I saw a movie this weekend. Well, actually, it was a documentary. There were not many people in the audience (very few people will pay to see a documentary in a movie theater these days). It’s a shame, really, because it’s rare to hear so much good music over the span of 85 minutes. The film is called American Harmony and it is playing at several independent theaters in or near many major American cities right now. You’ll have to do a bit of research to find it. Start with the website and watch the trailer here.
It’s a movie about a singing competition, not American Idol or X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent (now known here in the States as “the British American Idol” because Americans are idiots), but the International Championships of Barbershop Harmony and O.C. Times are a barbershop quartet.
Now, unless you’ve sung barbershop before, I doubt you can fully understand my excitement over this film or the stupid grin on my face at the screening. You see, as much as I respect the bands that we cover here and enjoy the music that they make, I will never have the connection with them that I do with the quartets in this film. There is something other-worldly about the instant those chords lock in. I am creating a YouTube playlist featuring some recent gold medalists to give you a better idea.
O.C. Times, International Champions of 2008, caught my ear in particular, and I suspect their bent toward pop and jazz standards will be more suited to the tastes of our general audience. Check out their website for samples of their work. Also investigate other former champions like Vocal Spectrum and Max Q. If you like what hear, try to catch them on tour some time (yes, barbershop quartets tour) or just hang out with me. (Back in high school, I was recruited by some barbershoppers to attend some sort of week-long seminar and workshop they were sponsoring. I couldn’t afford the registration fee. Who knows what might have become of me if I’d had $150 to spend? Still, I’ve been known to break out into fits of “Coney Island Baby” when in the right company. [I tried to find video of one of them, but the holders of the files are all married and therefore too good for me now. You will just have to take my word for it. Enjoy this performance by O.C. Times, instead. Yes, the sound quality changes mid-song, but those chord changes between 2:00-2:30 are what barbershop is all about.])
Oh, and see American Harmony if at all possible. You will not regret it. I love the scene where O.C. Times sing to the waitress in the restaurant. Even though these guys are all pretty hot, it reminds me that even unfortunate looking losers like me can be the coolest guy in the room if we play our cards right.
And a bonus video from Max Q, “Here’s to the Losers”. …Hey, that’s me!…