HHS Barbershop Quartet Club: The Faltones

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Barbershop harmony is experiencing a revival. Over the past few decades, the genre has grown in popularity, with societies popping up all across the globe. I was surprised that Hanover High happens to be a point in this revival.

Barbershop music is characterized as a four-part harmony performed in a cappella: three of the voices harmonizing to the melody of a lead voice. However, this exceedingly literal definition doesn’t effectively capture the spirit of the genre. To do that, look back a century or two. 

Barbershop music started as an American art form. The style became extremely popular among African American communities of the late 1800s; many of these early musicians would move on to become the fathers of jazz. The turn of the century saw the zenith of barbershop music, and it became a staple of its era. 

For this article, I interviewed Mr. Falcone and Jackson McBride, the founding members of Hanover High’s barbershop quartet club, the Faltones. As someone who has only ever listened to barbershop singing, hearing their views on what makes the genre so special was eye-opening. A point they made, which stood out most to me, was how the genre encompasses a significant variety of additional elements besides singing. Much like musical theater, the quality of a performance is judged on vocal skill, but also stage presence, choreography, and physical expression.

That brings us back to the revival and our school, where Mr. Falcone has been advising a club dedicated entirely to barbershop harmony. Jackson Mcbride and Mr. Falcone started the Faltones a few years ago, and people quickly took interest. This year, the club has four returning members and four new members. With a relatively small time commitment of around half an hour each week, the program is remarkably comprehensive. 

The club emphasizes all aspects of barbershop. In addition to vocal work, the Faltones explore aspects of choreography and physical expression essential to the art form. Barbershop performance is more than purely auditory, and this club pays special attention to that. Last year, the Faltones performed at the graduation ceremony and this year are scheduled for a second annual performance at graduation with plans to organize additional performances throughout the year. 

A cappella is a prominent activity at Hanover High, and barbershop singing combines the best qualities of traditional a cappella with musical theater. Those already interested in a cappella, musical theater, or music in general should consider barbershop harmony as a way to expand their musical purview and experiment with the freedom barbershop harmony has to offer.

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