Songs of the barbershop harmonizing in Austin

Published 10:01 am Sunday, April 16, 2017

Documentation from as early as 1882 credits African American barbershops as the birthplace of the a cappella close-harmony quartet. Barbershops were community centers for the African American people and young men would sometimes “crack up a chord” as a home-grown amusement. At the time, blacks were excluded from theaters and concert halls.

Thus, the current tradition of Barbershop music, also called Barbershop Harmony, is named after the African American barbershop. According to the Barbershop Harmony Society, “Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies … [with] chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths … Slower barbershop songs, especially ballads, often eschew a continuous beat, and notes are often held (or sped up)…”

Quartets can be male or female, but are generally not mixed. A female barbershop quartet may be referred to as a Sweet Adelines quartet after one of the biggest barbershop hits, “(You’re the Flower of My Heart,) Sweet Adeline.” The ballad, with lyrics by Richard Husch Gerard and music by Harry Armstrong, was made popular in 1904 by the group The Quaker City Four.

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The Forte Milers Barbershop Chorus, a part of The Barbershop Harmony Society including singers from across southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa will present  “Grand Ole Barbershop Harmony” on Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. at the Historic Paramount Theatre. This is the ninth year Forte Milers have performed on the Paramount Stage. The show will feature traditional country western songs sung in the barbershop a cappella style including “Crazy,” “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Ring of Fire,” and “The Tennessee Waltz.”

Headlining the show will be the Kordal Kombat, a young barbershop quartet based out of central Minnesota. The quartet was formed in the fall of 2009 on the Morris campus of the University of Minnesota. In 2013 they won the Land O’ Lakes District Quartet Championship. They have become one of the top quartets in the upper Midwest and they have performed all over the North American continent. Kordal Kombat delivers a fun, high-energy performance that comes with a variety of great music and lots of laughs for all ages.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Student tickets are $5 and children age 5 and under are free. Purchase tickets at or at the ArtWorks Center (Thursday to Friday 10 a.m. to  5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Coming soon

Paramount Theatre

Forte Milers Barbership, April 23 at 3 p.m.

Branson on the Road, April 28 at 7:30 p.m.

C. Willi Myles, “America’s Everyday Comedian,” May 5 at 7:30 p.m.

ArtWorks Center

ArtRocks Jam Session, April 21

Painting Skies for  a Variety of Moods with James Wegner, April 22 at 10 a.m.

$5 Kids Studio: Recycles Monsters Earth Day, April 22 at 10:30 a.m.

Bob Ross Floral Oil Painting, May 6, 1 p.m.