hours, that’s how. And for putting in that kind of effort on our behalf, for entertaining us as thoroughly as any group on the planet and showing us a level to which we can all aspire, we owe our champs and other competitors a deep debt of gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Who’s going to win in Philly?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, In the news, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on June 22, 2010, 6:30 AM


    A week from today, barbershop’s best groups will be on display in Philadelphia, starting with the College contest on Tuesday, the quartet quarterfinals and semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday, chorus contest on Friday and finals on Saturday. (Buy tickets and get the schedule of events here. Sign up for the webcast here.)

    So who’s going to win these contests? Everyone’s always making their predictions online, but rarely do we ever get a chance to take the next step: Take an ENTIRELY MEANINGLESS, UNSCIENTIFIC POLL online. You know you’ve always wanted the chance. That’s what we’re here for. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Common attributes of successful chapters

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Leadership, Membership growth, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on June 14, 2010, 5:44 AM



    Here’s the chance to add/subtract or discuss the list on page 13 of the May/June 2010 issue of The Harmonizer. Apologies if you came to this site earlier and didn’t find this post as mentioned in the magazine. I just came back from vacation to find that the printer had managed to mail the issue nearly a week earlier than scheduled — I thought I was going to have a few more days to put this post online!

    If you don’t agree with this list, take it up with me — I take full responsibility for it ….

    … unless you do like the list, in which case I emphasize that while the words are mine, the concepts didn’t exactly spontaneously pop into my head. Here in Nashville, especially in the last 18 months, we’ve been talking about issues like these A LOT. I’m sure if I checked back into my meeting notes, I’d see some version of most of the below concepts. But I generated this based on little more than a personal brainstorming session and sent it around the office for feedback.

    Hate it: MY FAULT. Like it: THANK THE STAFF. Clear?

    So how does this list jibe with your experience? Some successful chapters prominently feature traits not listed below, but the idea is to identify traits that pretty much ALWAYS seem to be present in growing, thriving chapters.

    Would you add anything? Remove something? Modify something? Your feedback is appreciated!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Philly will be Jim Clancy’s last contest as director

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, In the news, Media, Uncategorized | Posted on May 19, 2010, 8:53 AM



    We’ll let the VM’s press release speak for itself:


    Dallas, TX (May 18, 2010) — After nearly forty years and an unprecedented eleven gold medals in international competition, Director Jim Clancy has decided to make the 2010 Philadelphia performance his last international contest at the helm of the Vocal Majority Chorus®. He will continue as Musical Director and primary arranger, but will leave preparation and execution for future contests to Jeff Oxley and the rest of his music staff.

    Formed in 1972, the Vocal Majority Chorus® won its first gold medal in the 1975 International competition in Indianapolis and is now preparing for competition in Philadelphia. When asked about the upcoming contest, Clancy says, “I’m very excited about our preparation for this upcoming international competition. I believe that the Vocal Majority Chorus® is singing better than ever, and I am honored to lead the men into competition one last time before our wonderful family of barbershoppers.”

    The Board of Directors of the Vocal Majority asks that any questions and comments regarding this announcement be directed to:

    Todd Roberts

    President, Vocal Majority Chorus

    Email: TR3336@aol.com

    Wow. The man absolutely defined what a barbershop chorus could be–heck, what a men’s chorus could be. The man changed thousands of lives, and not just those among VM members and audiences.

    What are your best memories of Jim Clancy and the VM? What do you expect for Philly? How should we remember Jim’s historical legacy?

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    How are we doing in Nashville?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in In the news, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on May 4, 2010, 10:51 AM



    The sun in shining, the nearby Cumberland River crested at 52 feet (12 feet about flood stage) and is receding. No reports of major damage to staff homes, although several staff have been stranded in their neighborhoods and unable to travel. Only a very small puddle in the basement at headquarters — we’re lucky to be on top of a high hill here. Still, we’re at 7th Ave., and the crest of the Cumberland reached as far as 5th Avenue (which is at the bottom of a steep hill).

    All the results of 14 inches in two days. Saturday, it was wave after wave of torrential downpour, with eight inches in about 12 hours. The rest came Sunday. Previous two-day record for rain: Just over 6 inches.

