Barbershop Chorus Masters of Harmony

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Masters of Harmony rehearse before their competition.

Masters of Harmony rehearse before their competition. Rob Sachs, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Rob Sachs, NPR

The Masters of Harmony are a barbershop chorus (not a quartet) from southern California who hold six international singing titles.


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

A harmonious weekend in Salt Lake City, which hosted the Barbershop Harmony Society's international sing-off. From Southern California, we shout out this news. Our local Masters of Harmony won first place in the barbershop chorus category, their sixth victory there. Before they left for the contest, they tuned up for DAY TO DAY.

(Soundbite of singers warming up)

Unidentified Man #1: It's not the stereotypical four old guys singing around a lamppost.

Unidentified Man #2: And we're not a bunch of guys standing around, you know, the light pole at midnight drunk singing "Sweet Adeline." It's not that at all. It's very intense.

(Soundbite of singers warming up)

Unidentified Man #3: We are really more of what people would call a pops kind of a group. We sing Americana music from the early part of the 20th century, most likely, some music from the second half of the 20th century, and it's almost entirely done in four parts.

(Soundbite of singers warming up)

Unidentified Man #4: The lead part is the melody singer, and then the bass is the root, you know, that provides the foundation, and then the baritone part bridges the gap between the bass and the lead, and then the tenor part is kind of the top part, so there's four parts.

(Soundbite of song)

MASTERS OF HARMONY: (Singing) Come on, you mighty river, let's ride, let's ride, roll on, you Mississippi, roll on, roll on, come on, ...(unintelligible) and move it right along.

Unidentified Man #5: This chorus is built on a dedication to musical excellence, and so every song we learn, every time we sing, it's the best of our ability, and we really step it up come contest time.

(Soundbite of "The Way We Were")

MASTERS OF HARMONY: (Singing) Misty water colored memories of the way we were.

Unidentified Man #6: I got into this chorus, and I didn't realize how precise the sounds we have to make--that we have to execute. And one of the things that happens is that when I'm singing and I'm trying to sound, and mix with the other 135 people that are up here, to make it sound like four, I actually don't think of anything else going on in my life, and when we hit--or what they call ring chords, you actually get goose bumps. It's kind of a high. It really is. I definitely get a high from it.

(Soundbite of song)

MASTERS OF HARMONY: (Singing) Whoa. I can't wait till I get going, even now I'm starting ...(unintelligible). Oh, here we come. California, here I come, right back ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #7: You ask any barbershopper that's been around a long time--they stay for the brotherhood, primarily. It's a giant fraternity.

Unidentified Man #8: We come from all walks of life, anywhere from--start from high school kids, we have, to retired medical doctors and attorneys, and we actually have three or four rocket scientists, true rocket scientists.

(Soundbite of song)

MASTERS OF HARMONY: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #9: It's the music that brings you in. But it's the people and the relationships you develop when you're here that keep you involved, so it's a lifestyle choice, really, after a while.

(Soundbite of song)

MASTERS OF HARMONY: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of applause)

CHADWICK: Mark Hale, Brett Littlefield, Ken Custer, John Francis and Doug Maddox from the Masters of Harmony, and thanks to DAY TO DAY producer Rob Sachs.

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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