Barbershop singing originated in US around 1870. Groups of men sang in barbershops while they were waiting for a haircut. Barbershops were popular for harmony singing because they generally had good acoustics. This type of singing wasn't confined to barbershops and was sometimes known as Curbstone Harmony if it was outside. The singing was strongly influenced by African immigrants who brought with them a long tradition of singing hymns and folk songs in groups, often in four parts. Minstrel shows were another result of the same influences.
The first written use of the word ‘barbershop’ when referring to harmonizing came
in 1910, with the publication of the song, Play That Barbershop Chord. This suggests
that the term had been around for a long time in spoken language. In later times
it was variously written as ‘barber shop’, ‘barber-
Barbershop singing was at its height from 1900 to 1919. At that time song-
At a business meeting in 1938, in Kansas City, O. C. Cash met Rupert Hall and they
discovered a shared love of vocal harmony. They invited friends to sing with them.
Early in its history the group adopted the alternate name "Barbershop Harmony Society". In 2004, faced with declining membership, the Society adopted a marketing plan to use that name consistently, retaining the old name for legal reasons. Many members were concerned that ‘quartet’ had been dropped from the name, fearing a movement in the direction of choral singing rather than “close harmony” or quartet singing.
Sweet Adelines International is a similar organisation, founded in 1945, for women.
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