    I went out on my bike yesterday afternoon with a point and shoot camera. Here are some images from downtown, after all the rain and before the worst of the Cumberland River came last night. Here are some shots, with a little commentary. You can see far more extensive shots of the flooding at The Tennessean.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    How can we feature the “common man” in The Harmonizer?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on April 30, 2010, 10:39 AM


    If you’d like some insight into how I select which stories go in The Harmonizer, here it is. Right or wrong, this is how I see my job as editor of the magazine, and this is how I filter through the many submissions and story pitches I receive. The following e-mail exchange shows a quandary that I face in knowing how to talk about ordinary barbershoppers among ordinary barbershoppers.

    It started with an e-mail story pitch I just received from a barbershopper who belongs to a 10-year-old registered quartet that doesn’t compete. They perform about 60 times per year, mostly pro bono at hospitals, nursing homes and retirement facilities. He was inquiring about a feature regarding his quartet. The last part of his e-mail resembles several e-mails or conversations I’ve had:

    If I must say so, we are very well received and entertain all of or audiences and are well know in our small cosmos. It is quartets like [quartet name] that is the frontline entertainers to the general public and deserve some recognition with an article in the Harmonizer.

    How about recognizing the “trench fighters” of our society? It is great to be a top quartet and compete with the “big boys” and get recognition for GREAT singing but there are many more of us representing the society to the general public than “medal” quartets.

    The following is my reply. It includes details about my selection process and some rough ideas I’m trying to pursue. Can anyone enlighten me about how we can give “common” quartets, groups and individuals coverage that would be interesting to the average barbershopper? Any critiques on my present thought processes? Anybody you know who would make for an interesting profile? Read the rest of this entry »

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    Who would have dominated if champs could re-compete?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on April 15, 2010, 11:22 AM



    A fun discussion developed this morning when some of us staff guys were taking a stroll around the block this morning. Webmaster Eddie Holt mentioned he’s got a picture of the bronze medal won by the Bartlesville Barflies (our first champs in 1939, picture of the medal here) when they competed again in 1942, essentially in the same configuration as the Phillip’s 66 Barflies. It was just the year before when the 1941 champ Chord Busters declared that they saw no reason to compete again now that they’d won, beginning a tradition that years later became a rule: Champs don’t re-compete, and no more than two members of a champion quartet can compete together thereafter. (Thanks for the info, Grady!)

    But what if the champs could and would compete in the years after they won? How many championships would the Buffalo Bills (1950) have won had they continued to compete? Based on their singing level through the 1950s, would they have continued to win all the way until the Suntones (1961), or would The Confederates (1955) have stolen a few? Would Dealer’s Choice (1973) been a true novice champ if the quartets ahead of them had still been competing? How many championships would Bluegrass Student Union (1978) had under their belts? Would they have beat Boston Common (1974-1980) in 1980? Read the rest of this entry »

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    Where do we put all these awesome media clippings?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, Events, Harmonizer, In the news, Just for Fun, Leadership, Media, Uncategorized | Posted on March 26, 2010, 11:18 AM



    Chapters are constantly sending me clips and links from news coverage they get, mostly from their local newspapers, and sometimes in local and even national magazines. (The above is a recent clip from NEA Today, the magazine of the National Education Association. They got our membership numbers off by about 6,000, but we and Al appreciate the plug!)

    Here’s the deal: What these chapters are doing is awesome, and it turns out they’re only sending us a fraction of what’s out there. But I have no idea what to do with most of these clips or how to share them. We already put some of the best on the front page and news section of barbershop.org and also in Livewire. Is that enough? Read the rest of this entry »

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    Two-year chorus rotation? What’s your opinion?

    Posted by Ed Watson | Posted in Chapters, Chorus, Contests & Judging, Events, Uncategorized | Posted on March 18, 2010, 9:56 AM



    We would like you all to think over a suggested change to our competition schedule, for choruses only. We’re in the early “what if?” stage right now, but the Society is investigating the possibility of switching our international chorus competition to a two-year rotation.

    Currently, we allow approximately the 28 best Society choruses from each fall district contest (district champs and wild-cards), in addition to a few international affiliates, to compete at the next international contest, which takes place 8-9 months later. We want to gauge reaction to the idea of a system in which (approximately) the 56 best Society choruses would compete on alternating years (an equal top-down mix of still roughly 28 per year). They would also qualify roughly 20 months before the international contest, to give them more time to financially and artistically prepare.

    This PDF is a hypothetical example of how a two-year cycle switch could be implemented.

