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What Is S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.?

Answer: The Barbershop Harmony Society

2013 was our 75th Anniversary

In 1938 a small group of men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, gathered to sing their favorite old-time songs. From this first informal meeting grew an international organization dedicated to preserving one of America's unique song styles barbershop harmony.

The founders of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA) named the organization as a parody of the multi-initialed government agencies which existed at the time, i.e. CCC, WPA, NRA, etc. The original group of 26 men would take great pride in the Society that today numbers 30,000 members. There are also foreign subsidiaries in Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand and several other countries.

Barbershop singing, like jazz and the spiritual, is a truly American style of music. It is chromatic four-part harmony sung by four unaccompanied male voices. The melody is sung by the lead, while the tenor part is sung over the lead. The bass sings lower than the lead, and the baritone provides the in-between notes that complete the chords which give barbershop harmony its distinctive four-part sound.

Barbershop harmony may be sung by either a quartet or a chorus. While quartets have only four singers, choruses may number from 12 to more than 100. The basic unit of the Society is a chapter whose members sing in the chapter chorus and may also sing in quartets. Chapters have one or more quartets in their ranks as members are attracted to singing in the format the Society founders first promoted.

The name "Barbershop Harmony Society" was adopted by the organization in 2004 to make it more recognizable to the general public.  It is organized geographically, grouping states and provinces into 16 districts. The National Office coordinates Society activities and was located in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for many years.  In 2007 the office was moved to Nashville, Tennessee. An executive director and a National Board of Directors guide the Society's development and provide leadership for the organization.

All comments and corrections to Roger Perkins perks@wizwire.com