Did you know that the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 11, 1938? The barbershop quartet however, did not originate in the United States. The popularity of barbershop quartets among men in England occurred during the time of Shakespeare and extended as far as in-house entertainment, and took the form of a lutist providing a melody to which the queuing patrons could harmonize with.
The idea of the barbershop quartet became popular in America in the West during the late 1800s, although a banjo was often used instead of a lute. With complex harmonies, the image of the straw wearing quartet, with bands around their arms could be considered a cultural cornerstone of the 1940s.
These quartets consist of a lead, the vocal part which generally carries the tune; a bass, the part which provides the bass line to the melody; a tenor, the part which harmonizes above the lead; and a baritone, the part that completes the chord. A female barbershop quartet may be referred to as a Sweet Adelines Quartet, and the vocal parts have the same labels since the roles perform similar functions in the quartet even though the vocal ranges are different.
Happy Barbershop Quartet Day!