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At The Barbershop Music Conference, Singers Of All Stripes Find Harmony

Flickr user Carlos

As many Americans ready their grills and fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, others are celebrating another American tradition: the barbershop quartet. Pittsburgh is the site of the week-long Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention running through Saturday.

It’s no longer four guys in boater hats and stripes, though those groups are still around – barbershop is a whole movement, encompassing many different kinds of groups from one or two men or women to 150 and more. Dallas-Based Vocal Majority is one of the big ones with 150 volunteer members.

“Barbershop is actually pretty big,” said VM Musical Director Greg Clancy. “With shows like 'Glee' and 'The Sing-Off,' acapella music is really resurging and we’re seeing a lot of high schoolers and high school music programs pick up barbershop.”

Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA
Members of Dallas-based Vocal Majority performs during a masterclass during the convention.

The men in Vocal Majority range in age from the teens up, and it’s a diverse group.

“We have guys from all occupations, all age groups, religions, races,” said Clancy.

There are also women’s groups and mixed groups. Ann Wilcox is with Harmony Incorporated, a women’s singing organization from Horseheads, NY. During a break she and some of her fellow group members held an impromptu sing with members of Vocal Majority.

“It is impossible not to smile when you’re singing and you hear all these harmonies, it’s impossible to not smile, and to feel it in your soul,” said Wilcox.

That happiness is evident as one would be hard-pressed to find a person without a smile on their face.

“It’s so happy to see happy people,” said Carol Wade from Cleveland. This is the fourth time she’s attended the conference. “It’s contagious. I think that’s what we get out of barbershop – we go away happy!”

Or, as Vocal Majority’s Clancy puts it, “Our common bond is our love to sing and make harmony in a world that needs more harmony.”

The conference features numerous master classes, workshops and performances spread throughout downtown; it will close with a quarter final competition at Consol Energy Center Saturday evening.