    This Excel spreadsheet shows an example configuration based on 2009 scores. (Please note that the spreadsheet opens to a tab that shows the final results. There are two other tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet that show how those results were generated.)

    Sweet Adelines International has used a two-year rotation since the early 1970s. Initially, they experienced alternating “strong” and “weak” years, but the “second tier” competitors raised their competitive level, and soon all years were strong years. As seen in the above hypotheticals, were the Society to implement a two-year rotation, we would avoid the “weak year” challenge from the outset. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Audience Behavior at Contest: Cheer and Holler or Simply Applaud?

    Posted by Rick Spencer | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, Events, Just for Fun, Music, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on March 17, 2010, 2:13 PM


    Yea, I know, who cares?  Right?

    BUT…As a competitor, judge, and staff guy, I get around to many contests each year in several different districts and I always find it interesting how varying barbershop audiences can be with the way they welcome the competitors to the stage.  Read the rest of this entry »

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    Poll: Membership card makeover. Your thoughts?

    Posted by Becca Grimmer | Posted in Members, Membership growth, Uncategorized | Posted on March 4, 2010, 12:57 PM



    *Update: Please note in the original post that “looking at” = “considering,” and nothing more. Also note that cost reduction is one of the reasons we’re looking at a more permanent membership card.*

    The above is NOT a proposed membership card — just a very early proof of concept prototype. The point is, based on member feedback, we’re looking at changing our membership cards. No designs yet, but please participate in our poll about what might appear on the card.

    We’re looking to create something more colorful and laminated, closer to the thickness of a credit card. It would be durable enough that the ink won’t rub off or stick to anything in your wallet and flashy enough that you may be proud to pull it out of your wallet and show it off. The idea is that this would become your permananent membership card and would not be replaced each year.

    As to what information goes on the card, there are several options: Read the rest of this entry »

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    Copyright: Giving members more music and more options

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Music, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on February 12, 2010, 11:34 AM



    In reply to an earlier post on this blog, Tom Goldie shared some interesting suggestions regarding copyright laws and how the Society had get music into members’ hands more easily. With his permission, quoted below are Tom’s ideas (in quotes) and responses from Julie Grower, who manages the Music Library and Licensing for the Society.

    Tom brings up some interesting possibilities. What do you think?

    Julie begins:


    Thank you so much for taking up an issue which I know many barbershoppers feel strongly about. Your ideas are very positive and forward-looking. We always appreciate hearing about the issues that mean the most to members. I will attempt to address some of the comments below as best I can.

    I believe a great place to start would be in copyright issues. An immediate change would be to allow society members the rights to record and post songs to which the Society holds copyright as long as its for non-commercial purposes. This would allow for many more performances to link to on YouTube, and for a lot more “free” distribution of high-quality .mp3s.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    What did we once do that we should have never stopped?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on January 21, 2010, 10:05 AM



    As opposed to “What did we start doing that we never should have started?”

    This one’s for the old-timers, or at least the historically enlightened. It’s the promised follow-up to my last post, “System reboot: If we’d started the Society today, what would be different?” (In retrospect, maybe today’s post should have come first.) In either case, I’m hoping for some insightful answers and discussion.

    We’ve had a lot of wise men among us during our Society’s 72 years. Still do. At headquarters, we have access to every copy of The Harmonizer ever printed, going back to 1941. (And we’d love to digitize all those issues and provide them to our members online. Biiiiiiiig scanning project. Any volunteers?) These old Harmonizers record many trends that have come and gone, some things that never change (style debate anyone?), and occasionally a cringe-worthy image or sentiment from a bygone era that has thankfully not survived to the present.

    But what about the stuff from our past that should have survived but didn’t? Read the rest of this entry »

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    System reboot: If we’d started the Society today, what would be different?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, Chorus, Contests & Judging, Just for Fun, Leadership, Members, Music, Uncategorized | Posted on January 8, 2010, 10:23 AM


    restartHere’s something for all you snowed-in barbershoppers to chew on: How would we have structured things if 30,000 barbershop singers had somehow gotten together just today to form a singing Society? How would we be structured? What would we do that we don’t do now? What would we modify or drop that we are doing?

    On balance, we’re far too critical of ourselves as barbershoppers. We’re so intimately aware of our own warts and unrealized hopes that we rarely realize that the outside world is far more impressed with us than we are. Ever heard the “Wow!” from a sharp music professional once he starts to become familiar with our educational system, our contest and judging system, our organizational structure, youth outreach, fraternal culture, etc.? (Maybe that’s a post or Harmonizer article for another time!) So I don’t want this to devolve into a gripe session of “What’s wrong with the Society,” cuz frankly we hear plenty of that already.

