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The Original Harmony Brigade

HarmonyBrigadeNorthernPines

Pinehurst North Carolina

Steven M. Armstrong war im Januar Teilnehmer der 23rd North Carolina Harmony Brigade in Pinehurst North Carolina. Im folgenden Bericht beschreibt er seine Eindrücke und Erlebnisse und erklärt, worum es bei der Veranstaltung geht. Und macht damit Lust auf die erste European Harmony Brigade, die vom 1. bis 3. Mai in Berlin stattfinden wird.
Weitere Informationen zur ersten Europäischen Harmony Brigade unter:
www.europeanharmonybrigade.org
"Harmony Brigade” is a term we have been hearing more and more here in Europe. Hopefully, you have already heard about the European Harmony Brigade coming up on 1-3 May in Berlin, and have already sent in your application! But, just what is a Harmony Brigade? Where did it all start, and why?
Simply stated....

"Harmony Brigade” is a term we have been hearing more and more here in Europe. Hopefully, you have already heard about the European Harmony Brigade coming up on 1-3 May in Berlin, and have already sent in your application! But, just what is a Harmony Brigade? Where did it all start, and why?
Simply stated, a Harmony Brigade is a group of skilled and experienced barbershop singers who enjoy high-level quartet singing, but normally do not have the opportunity to meet and sing with "like-minded” barbershoppers. Many chorus chapters hold "afterglows” after their rehearsals, where "pick-up” quartets could spontaneously form to sing tags. For those who prefer to sing entire songs, there is the "Pole Cat” collection – a set of 12 easy-to-learn songs that all barbershoppers are encouraged to learn so that they all have a common repertoire. That way, any barbershopper will have a set of songs ready to sing with other barbershoppers, no matter where he travels. But still, there are those barbershoppers who wish to sing songs a bit more challenging than "Heart of my Heart”, or "Sweet and Lovely”. The kind of barbershopper who isn't content to simply sit in an audience and listen to the great songs being sung, but wants to sing them as well. The concept of a Harmony Brigade was developed to fulfill these needs.
The idea was born more than 23 years ago in North Carolina. Charlie Rose, a quintessential "southern gentleman” gave birth to the original Harmony Brigade, logically named the North Carolina Harmony Brigade, whose first rally took place in Pine Level North Carolina in 1992. It drew singers not just from North Carolina, but from Virginia, Maryland, New York and Indiana as well.
Over the years, the idea caught on, and new brigades were developed in Indiana (Indiana Harmony Brigade), Delaware (Atlantic Harmony Brigade), Texas (Lone Star Harmony Brigade), Minnesota (Northern Pines Harmony Brigade), Michigan (Great Lakes Harmony Brigade), Massachusetts (New England Harmony Brigade), Nevada (High Sierra Harmony Brigade), and the newest in Berlin, Germany – The European Harmony Brigade.
I had the pleasure of participating in the 23rd North Carolina Harmony Brigade. It took place at the beautiful and prestigious Pinhurst Golf Resort in Pinehurst North Carolina. I arrived just in time for the Friday evening dinner, which was immediately followed by impromptu singing around the various tables. This was before the first meeting had started!
After dinner, the "Random Quartet Draw” took place. Names for each voice part were, basically, drawn out a hat. Each set of names instantly became a new quartet that would be expected to perform a song – also randomly drawn from the Harmony Brigade song list – on stage in competition approximately two hours later.
The quartet contest, as always, was a lot of fun to hear and watch. Quartets with names such as, Three Nice Guys, Just Pick a Name, and Sounds of the Zombie Apocalypse crossed the stage. For the most part, the music was surprisingly good, considering the short time each group had been together. For some of the quartets, …. well, the comedy was very enjoyable! This was the first round of the quartet contest. The finals were to be held the following day.
The on-going and in-between feature of a Harmony Brigade is the filling in of the "Dance Card”. Each participant is given a card which lists the name of every other participant. The idea is to sing with as many of the other participants as possible in various quartets. Each singer signs or initials his name on the dance card of people he sings with. The person who collects the most names by the end of the weekend wins the "Quartet Tramp Award” – usually a free entry into the following year's rally. As much as I tried, I had only collected 50 signatures.
The Brigade puts on a chorus and quartet show for the community in order to help defray costs. Rehearsal for the show took place at the Sand Hills Community College Auditorium. Each of the 12 songs were run-through with only minor adjustments. After chorus rehearsal came the final round of quartet competition. The winner of the competition would sing on stage in the evening show. Also rehearsing were several quartets (and a quintet!) that had auditioned early on Saturday morning and had earned the honor of singing in the concert as well. (I was the bass in the quintet!)
After rehearsal, it was back to the hotel for a beautiful dinner of high-level cuisine. As soon as the last bite of dessert had been eaten, the dance cards came back out, and sporadic clusters of four began to form, dissolve, and reform throughout the dining room!
The show for the public began at 19:30, and got rave reviews. At one point in the show, the chorus was joined by Jackson Ream – a young man who, although not an active participant in the Harmony Brigade, had learned the tenor parts to five of the 12 songs. Jackson recently celebrated his 9th birthday.
After the show, some audience members took the time to tell us that they had attended every brigade show for the past 23 years, and that this was the best ever! Indeed, the level of performance by the chorus could have easily scored in the top ten of any barbershop competition.
For some people, the high point of the Harmony Brigade rally takes place back at the hotel right after the concert – the serving of pizza and beer during the king of afterglow parties! This is the final opportunity to get the dance card filled in. Therefore, it's not unusual for people to be found in corners, closets, back rooms and hallways singing until well after 3:00 in the morning! It is also a bitter-sweet time to take a final opportunity to sing with old friends and new, one last time until next year, when we all get together and do it again!