Spirit of St. Louis Chorus

St. Louis #1 Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society

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barbershop group of men rehearsing


What is Barbershop Music? It is still a mystery exactly how barbershop music began. We do know that in the 1890s men would gather in local barbershops and general stores creating harmony singing the pop songs of the day. They created a uniquely American style of music. The special sound of barbershop is created by having the melody in the second tenor part instead of the usual first tenor spot. Close harmony and use of the barbershop "7th chord" also gave it the sound we recognize as barbershop harmony today. Unlike the men in the 1890s who sang in operatic style accompanied by a piano, today's quartets usually sing in a straight tone and do not use accompaniment.

What is the Barbershop Harmony Society? In 1938, O.C. Cash and his friends gathered in Tulsa, Oklahoma and formed the Society For the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, SPEBSQSA for short. As their name suggested, their goal was to preserve quartet singing in the barbershop style. Since 1938, the Barbershop Society has grown to over 23,000 members all over the world. Each week over 600 chapters in many countries meet and rehearse songs for upcoming performances.

Can I Join the Spirit of St. Louis Chorus? Yes you can! Any man from high school age and up is welcome.

What Are the Requirements To Join? The only requirement is that you are able to sing in a chorus. If you have ever been in a high school or church choir, you have the skills needed to sing with us. We'll help you choose the right part to sing.

Voice Parts

There is a part for every kind of voice:

Tenor: Range is C to high C. This very high "first tenor" harmonizes above the melody. Unlike church and classical choirs, barbershop first tenors rarely sing in "full voice." No operatic voice needed here! Instead, our tenors use falsetto most of the time when singing above the staff.  If you have a high voice, our tenors will be glad to teach you falsetto as an added skill. If you have a low/medium voice but a strong falsetto, this is the part for you too!

Lead: Range is middle C to high F. These are "second tenors." They sing the melody most of the time. While singing the melody is perhaps easier than learning a harmony part, the leads carry the burden of all three harmony parts, who rely on them for a clean, strong, straight tone. Sometimes a high baritone can sing lead, but he will have to use falsetto on the very high notes.

Baritone: Range is just below, and above, the top of the bass clef. These are the middle harmony singers. They quietly harmonize above and below the melody singing all the leftover notes. Baritone is sort of a second tenor similar to the part you'll find written for "tenor" in a standard church hymnal. For men who love to sing harmony, this is the ultimate part. A loud or solo voice is certainly not needed for barbershop baritone, just a blending kind of voice.

Bass: Range is rather wide- low F to middle C. These are the low guys. Bass is sort of a second melody in barbershop. The audience actually hears the lead melody and the bass part when listening to a barbershop chorus or quartet. The baritone and tenor blend in so well that they almost disappear in the audience's ears. Our basses are often baritones that can sing somewhat low. Then the few guys with very low voices provide the notes below the bass staff, because these low guys often have to drop out on the high harmony where the "high basses" can shine.