As much a part of American culture as Old Glory, mom and apple pie, barbershop quartet singing is one of America’s native art forms. It is alive today, largely through the efforts of the Barbershop Harmony Society and it’s members such as the Harbormen Barbershop Chorus.
The chorus sings throughout Suffolk County for various occasions, county fairs, memorial services for our fallen heroes of the armed services, police and fire departments, and Christmas tree and menorah lighting ceremonies in December.
One of the most exciting times of the year for the chorus is February. On February 14th, several quartets provide singing valentines throughout the Town of Brookhaven, bringing to that special person, a very special musical expression of love. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the chorus’ local community project, The Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson Station, NY.
North Brookhaven boasts one of 825 chapters that make up the International Barbershop Harmony Society. Like any organization, they are sub-divided into districts and North Brookhaven is in the 7–State Mid-Atlantic District, which is the largest of the 16 districts in existence.
International headquarters is in Kenosha, WI, where a minimal full time staff maintains the database on our 36,000 plus membership. Also located in Kenosha is one of the largest musical libraries in the country available for use by all members. This is where the procedure manuals, sheet music, and literature needed to run the Society originate.
Approximately 1800 quartets, are registered with the Society and an estimated 1000 more quartets are active but not officially registered. There are affiliated organizations in Australia, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Japan, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Denmark and parts of the former Soviet Union.
The Society was founded in 1938 by Owen C. Cash, a Tulsa tax attorney, and Rupert I. Hall, a Tulsa investment banker. They had a chance meeting at the Kansas City airport which was shut down during a snowstorm. During their conversation they discovered they had a mutual love of vocal harmony and wished the wonderful sound of barbershop harmony could still be heard around the country. They wrote letters to friends and business associates, and with the 26 men who responded, they met on a regular basis and word of mouth spread the news about their unique form of singing. They soon had 150 harmonizers. A reporter for the Tulsa Daily World chanced to pass the building, heard the unique singing, and sensed a good story. The paper put the story on the national news wires. The lengthy original name and initials of the Society which was founder Cash’s way of poking fun at the New Deal’s “alphabet soup” of initialed government agencies, captured the imagination of readers coast to coast, inquiries came pouring in and S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A was formed. Five years ago the society decided to change its name to the “Barbershop Harmony Society”, a name that is much easier to remember, pronounce and read.
The Society is active in promoting the education of members and the general public in music appreciation, particularly barbershop singing. Quartets and choruses contribute more than 100,000 man hours per year singing for more than a half a million people at schools, hospitals, senior centers, nursing homes, and various houses of worship, and charity events, etc.
If you like to sing, the chorus cordially invites you attend one of their rehearsals held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, on Nicolls Road (1/2 mile North of Route 347-Nesconset Highway, on the right hand side of the road), in Stony Brook NY on Monday evenings at 8:00PM.
It is not necessary that you know how to read music or even have musical experience. Membership is open to all men, high school age and up. Sorry ladies, if you would like to sing barbershop harmony you will have to contact your own local auxiliary of the “Sweet Adelines”.
The chorus is a secular not-for-profit organization and not affiliated with any religious organization or denomination. They meet at the Unitarian Church as a matter of convenience. People of all races and religions are welcome. The only requirement is that you love to sing. For more information contact Herb Mordkoff at 631-928-4373.