    That said, organizations can be like computers. After you’ve had one for a while, installed this program, tweaked that, added this data, both a computer and an organization can start become sluggish. There’s really no way to avoid it, but all those necessary tweaks and changes can build up “lint” that can hamper system performance. For all the customizations you can’t live without anymore, you still wish your machine were operating the way it did when it came out of the box. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Sept/Oct Harmonizer in December? What gives?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Uncategorized | Posted on December 14, 2009, 6:05 PM



    Let’s talk about why your latest Harmonizer is so late and what we’re doing to change that. We ran a Q&A on this subject earlier this summer. I won’t repeat much of what’s there, so if you have any remaining questions, check that post first. For now, here are some basic statements of fact, followed by some details.

    Your Harmonizer’s information is not old, it’s just that the cover date has been out of sync.

    You’ve still been getting six issues per year, every two months on average, with info that was up to date in the weeks before each issue was sent to the printer. It’s just that ….  (CUE WORLD’S SMALLEST VIOLIN) .. if you’d read the previous Q&A, you already know that the actual schedule slippage occurred several years ago as the result of resource decisions made by officers who haven’t worked on Society staff for a long time. (Hint: It’s not any past editor’s fault.)  Just wanted to point out the difference between “causing the slippage” and “failing to fix it in a timely manner.” (DEFENSIVE CRYBABY ALERT OVER) That said, it’s my mess to clean up, and I acknowledge I haven’t been cleaning it up quickly at all.

    I feel your pain.

    You think YOU find the out-of-synch cover dates embarrassing? The only question staff ever asks me is, “When is the next issue coming out? We’re getting a lot of calls.” I have permanent indents on my bedroom wall because I wake up every work day, remember the day’s date vs. the cover date I’m working on, and the head-banging commences. If you believe heads need cracking to get this problem fixed, consider my cranium thoroughly knocked. My family can tell you, it ain’t a lack of overtime hours that’s responsible for the slow catch-up! (Oops, just let another whiner statement slip in.) Read the rest of this entry »

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    Up with reality, down with pessimism–the realist’s case for optimism

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Leadership, Members, Membership growth, Music, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on December 9, 2009, 11:41 AM



    God bless the realists, the folks who tell it like it is—who call a spade a spade, who never stick their head in the sand, and who know they aren’t doing anyone any favors in varnishing the truth. The Barbershop Harmony Society needs all the reality it can get. If the preceeding words describe you, this post isn’t directed at you.

    On second thought, this post may be ESPECIALLY for you.

    What I say next will probably brand me as a blind Pollyanna skipping to the precipice, but oh well:


    Realism is vital, but it is severely overrated. If that last sentence made you cringe, I’ll point out that science is on my side for this one.

    It turns out, a large portion of self-described realists are also pessimists. And because they are pessimists, they will not have access to the thoughts and actions that will lead their chapters and our Society to better days. Want proof? Want examples? Keep reading. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Success in using social networking tools

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, Media, Membership growth, Quartetting, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on October 28, 2009, 8:44 AM


    social_networkingIn an upcoming issue of the magazine, we’re going to be running an article on how some chapters and quartets are using Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc. to get new fans, new members, new audiences and build new relationships. I know of a few examples of barbershoppers who are using Facebook to sell more tickets and locate potential members. I would sure like to know some more.

    • Do you know any success stories? (Yours or another group?)
    • Do you you have any expertise on how to use social networking effectively in a barbershop or other singing environment?
    • Do you have any questions that you want answered in an article like this?

    Please share what you know or what you want to know right here!

    (Note: Feel free to provide links in your response (if you know they’re clean), but know that comments that contain multiple links will usually go into moderation before they can be posted. If you comment doesn’t show up immediately, that’s probably why.)

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    Commander’s Intent part 2 – making sure chapters are strong on the fundamentals

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Leadership, Membership growth, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on October 6, 2009, 10:16 AM


    Vince Lombardi

    “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist, but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.

    — Vince Lombardi, ESPN’s Coach of the Century

    Thanks everyone who responded to our Commanders Intent post last month. We discussed how an army commander ensures his forces cannot lose sight of the core objective and then we asked you to fill in the blank, “If a chapter does nothing else, it must _____.” So many insightful answers! If you haven’t read them, click on the above link and please do so.

