Arts & Culture
Shows Like American Idol Introduce Young Colorado Men To Barbershop Quartet Singing
With shows like American Idol bringing a major increase in revenue dollars for TV networks, there’s an old American musical art form which is also seeing an increase in popularity with a younger audience across the country, and right here in Colorado.
There’s an interesting phenomenon taking hold in the Barbershop Quartet world. You know barbershop? “…Hello my baby, Hello my darling, hello my ragtime gal..?” Yea, it’s pretty old and outdated.
But YouTube “Gaga Barbershop Quartet", and you’ll find a group of high school guys singing Lady Gaga’s "Poker Face”. It sounds nothing like the barbershop you remember. The young group is from Yorkville, IL a suburb of Chicago.
Groups like this are sprouting up all across the country, including right here in Colorado.
One of the Colorado groups is called “Foundation.” They’re the current Rocky Mountain Barbershop Collegiate Quartet Champion, and are a part of the large barbershop chorus “Sound of the Rockies” from Centennial Colorado.
21 year old Andrew Jaramillo of Aurora is a junior at the University of Northern Colorado. He sings Tenor in the group, and is excited reality singing shows are giving barbershop quartet singing a renewed popularity.
“It’s fantastic that its happening, acapella is getting the exposure is getting , any exposure is good exposure, to show a little of our harmony I think right now is really exciting, because we’re seeing the pieces come together for a resurgence in these activities.”
James Estes agrees. He’s the Music Education Coordinator for the Barbershop Harmony Society which is based in Nashville. “Singing wasn’t exactly the coolest thing to do, American Idol, Glee, The Sing Off, America’s Got Talent - it’s becoming more and more acceptable, for young guys to sing.”
Estes says his national organization of around 25,000 members is seeing something like a camel hump in terms of interest in the art form. One is in the 60 and older crowd with the other made up of the younger generation, men in their late teens and early to mid-twenties. He says they’re really excited about the art form, and excited about singing in General.
John Harlow a Sound of the Rockies chorus member from Longmont says it’s natural for this art form to be popular with a younger singing audience. “First thing is you don’t have to read music to sing barbershop. You can learn it by ear.”
He’s been singing Barbershop for over 15 years, with various choruses around the country. Harlow says it’s a joy and a pleasure to sing barbershop, and he’s happy that younger men are finding the music, and feeling as good as he feels. And finding their feeling of accomplishment.
Andrew Jaramillo agrees. He says there’s nothing like the rush of singing on stage in front of thousands of barbershop fans with 4 of your closest friends. “There’s this moment when they shut the doors and he says everybody in your seats, and then you hear the applause drum up, and you get on stage and you get to hear that and experience this huge crowd of sometimes varies from 3,000 to 6,000. To have the opportunity to sing for those people is an absolute joy.”
The Barbershop Harmony Society holds yearly conventions around the country. Thousands come together to compete in barbershop quartet and chorus competitions. Andrew hopes as men his age become more energized about performing acapella, and exploring the music, the art form of Barbershop singing will see its numbers grow exponentially.