Songs by the Shore

Photos courtesy of the Northeastern District of the Barbershop Harmony Society

The lakeside town of Meredith, NH, will be filled with song next weekend, August 19-21, as the Northeastern District (NED) of the Barbershop Harmony Society hosts its annual Barbershop Jamboree. Previously held across Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton, this year’s “Harmony-On-The-Lake” event promises to be the biggest ever.

“There is lots of enthusiasm behind this year’s Jamboree,” says Richard Arscott, the Vice President of Membership for the Greater Boston Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. “We have a fresh team at NED with all kinds of energy for re-inaugurating and reinventing a Lakes Region tradition that started at Downing’s Landing in Alton Bay in 1960.”

Activities for the four-day town-wide festival include a Jamboree Community Dinner to kick off the festivities, a mini-golf tournament complete with vocal accompaniments, chances to learn a “Tag” – a dramatic variation put in the last section of a barbershop song  – and plenty of impromptu singing at Community Park and Hesky Park.

Attendees will hear everything from highly organized and trained barbershop quartets singing very challenging arrangements all the way to novice-level quartets singing basic barbershop songs. The premier event is Saturday night’s “Great Gathering Show” at the Meredith Community Center, an “organized mash-up” of award-winning traditional quartets and choruses,  pick-up quartets, and Very Large Quartets (VLQ). Delicious food, family-friendly activities, and lots of into-the-night singing are also in store.

With attendance expected in the hundreds, all ages are invited to join in the fun as much as they want over the weekend. “There will be an ‘Everyone In Harmony Chorus’ on Saturday night, and all are welcome to participate,” says Arscott.  “Or the public can just come and listen to this very catchy music.”

The goals of NED, which includes all of New England, Eastern upstate NY, and the maritime provinces of Canada, are to encourage appreciation and promotion of this uniquely American art form of vocal harmony.

Barbershop is rooted in our longstanding national tradition of four-part harmonizing and in the Southern Black experience of men gathering to sing at barbershops. Arscott explains that Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords. The lead voice sings the melody, the first tenor harmonizes above the melody, the baritone fills in notes above and below, and the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, providing the foundation of the chord.

“Something about the camaraderie of singing together is very appealing, adds Arscott, “ and to someone who sings, the four-part chords in barbershop songs are incredibly soothing.”

Through quality singing, music education programs, community involvement, and good fellowship, the Barbershop Harmony Society works to attract people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to enjoy this unique singing experience.

“Coming to the Jamboree is the best, informal way to learn about the art and craft of barbershop singing,” says Arscott.

For more information on the 2022 Meredith Bay Barbershop Jamboree, please visit https://www.nedistrict.org/jamboree.

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