    As promised, we looked at everyone’s comments and discussed them at our Sept. 16 meeting. We’re not done processing and reacting to everything we learned from your participation, but I’ll say this: We didn’t see anything in your feedback that surprised us, and that was great news. I hope the following explains why.

    While it might be wise to stick with the military motif for this post, please indulge me in switching to a related analogy: winning football teams and winning chapters. (To be clear, staff doesn’t define winning chapters by competitive scores but by whether a chapter is a exciting and fulfilling place that’s attracting more and more men. High-level performance and a healthy chapter culture often go together, but it’s very common to find one without the other.) However, successful chapters of all types are strong on similar key fundamentals. One goal of the commander’s intent post was to determine whether we’ve identified the same key principles as you have. 80+ insightful responses later, our strategic planning appears to be well in line with what you consider most important.

    Now, a few words about arguably the best football coach of all time, and what fundamentals mean to strong barbershop chapters. Read the rest of this entry »

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    33 percent criterion: A dialog between Montana Jack and Kevin Keller

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Contests & Judging, Uncategorized | Posted on October 2, 2009, 11:17 AM


    The-Hallmark-7th-Chord-reviThe discussion of the 33% criterion in the last issue of The Harmonizer has generated a lot of great feedback and discussion, including at this relatively recent post at barbershophq.com. An extremely informative private exchange occurred when “Montana Jack” (the Internet handle of an influential barbershopper who regularly posts on the Harmonet) sent a private email to Music Category Specialist Kevin Keller, who privately responded. A member of headquarters staff cc’d in the email suggested all barbershoppers could profit from the exchange.

    With Jack and Kevin’s permission, here’s the text of Jack’s email, with Kevin’s comments interspersed. Please add your own comments! Read the rest of this entry »

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    The Hallmark 7th Chord: A proposed Music Category change

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, Leadership, Music, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on September 10, 2009, 10:00 AM



    Thanks for visiting the blog concerning the 33% criterion.  The position paper mentioned on page 24-25 of the July/August 2009 edition of  The Harmonizer is here: 7th Chord Position Paper. A copy of the article in The Harmonizer is here: The Hallmark 7th Chord.

    Although this is not technically a change to the definition of the barbershop style, this criterion has been used for almost 40 years in defining the style that we are treating this change as such.  Given that, the process for change is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

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    Orders for victory! “If our chapters do nothing else, they must ____?”

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, Chorus, Leadership, Membership growth, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on September 9, 2009, 9:09 AM



    This is a VERY important post—so important that staff will be meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16 to discuss your replies. It’s a little long, but worth it.

    If you can fill in the above blank without hesitation, you probably misunderstood the question. Read on, your answer will require some pondering. Your answers could also help focus staff, Society, district and chapter efforts for years to come. We look forward to some thoughtful discussion! Read the rest of this entry »

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    What most online discussions are missing, by default

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on September 4, 2009, 1:10 PM



    We’d save a lot time if we’d all been born with a big scrolling LED sign implanted on our foreheads, one that displayed our brain’s default settings. We would think twice about engaging someone in a discussion about the Society’s future if we saw the following message scrolling just below his toupee: “I am the messenger of truth and light, and I share no arguments or perceptions—only facts. Disagreement proves that you’re trying to bring down the Society!”

    Most people are much more reasonable than this, although many folks seem to drop 30 IQ points the moment they sit down at a keyboard. Wouldn’t it be great if we could access everyone’s default settings menu, like we can with our computers and cell phones? It sure would help the folks “debating” (i.e., talking past each other) regarding U.S. health care legislation. The defaults of opposing sides reveal far more than particular policy points: Read the rest of this entry »

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    A Renaissance

    Posted by Bill Biffle | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on August 13, 2009, 3:19 PM


    Like of lot of you, I’ve just come off back to back barbershop barnburners – the International Convention in Anaheim and Harmony University. And I’m overwhelmed at the number of young people who were at both! All over Anaheim, kids were singing, riding busses, skipping over cracks in the sidewalk, jamming with their Ipods, and doing all the things that good kids do. The energy in the hotels, at the contest venue, at the shows, in the restaurants, and on the street was simply unbelievable. Then – THEN – I went to St. Jo. WOW! I bet almost half of the 660 of us there were under 30. (And most of the staff was young, too!) No, I didn’t count them, but they were everywhere. And – same thing – energy, enthusiasm, round the clock tag singing – everything that youth hooked on barbershop can bring to the party.

