Pantyhose and Eyelashes

control tops

SAI (Sweet Adelines International, the women’s barbershop organization I sing with) is more a part of my faith than any god has ever been. I joined when I was 14, which means very soon over half my life will be measured in pantyhose and false eyelashes. Many of us can say we would be completely different people if it weren’t for barbershop, and I’m no different. I can’t imagine my life without it, and I generally don’t want to.

There are moments, though, where I do imagine my life without it. I have doubts. I wonder what it would be like to offer the many hours I spend to another organization, maybe one that helps LGBTQ+ youth, promotes environmental sustainability, supports local individuals with mental health issues, or addresses race relations in my community. In a darker way, I find myself wondering whether offering my time and energy to this craft is frivolous and thoughtless in a time when there are so many other causes that deserve urgent attention.

People say you have to care for yourself before you can care for others, and this is our way of calibrating our own conscience in order to be able to do good in the world. But is it still self-care if I question my priorities more than I devote myself to them?

People say making music together is a unifying act, that it can cross barriers words and actions simply cannot. But is it still unifying if I look around me and see a largely homogeneous group of people, even internationally, and audiences that are only a mirror?

People say rehearsal nights are the ones you can be yourself, let bygones be bygones, and put aside any differences in the interest of learning and harmonizing together. But am I truly myself if I continue to be terrified by views and ideologies that threaten me or people I love?

I’m not going anywhere–at least, not yet–mostly because my reverence for the role models who have helped me feel like I have a place is too great. I hope to be half as inspirational to younger members as those people have unknowingly been to me. But I gotta say, I’m tired.

I’m tired of the language we use highlighting a gender binary and heteronormativity. I’m tired of having to accept defaults like women’s songs about men and vice versa. I’m tired of talking about our bodies in ways that focus on flaws and encourage self-deprecation, instead of in ways that appreciate strength and function. I’m tired of the assumed holiday (read: traditional Christian Christmas) chorus season. I’m tired of fighting tooth and nail to defend a fairly innocuous piece of music for its perceived philosophical undertones while being expected to sing any song that has overt Christian roots. I’m tired of worrying that more inclusion in membership will only highlight people’s differences or create more polarization and ultimate alienation of new members.

Mostly I’m tired of thinking I’m “just too sensitive” for noticing these things and wishing for an atmosphere that does seem to be moving in the direction of greater tolerance and inclusion.

In the church of barbershop, sometimes I wish there were a minister who could offer counsel.

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Pantyhose and Eyelashes

Intro to Barbershop, Part 1

This is Part 1 because if I wait for myself to finish writing all I know about barbershop, we’ll all be dead by the time it gets published. So, here’s a first installment.

Barbershop can be oddly abrasive if you’re not familiar with it, as can other types of a cappella music. There are many things that make barbershop music different from other a cappella, however. I don’t know all of them, but I can share some of what I know. Continue reading “Intro to Barbershop, Part 1”

Intro to Barbershop, Part 1

Friends in high and unlikely places

So sometimes, I tend to get extremely overwhelmed by barbershop. Mostly, this is because i have no idea how to convey to people how much I love it and how much it means to me. Also, it seems a little strange that it’s so specific. Like, I could be just in love with singing in general, or by karaoke or something, but no, I have to be utterly obsessed with barbershop. It’s just weird.

However, in the barbershop community, it is completely normal. I challenge you to find someone in this organization who is just sort of so-so about barbershop. Someone who can say “eh, I can live with or without it. It’s just sort of a hobby.” No. That’s not the way it works. You may not be obsessed with it when you enter the org, but you sure as hell are after two months, if not after one visit.

So, here is my absolutely fantastic barbershop story for the day.

About a year ago, this woman in my chorus said something like, “oh, you’re going to Evergreen? You should look for this police officer who sings barbershop, Tom or Tim or something… I can’t remember his last name.” Of course I thought, “well, gee, isn’t that specific,” and I didn’t try too hard to find him. Plus, their uniforms just say their last names, so I didn’t have much to go on, and I didn’t want to go to Police Services and ask for some guy who sang barbershop. ha.

