"The Camaraderie of Barbershop"



Nazir Khan discovered Capital Chorus last September. Here he writes about his first few months singing Barbershop. (Naz is pictured centre with MD Pippa and fellow baritones Khus, Tim and Rory)


Exciting.  Dazzling.  Powerful.  Unifying. I wouldn’t have described Barbershop singing in any of these ways before joining Capital Chorus.  To me Barbershop seemed a little fusty, a genre from a bygone era, not one to appear in my Spotify playlists.  Despite this I had a real desire to sing and became more open to exploring unfamiliar styles like Broadway and Gospel.  As my tastes and confidence grew I came across a colourful flyer for Capital Chorus’ Learn To Sing course.  It looked like a fun way to spend a Monday evening but it soon became the outlet for singing I had been looking for.


Though I had no previous Barbershop experience, I was carried on a wave of enthusiasm from those in the Chorus and began enjoying the repertoire.  It was a non-pressure environment with the benefit of safety in numbers, which meant the inevitable tongue trips and timing errors could be gradually overcome.  As a baritone I started to learn how important it was to listen and blend with the other parts, and to regard the sound we created as a dynamic force which could have an emotional impact.  I liked the idea that I could learn a polecat and use it as a bridge to connect us with people from other Choruses.  I began to see I had underestimated Barbershop.  To find that harmonic sweet spot, a lot of work is involved.   In fact I still find myself having to dig deep to match the vigour fellow Chorus members bring to songs such as Ebb Tide or The Ballad of Springhill.


To feel up to par I would listen to my Baritone part repeatedly through my headphones on long walks, drilling sections with the Chorus or taking part in rotating quartets.   As i don’t read music, I had moments of feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, but this was eased by having supportive fellow Baris and a patient Musical Director to turn to for guidance.  That’s part of the camaraderie of Barbershop -  no one wants you to give up and you’ll still be asked to join a quartet at break time to sing a tag or two.  So when it came to auditioning to become a fully fledged member of the Chorus, I was ready to take that step.  


Now that I’ve been part of the Chorus for nine months, I feel I can finally call myself a Barbershopper.  Every Monday I find myself surrounded by talented people with a deep love of music and a wicked sense of fun.  What started off as a hobby has evolved into membership of BABS and a memorable performance at this year's Convention in Harrogate.  As I soon found out, no two performances are the same and we’ll only make it through together as a chorus, bringing an audience along with us on an emotional journey.  So in the end really quite exciting, dazzling, powerful and unifying.