    Lots of good folk are working hard to discover the things we need to do to reverse our decades-old decline in membership. And, while I’ve always been convinced that we’ll succeed at this crucial task, I must now say that I’m suddenly more optimistic about the future that I have ever been before. As a consequence of the college quartet contests and our other youth outreach programs we are looking at a very bright future, indeed!

    Barbershop lives! And THRIVES! Hallelujah!!!

    Incidentally, our youth programs are largely funded by us – you and me – through Harmony Foundation and Sing Canada. Why not make a pledge now? Together we can insure the future of this great hobby. For more information, click on the names below.
    Harmony Fundation
    Sing Canada

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    Music we hear in contests

    Posted by Bill Biffle | Posted in Chorus, Contests & Judging, Events, Music, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on August 13, 2009, 2:39 PM


    I have been musing about the variety of music we hear on the International stage and how much of it is, well, not so good. I don’t mean it’s not performed well – of course it’s performed well, these are the best practitioners of our style in the world! I mean it’s not all the very best music. Seems that, in an effort to do something unique, many of our competitors find some obscure song no one’s done before and, after it’s arranged to the hilt, they sing it for us.

    This put me in mind of an experience I had ‘way back in school. I was opining (I tend to do that) about how contemporary music – 20th C. stuff – just didn’t hold up against the “classics”. Didn’t have the musical depth and value of the earlier stuff. A musicologist professor of mine said, “Well, you must remember that you’re hearing almost all the music that’s being written now and the music you hear from earlier centuries is only the best of the best. Time has winnowed out the stuff of lesser quality.” When you think of it, that’s true about all music of all times. I have a 40s channel on my Sirius radio. All 40s all the time. And lots of it is pretty bad stuff. Once in a while a “classic” will pop up, but for every “I Thought About You”, there’s several lesser tunes that have faded from the scene. Same is true of the 50s hits I hear at Wendy’s or whatever. Just the best stuff survived.

    So, consider that we’re pretty much hearing everything anyone wants to sing on the contest stage each year. And that the “good old songs” that we remember as great (Thank you, Old School) represent a small fraction of all the songs that were sung on the contest stage in the 50s, or 60s, or 70s, or…

    Just a thought. Might help with your bloodpressure next July. I know it will with mine.

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    Media Gumbo – Click these tasty links to barbershop news on the Net

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, In the news, Media, Uncategorized | Posted on August 6, 2009, 12:50 PM



    Check out these links:

    • Jim Henry, director of 2009 International Chorus Champs the Ambassadors of Harmony, got interviewed on a morning TV news program about the recent championship. Vocal Spectrum also did a number of commercial cut-ins and cut-outs for the show (no Vocal Spectrum video available)
    • A great feature on choir singing that includes Great Northern Union, on Minnesota Public Radio. (With images, text and audio)
    • Suntones great Gene Cokeroft got a big article about his love affair with barbershop harmony in The Miami Herald. Includes video
    • The Golden Crest Chorus of Avon, Ohio came up big to send students to the Singing Buckeye’s Harmony Camp
    • Members of the Alexandria Harmonizers got political coverage when they suprised Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Photos are here
    • A Japanese YouTube site devoted to barbershop harmony
    • The Perfect Gentlemen quartet appeared on Gene Simmons Family Jewels on Sunday, August 9 at 9:30 p.m. (Eastern)  and the next morning at 1:30 a.m. Watch here!
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    American Harmony Update

    Posted by Danielle Cole | Posted in In the news, Leadership, Media, Membership growth, Uncategorized | Posted on August 3, 2009, 10:15 AM



    We’ve had several questions lately regarding American Harmony and the status of screenings. Below is a detailed description from one of the producers, Allan Webb, that is sure to answer most of the lingering questions out there.

    For those that have already registered – thanks for your participation in helping spread barbershop harmony around your community!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Change personnel or just change directions? For a chapter that’s seen better days

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chapters, Chorus, Leadership, Members, Membership growth, Run your chapter, Uncategorized | Posted on July 28, 2009, 1:59 PM



    I received the following email a while back from a member, who appears to be concerned about whether a chorus will inevitably decline if they keep the same musical leadership. Here’s his question and here’s my answer. When you’re done reading this, please comment on the following two questions:

    • Was my answer correct?
    • Was he asking the right question?