So today I was sitting at the Student Activities fair with my roommate. I was representing the CPJ and the Police Services booth was right next to ours. She pointed at the officer who was at that table, and said that she’s heard him sing at this drug and alcohol presentation thing she’d gone to, and that he was quite good. Then I heard the EIC and biz manager of the CPJ talking to him and calling him Tim.

Long story short, once everyone left, I said to him, “so, I hear you sing,” and he said, “yeah,” and I said, “do you sing barbershop, by any chance?”

He said, “Barbershop is my life.”

And with stars in my eyes, I’m sure, I said, “meee toooo!”

Thus began a long conversation during which we discovered that we know many of the same people, but it turns out that he’s actually WAYYYY high up in the organization and so is his wife, so he’s, like, friends with the lead of OC Times and stuff, and coaches by ex-director’s quartet and stuff.

MY GOD am I excited. I never want to talk to people at Evergreen about Sweet Adelines, because let’s face it, it’s just weird. Sequins and energetic faces? Definitely not Evergreen-ish. So I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have this resource and be familiar with this guy. Unfortunately, it’s led to a bit of a stalking tangent on my part, so I found this video of his quartet (two of the members are former Kings, which means that they have won International before. Five times, in fact. SO amazing). Enjoy :)

… and I just read back over that post, and it’s awful. I think the more excited I get about something, the less articulate I am. So, I’m sorry about that. But I’m not going to change it because you all deserve to see my blunders.

Friends in high and unlikely places

I’m Sold to OC Times

As promised, the OC Times quartet deserved its own post. I am stoked that they won their competition. Here’s a little background.

See here for a general history/overview of barbershop singing, which has been around for ages and ages. Today, there are two international organizations that promote barbershop singing; one is the Barbershop Harmony Society, which is the men’s division. It has been around since 1938. The women’s division is Sweet Adelines, and it was founded in the sixties. I’m a proud member of a Sweet Adelines chorus. There are many regions all over the world in both organizations.

Each region has an annual competition (separate for BHS and SA; in fact, we don’t really interact much at all… I’ll get to that). Both quartets and choruses compete in the competition, and the first place chorus and quartet go to the international competition the following year. In between competitions, most choruses put on their own show, usually complete with skits, spoof-y songs, and the like. These chorus shows also feature quartets that have members in the chorus, or quartets in the area, and that includes men’s quartets, and even men’s choruses, sometimes. So that’s when we get to interact with each other. And we can and do go to the other org’s competitions, too.

So anyway, the BHS just had their International Competition in Nashville, TN, which is their new international headquarters, as well. My favorite men’s quartet, OC Times, competed there this year and WON, and of course all of us fans are completely stoked. They’ve gotten fifth place before, and second, but this time they’ve really done it.

I don’t think their performance is on YouTube yet, but this is my favorite song that they do. It was originally done by John Michael Montgomery, and it’s a very popular country song. It just proves that barbershop is as versatile as you can get.

The only bad thing about a quartet winning an international competition is that they can’t compete again with the same four members – at least one has to be switched out. And when you’ve found the perfect dynamic in a quartet, the last thing you want to do is replace someone.

My favorite women’s quartet is called Salt, and they’re all Swedish (which is my heritage). They won the 2007 Sweet Adelines International Competition in Las Vegas, which I was actually there for, and it was SO incredible.

I started singing barbershop when I was 14, which makes me a “barbershop brat”… can you tell? I’m obsessed with this art form. I love that it’s a cappella, and that there is just so much involved, and that anyone can become a member, and everyone can find something to love about it, and all the kinds of songs that can be arranged… I love it all. There are many technicalities that I could explain, like the different voice parts, ringing chords, key changes, the excellent groups, the fun workshops, the sisterhood… it just goes on and on.

I ♥ A Cappella Barbershop Singing!!!

I’m Sold to OC Times