About Harmony Brigades
So what exactly is a Harmony Brigade rally? It's a weekend of mix-and-match quartetting like nothing you've ever experienced. It's also an opportunity to meet and form quartets that can go on to perform or compete after the brigade is over.
In 2018 there were ten male Brigades around the US and two mixed Brigades in Europe. The brigade rallies are held in different months throughout the year, allowing enthusiasts to attend more than one. The Brigades use a common repertoire of 8 songs (that change each calendar year), so to attend a second Brigade in the same year you would only have to learn four additional songs.
It has been the aspiration of a number of people to create a mixed brigade in the US. The announcement in 2018 by BHS that women would henceforth be able to participate in the BHS and its activities gave new impetus for creation of the Mixed Harmony Brigade of New England.
Participation in Harmony Brigades enables people who happen to meet up at conventions or other events to sing together immediately, not just a few seconds of a complicated tag, but a choice of great songs from a shared repertoire. This greatly increases the chances that you'll be able to enjoy some quality quartetting no matter wherever you go!
How does mixed singing work? The mixed harmony brigades use male arrangements, occasionally with a small adjustment to the pitch. After quite a few years of experience, this has been found to be the most practical solution. This means that female singers with a sufficiently low range may choose to sing baritone or lead, while those with a higher range may choose tenor. Several female basses who choose to sing lead at brigade have found it liberating (no longer pressed to sing bass simply because they can). See our FAQ page for details on the ranges.
How are quartets formed at a mixed brigade? Randomly! You may sing in a quartet with a male and three females, or two and two, or four males, and then you move on and try another combination. Males who are used to singing in their "power" voice need to find their gentler side, and they'll be rewarded with lovely harmonies as they learn to adapt to a mixed setting.
Here is the definition directly from the Operations Manual of the Association of eXtreme Quartetting Harmony Brigades Inc.:
A Harmony Brigade rally is an invitational weekend for barbershoppers with significant quartet experience who are vocally capable, committed to learning challenging arrangements, and who are prepared to enjoy success in rally activities. The charts are of championship caliber, somewhat challenging, and might be beyond the ability of less experienced men [sic]. It is not a chorus-oriented event, although a chorus performance of the repertoire songs is always part of the Saturday night public show.
About four months before a Brigade rally, registered participants receive music and part-predominant learning tracks for the songs to be used in the rally. A "fun" Friday night contest is held where quartets are formed by random draw at the rally. However the majority of the weekend is spent singing around in as many mix-and-match quartets as you can."
In the months before the brigade Rally, there is a process to put participants in contact with each other and to organize "run-through" rehearsals in various local areas. It helps learning if each person can attend three or four of these before the actual Rally weekend.
The Rally weekend is filled with quartetting and every singer is encouraged to sing with every other attendee from the other three parts. The Saturday evening show for the public, may include step-out quartets from the rally (audition on Saturday morning, sing Saturday night!), outside musical act(s), and the full brigade singing as a chorus.
A first-time brigade attendee may also sponsored or mentored by one or more people who help the singer learn the music and help guide them through their first brigade weekend. By attending successive brigade rallies, the attendee gains priority for entry, and is consulted on affairs affecting the operation of the brigade.
Run-throughs are organized by participants in the months before the Rally
"It's an unforgettable weekend with good music, great friends, and lifelong memories!"
The Brigade Chorus will sing on the Saturday show