    First, the question: Read the rest of this entry »

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    What 2009 Contest Performances Would You Like to See on YouTube?

    Posted by Rick Spencer | Posted in Events, Just for Fun, Media, Uncategorized | Posted on July 23, 2009, 10:09 AM


    The Society just released the Ambassadors of Harmony’s performance of “76 Trombones” to our YouTube site, youtube.com/barbershopharmony38.  We were able to work out an agreement with the copyright holder to make this happen legally.  AND…we also worked with AOH to make that happen. (Thank you AOH!!!)

    It is our intent to upload more performances, starting with some Public Domain songs, but we want your feedback on what else you think absolutely MUST be up there.

    And oh by the way, please be realistic.  “Every song from every performer” would cost a fortune. :-)

    So what do you think?

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    Before it’s too late: who needs to have an official Society interview?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Chorus, Harmonizer, Music, Quartetting, Uncategorized | Posted on July 20, 2009, 1:22 PM



    A sensitive topic here, because we don’t need to eulogize people who are still with us! But I need to come out and ask this: Who are some of the barbershop icons that we need to talk to and interview now, just in case we never get the chance again? Read the rest of this entry »

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    What do you want discussed in the convention issue of The Harmonizer?

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on July 13, 2009, 12:00 PM



    I’ll be working on it soon enough, so I need to know while the memories are still fresh: What do you want to read about in the Sept./Oct. convention issue? What sticks out in your mind? Share your thoughts and you just might see them used in the next photo spread. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Choir of THE WORLD! – Westminster Chorus tops all at Llangollen!

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on July 13, 2009, 11:54 AM



    Justin Miller, what have you done? A week after he competed in the collegiate contest in Anaheim, Justin and 35 members of Westminster Chorus took on a bunch of much older directors with much longer resumes and were the overall winners of prestigious Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod 2009. About 4,000 singers and dancers from 50 nations competed. Watch the announcement of their win here and see their winning set here. The festival message board is here. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Q&A on The Harmonizer magazine

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Harmonizer, Just for Fun, Uncategorized | Posted on July 13, 2009, 11:51 AM



    Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about The Harmonizer:

    When am I getting my next edition of The Harmonizer?

    It’s in the mail. (I finished it earlier in the week while we were in Ahaheim, so unfortunately, the staff didn’t have time to copy edit a couple of sections!) You’ll probably have it sometime this week, unless you’re in Canada, in which case you’re getting it when Canada’s post office is good and ready to deliver it! (We’re working on that, but a lot of this is unfortunately out of our hands!)

    What’s in the upcoming issue?

    The cover story is about a barbershopper who is little known outside the Rocky Mountain District, but is representative of some of the other great barbershoppers you’ve never heard of. Phil Ricks — remember that name, but if you’ve never met the guy, you’re not going to. He died a few weeks before I traveled to Rexburg, Idaho to photograph and research the story. He was not known for his singing, but few barbershoppers have brought so much harmony to so many people in so little time.

    We also have an interview with Mark Hale where he discusses 14 things any quartet can learn from OC Times, even if they have no competitive ambitions. And we have a recap of the slam dunk Vocal Majority appears at the ACDA convention in March.

    More answers about schedule and content after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Westminster takes first in International Competition! (Another one!)

    Posted by Lorin May | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on July 10, 2009, 1:53 PM



    Today in Llangollen, the Westminster Chorus bested the field of 13 competitors in the Folk Choir competition by 1 POINT!
    Tomorrow the dominance continues in both the Male Choir and Barbershop Choruses competitions.

    View the video of today’s performance here:http://www.llangollen.tv/en/clip/91
    Also, leave a message for the guys here: http://www.llangollen.tv/en/group/the-westminster-chorus/messageboard

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    Accentuate the positive!

    Posted by Rick Spencer | Posted in In the news, Just for Fun, Media, Uncategorized | Posted on June 16, 2009, 12:33 PM



    All too often I read with interest either on the Harmonet or in emails sent to me by our members what people think is “wrong with the Society.” Not specifically HQ but all levels from the quartets to the chapters to the districts and so on. I value everyone’s opinion and when it comes to making decisions for the Society all of the input I’ve received over the years help guide me in my decision making. I sometimes wonder, however, are we too focused on what’s wrong that we are more and more forgetting to celebrate the positives? Read the rest of this entry »

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