CFN – I never thought I would become a Barbershop Chorus ‘groupie’ but that’s what happened. A very close friend of mine joined the Cornwall, Ontario, C-Way Sound and after viewing a DVD of one of the national competitions, I was hooked. As far as I am concerned, it is an underrated and under promoted music genre.
After attending several of the group’s performances I wanted to spread the word and to do that I asked the Director, James Essex-McIntyre if I could interview him.
I found out that in fact, it really did originate in barbershops but was also called “curbstone” harmony as it was sung on street corners as well. It is not necessarily the white, Middle-America of Norman Rockwell’s painting image but a product of African-American immigrants who brought hymns, psalms and folk songs with them.
“At one point barbers were elected official medical technicians, known as ‘bloodsuckers’ – hence the red in the now familiar barbershop pole.” James explained. “They were considered entertainers and in 1938 O.C. Cash saw the potential in its popularity and soon the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America Inc. was born.”
C-Way Sound of Cornwall has been in existence for 16 years, started by John Hamilton, Ron Symington and Doug Hill. It is primarily a Chorus but it also features a Quartet.
“In a quartet,” James explained, “The tenor is the lead. A quartet has a bass, baritone, alto and tenor.”
“I have been director for just a year and a half,” James told me, “and assistant director for two and a half. I have been involved for eleven years in Barbershop, starting as lead in Brockville.”
What is so amazing about Barbershop is the incredible sound. I read recently a perfect description – “braided harmony”…parts wound together to make one. Beautifully stated because you know there are different voices but they blend together in perfect harmony. I love it.
I wanted to know what lead this young man to Barbershop Harmony.
“Well,” said James, “I was influenced by the Nylons, an a capella group, while growing up. My musical background through High School was cello and vocal.
James feels that it is an overlooked musical genre and is trying to promote it locally more. “It really is neat,” James said with a smile. “I encourage new members to join. You don’t have to be a great singer or even read music as we provide sound CDs for your particular part.”
Anyone interested in joining the Chorus can contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group meets weekly at Trinity Church, 105 Second Street West at York, on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM.
C-Way Sound will be performing at the Salem Church, Highway 2 near Summerstown on the evening of September 6th. It is well worth going to listen to them.