Recently I sent an email to all the men who joined the Society in the first quarter of 2008, asking for comments about their first year in barbershopping. The following is one of many replies.
My first year as a Barbershopper (Dual Snowbird) When I entered the practice room I was asked "What Part do you sing, "lead?" Having never sung barbershop I innocently said that I thought my voice was bass/baritone. Well bells started ringing, trumpets sounded. and someone said "we have a new Bari" The room then went dead silent . They were all waiting to see if I would run, which I didn't do since I hadn't heard all the baritone stories yet. I was then placed between a gentleman with 30 years baritone experience and another who immediately told me he had been singing lead for 25 years, switched to baritone a year ago and couldn't sing one song as a Bari. With this encouraging comment behind me, I set out to learn the Bari part for a new song the chorus was working on.
Leaning in close to the 30 year man and following the trend of the notes. I don't read music, but I soon realized that what he was singing was just that - notes! There was no melody. It didn't sound like music. In fact it sounded like anti-music. It was much later that I found out that they were the notes that none of the other parts wanted. However, I persisted and managed to get a few songs off the paper, went on a few sing outs with the chorus and was having some success when it was time to go back up north, where I joined another chapter as a baritone.
For reason I still don't understand, I was virtually ignored (strike the "virtually") by three of the four baritones in attendance that night. At sections practice I introduced myself and explained that I was new to this baritone thing and would need a little coaching. I did get their names, but no offer of assistance. After a few weeks of this and with an annual show coming up in November, I asked the section leader for the leads if I could join them. He agreed with some enthusiasm and I have remained in the lead section ever since. Suddenly barbershop singing became fun instead of unsatisfying work.
I sang in the November show, sang well, was animated, as required, and had a ball. The next week it was back to Florida as a baritone. Suffice it to say the outcome was not a success. They were now working on an entirely new set of songs and on most nights I was the only "baritone" present. It then came time for Valentines. I put my name in figuring that since I already new the two or three songs it would just be a matter of getting together with the other three, have a few practice sessions and be ready to go by Valentines Day. Well they didn't put our quartet together until the 6th of February. No one was available to practice over the weekend, so on Monday (practice night) we arrived thirty minutes early. That was to be our practice, as we couldn't find any practice time between then and the 13th, when we were to begin for real. Needless to say I messed up the thirty minute practice badly. Hell, I had never even sang in a quartet before, other than a few tags. Everyone was embarrassed, worrying how they were going to tell me that they couldn't sing with me. I solved their problem by simply telling them that I wasn't ready to quartet.
A week later I had to leave Florida for personal reasons, returned north and attended a couple of sessions before my wife became very ill and subsequently passed away. I plan to return to practice tonight where we are having a coaching session for stage presence and emotion. I will also be attending the Spring Convention and a one day Division Harmony College workshop. I'm looking forward to our next show in November. My plans for next winter are up in the air. I may or may not go south and if I do I may not go back to that first southern chapter. But whatever I do, I will not sing baritone!
Signed as Charlie's PATIENCE_MAXIMUS Award Winner for 2008!
So, the questions are: Is this man's experience an anomaly or the norm? Was this a unique experience, or did I receive others similar to it? Could this have been your chapter?