Barbershop groups get a rush of new blood
- THE INDEPENDENT:
With their slick suits, coiffed hair and tight vocal harmonies, Monkey Magic could be virtually any aspiring boy band. Only the four young men's pitch-perfect singing gives away that they are actually barbershop singers and among the growing number embracing the unfashionable genre.
Traditionally the preserve of middle-aged men in stripy waistcoats and straw boaters, the British Association of Barbershop Singers (Babs) has seen youth membership double in the past six months; a surge that some attribute to a wider rise in the popularity of singing among boys and young men. This week, 2,500 people will head to Harrogate to take part in the annual convention of British barbershop singers.
"One thing driving the increase in young people attending is the availability of barbershop videos on YouTube. We get lots of people who have seen clips and want to get involved," said Alan Goldsmith, 60, chairman of Babs. "A lot of people think that young people only like pop songs, but that is not true."
While the National Barbershop Youth Chorus sings barbershop versions of modern songs, when entering competitions members are restricted to performing a list of traditional songs.
The popularity of TV shows such as The Choir in which choirmaster Gareth Malone taught choral singing to those who have never sung before and the hit series Glee are also thought to have encouraged non-singers to take part. Total membership of Babs has risen by 20 per cent in the past 15 months to more than 2,200, while nationwide "Learn to Sing" barbershop courses were heavily oversubscribed, with some choruses having waiting lists of 100.