August bank holiday weekend bought my third year of participation of BABS Extreme Quartets at
Harmony College in Nottingham. Earlier this year in May I went to Berlin for the first ever European Harmony Brigade and I have booked my place ready for UK Harmony Brigade next February 2016.
I have been pondering this week at why this style of mixed random quartet and chorus singing has filled a special place in my life and makes me even more hungry for the next event. The addiction is spreading to many other people who also get a lot from this experience. Harmony College also provides wonderful chance to sing in a ladies chorus, benefit from outstanding educators and meeting with likeminded people.
Extreme Quartets and Harmony Brigades- In A Nutshell.
The idea is to learn a set number of songs (6-12 depending on event) to an extremely high standard ready to sing at a competition level. The music is usually well known, suitably challenging and as usually sang by our favourite top male quartets in the world. When you arrive you have to pass strict assessments to ensure you are note and word perfect. This is to ensure that it is fair for everyone participating in your random quartets to ensure that the homework has been put into the learning. During the time you are there, it is generally expected that you will sing in as many quartet line ups as possible, help other people and push boundaries.
The culmination of everyone's efforts is the random quartet competition (usually only an hour to perfect a song that you have only just found out about) and in Harmony Brigade the show which is open to the public to show off what everyone has done in quartets and as a Chorus. Prizes are given for who sing with the most people, guys/girls who people vote for and the quartet competition.
So that's the basic stuff. Now what do I love most.
The People Are Just Awesome.
It is full of normal Barbershoppers from all walks of life, chorus singers, quartet singers and from all around the globe that have become my friends. People who thrive on a challenge and want to sing well. Some have medals, with years of experience, many do not, but all are working with the shared aim of doing their absolute best to sing at an excellent standard and pass their assessment to enable them to perform.
People that travel up and down the country for run throughs organised by themselves in their own homes and venues. Hours upon hours of practicing and several hundred plays of each track to get it right. Worry that they may not be good enough, learn all the tunes, hold the post, yet with the support of others in the same position supporting each other, being inclusive and proactive in their learning. Friendships are formed in the locking of chords and connecting in an intense way. We can share our skills and everyone has something to offer that we can each learn from.
You can try a different voice part, test your boundaries and increase your confidence. I know that it is a place where I can sing all day, all night and love what we do. And then we have exhausted all that, then we can reminisce and sing songs from previous Extreme/ Brigade events before starting all over again.
Performing With Your Friends
In Berlin, the highlight for me was the whole show evening where we sung on the trains on the way to
the concert hall and had a lovely meal sat with my new friends from Utah. The show afterwards allowed everyone to perform either as a quartet (with opportunity for all in the rolling quartet to have at least a line) and every other song as the UKHB chorus. The chorus experience consisting of enthusiastic people that all know their parts well and accurately usually with a bigger chorus than we have at home is totally magic and fully inclusive. We all have our place on the risers to show off our hard work. That made me very happy. Then we sang all the way back to the hotel on the trains again before resuming the afterglow.
So I would advise everyone who wants more from their Quarteting to give it a go because it will reignite your passion in barbershop music and it shares harmony among people. You might even cry in happiness at it all. We are all winners just by taking part.
Thank you to you all.
Sign up ASAP to secure your place as they will be fully subscribed. Remember being prepared is the only option!
www.ukharmonybrigade.com in Feb 2016. Nottingham, UK
www.europeanharmonybrigade.org in June 2016. Berlin, Germany.