NEWS | Barbershop music craze shows no signs of abating

February 14, 2012

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Chorus Of Chorlton performing an impromptu gig on Market Street earlier this year. The band features former Seahorses bassist Stuart Fletcher as tenor.

Mancunians still can’t get enough of barbershop music despite it being nearly five years since the scene exploded in the region.

This weekend will see over 25 music venues throughout the city come together for Coacapella, which is considered to be the largest barbershop music festival of its kind in the world.

Simon Webbon from Manchester music venue Band on the Wall told News Manc that they are proud to be involved.

“Band on the Wall has participated in the past two festivals, but this year will be something else – we alone have over 30 barbershop acts performing on two stages over two nights. I’m particularly looking forward to the Dapper Dons who have earned some rave reviews after support slots with the likes of Death in Vegas and The xx.”

Other venues dedicating their stages to barbershop for the weekend includes Manchester Academy, Sound Control, Apollo, Night & Day, The Deaf Institute, Islington Mill, Moho Live and, unusually, The Warehouse Project.

 “We wanted to dedicate this year’s Warehouse Project to barbershop”, said festival director Anton Telleck. “We’ll have ten of the best barbershop groups stuffed in to a dirty underground car park somewhere in the city and they will be vocal harmonising until dawn.”

Chorus of Chorlton, a quartet who formed in 2009, specialise in consonant four-part chords with resonating tenor harmonies, but unusually they include a human beatboxer in their ranks. The group will be headlining the Saturday night at the Apollo.

Baritone member Michael Smith spoke to News Manc about the origin and culture of barbershop.

“Some people try and claim that the scene broke out of East London, but it’s clear that the first quartets started in Manchester as an offshoot from the doo-wop and bluegrass scene that was popular in the early 2000s.”

“I think the tipping point was when Elbow released their 2010 Grammy and Brit-award winning album My Baby is a Prestwich Gal which contained nothing but vocal harmonies. It went global from that point”, Smith added.

Manchester music station XFM has confirmed that they will drop their normal playlist this weekend to concentrate purely on barbershop.

“We normally dedicate around 30% of our playlist to barbershop, but this weekend it’ll be every banging track”, said breakfast show host Tim Cocker.

“It will be nice to have the opportunity to play some unsigned barbershop groups”, added Cocker.

“And on Saturday evening we’ll be broadcasting live from Sound Control where former Black Grape rapper Kermit will be playing his debut gig with the hotly-tipped quartet The Trafford Tender Tones.”

Celebrity fans of the Manchester barbershop scene include footballer Rio Ferdinand and former Secretary of State for Health Virginia Bottomley, who will both attend Coacapella this weekend.

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