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"Come on down and try it" my friend Denny urged me as he described the barbershop harmony produced by the members of Yesterdays Sound here in Meadville. "But I've never sung in a chorus" I said. "It doesn't matter" Denny said, "the songs and notes are written for the average singer who can carry a tune". So at forty-something I embarked on an experience that has become reminiscent of team sports that I played in High School and college. We all have our parts and it is the responsibility of all team members to know their parts and execute them to perfection. I landed squarely in the lead section 10 months ago and have been there ever since. There is a certain friendly joking between the voice parts and for some reason that I am not aware of the baritones generally take the brunt of the kidding. According to them it is because we other voice parts all secretly want to sing in their section.
Technically speaking, barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied singing with three voices harmonizing to the melody. The lead usually sings the melody, with the tenor harmonizing above the lead. The bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes and the baritone provides the in between notes, either above or below the lead to make chords that give barbershop its distinctive "full" sound.
Probably the most unique facet of barbershop harmony is the phenomenon known as expanded sound. It is created when the harmonics of the individually-sung notes reinforce each other to produce audible overtones or undertones. Barbershoppers call this "ringing a chord". Singing in a quartet or chorus and creating that "5th voice" is one of the most thrilling musical sensations you'll ever experience. In simple terms, four voices become five as a result of the synergy of the voice parts. Aristotle explained this and similar phenomena in "metaphysica" when he said the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Four voices, five audible notes - it is truly amazing.
One might ask what relevance does Aristotle (384 BC) have today in the year 2003? Afterall, hasn't modern technology and cutting edge science given us all of the answers that we need? The answer is a resounding "No". In some cases education is an inhibition particularly if we are so heavy with theory that we can't appreciate the obvious things before us like the beauty of the unaccompanied voice, the majesty of an ascending hot air balloon, or the human body working in harmony with nature when all of the parts are working together.
There is an educated process in barbershop harmony whereby all four voices carry their unique parts. The pillar of air supported by the diaphragm is guided across the vocal folds under varying tensions to an elevated soft palate through an open mouth at which time the notes blend with the three other voice parts to create harmony. The big-idea in barber shop harmony is to individually create, blend and then express harmony to the ears, and if they have done their parts with feeling, the hearts of the audience.
A similar process happens in the day to day workings of the human body. The major premise of chiropractic is "There is a universal intelligence in all matter that continually gives to it all of its properties and actions,thus maintaining it in existence. The expression of this intelligence through matter is the chiropractic meaning of life. The intelligence created in the brain travels across the spinal nerves as an entity known as a forun to the tissue cells in the pancreas and the pancreas expresses this intelligence by liberating chemicals into the blood stream to regulate blood sugar levels. Just like the Voice Organ" the pancreas has a specialized function. When you further add the functions of other specialized organs in the human body and how they work together you begin to see the harmonious working of the body under the masterful direction of the brain. the innate intelligence of the body is the unseen composer.
The chiropractic adjustment frees the nerve system so that there is uninterrupted movement of the messages which pass from the brain cells to the tissue cells and back again. This enables the individual organs to do their parts and then connect with the other organs to express health in a team effort which in fact makes the living body more than the sum of its parts.
The chiropractic adjustment is similar to the director whacking a wayward baritone on the back of the head after he hits his third consecutive flat note and saying "straighten up man" thereby restoring coordination. Following that last comparison, I am secure in the fact that all of the baritones in yesterdays sound have a great sense of humor because afterall like a healthy body we do want continued harmony amongst all the parts.Back to Articles | Return to Home page