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12121Judges Survive Kibber Test

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  • wmgcarson@aol.com
    Dec 1, 2001
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      This article by Freddie King was published in the November 2001 issue of "The
      Charivari," bulletin of the Dundalk, MD, chapter, Tom Wheatley, editor, but
      deserves a wider audience. It is published here in entirety, with permission.

      We had a song to sing

      The Mid-Atlantic District convention of 2001 will be one I long remember.
      While competing for the district quartet championship SAGE decided to test
      the system for all of the "kibbers" out there. Kibbers are members who
      admonish all performers and judges to "keep it barbershop."

      We opened our set with "You're the Only Girl for Me," a sweet barbershop
      ballad of marvelous proportions. The crowd enthusiastically accepted our
      efforts, and we moved on to our second song. It was in this number that we
      sought to challenge the system.

      Tom Felgen and I did some non-singing setup of the next song. In it, I
      indicated that I wanted to sing the bass part of the number. Of course, the
      real joke in this is that anyone who says he wants to push Felgen out of the
      bass part is nuts. Tom is a two-time gold medalist bass. It doesn't get any
      better than that. Naturally, he wins out, and I spend the next song singing
      of how I want him to teach me to sing bass in the song, "Mr. Bassman."

      Now, the song fits every requirement of a barbershop song except one. It
      fulfills the need to get out to chord II in the harmonic progression. Its
      melody is always in the second tenor, and the harmonies are very consonant.

      Where, then, did the song violate our style? That came in the total lack of
      homophony. Homophonic singing means that all four parts should be singing
      the same words at the same time. In this song, the bass never sings a word!
      He just bum-bums his way through the entire song. Couple that with the
      spoken rhythmic lines, and you have enough to warrant a zero in the music
      category. The singing and performance categories have as their first
      consideration, "Is it barbershop?" Therefore, they were also called upon to
      adjudicate the music for what it was worth as a barbershop performance.

      The outcome was clearly predictable. Since disqualification is no longer an
      option, the judges are called upon to give bad examples a poor score. They
      fulfilled our greatest desires and gave us so few points as to guarantee our
      finishing in last place. We went down in flames! I didn't watch the judges
      during the performance, but I suspect that they just laid their pencils down
      and relaxed.

      The crowd erupted in a tremendous standing ovation at the tag, and they
      sustained it until we were out of sight. It's probably the best ovation a
      last place quartet ever received. However, everyone in the audience knew
      that we had just committed musical suicide. They were applauding the comic
      relief.

      We oldtimers have been wondering where the line was being drawn on
      non-barbershop music. We decided to make the judges do their job, and they
      did. We're grateful that they had the courage fo put this kind of song in
      its place. Had they not "zeroed" it, I would have believed that our beloved
      barbershop society was in a world of trouble. For us, it was worth the
      sacrifice to be sure that our hobby was in great hands. If just one judge is
      brought to examine his beliefs with just a little more scrutiny, we have not
      done this in vain.

      The judges were candid with their trenchant comments about our performance.
      I was relieved to see that none of them saw what we did as smug or a form of
      protest, but just as a test. We failed beautifully. Want my advice? Don't
      test 'em. They know what they're doing.

      One funny exchange came between Rob Hopkins, music judge, and myself upon the
      fact that he awarded us just 15 points for our performance. "What's the
      matter, Robby," I asked, "were you too chicken to give us a zero?" He
      replied, "I knew you were going for zeros, so I just couldn't give you the
      satisfaction." I said, "Rob, you're the only one smart enough to insult me
      like that." We both laughed our derrieres off.

      Grant
      wmgcarson@...