On his always terrific website Friday, my pal Mark Evanier posted a wonderful barbershop-ish video of "76 Trombones," sung by what looks like two people but doing all four vocal parts. (I say "barbershop-ish" because I don't hear a bass part in there.)
You can see that here. I recommend it, not just for it's fun and craftsmanship, but also because it helps put in perspective what follows --
Early on in the video, something seemed very familiar, and I quickly realized why. And as it went on, I knew it not only was familiar, but the same. I don't say that pejoratively, but I suspect that that wonderful arrangement is the default barbershop arrangement of the song. I say that because it’s the exact same arrangement of it that I posted here a year-and-a-half ago from the Ambassadors of Harmony when they won the 2004 International Barbershop Society’s champion (for full choral group, not quartet). It was quite a coup, since they broke the domination of the event by two other groups, Vocal Majority and Masters of Harmony, who had won 15 times.
Whether this has long been the default standard arrangement (which is why the Ambassadors of Harmony used it), or whether it’s the Ambassadors of Harmony’s own arrangement and – because it’s so good – it became the default arrangement for others, I don’t know. If I had to guess, it’s the Ambassadors of Harmony’s own. I say that because I don’t suspect that when you win the International Championship, you do so with a standard arrangement.
If you want to see the original article about the event, you can read it here. But if you just want to watch the video, I've embedded it directly below. This is the performance (and arrangement...) that finally broke the group through. If you've by now watched that "quartet" video, you'll see what I mean about it being the same. But it's not just the arrangement, but the wonderful (albeit a bit goofy) choreography.
As I wrote previously, this is showmanship, even if you don't like barbershop singing. This is wonderful, even if you don't like barbershop singing. And this is what wins you the International Chorus Championship, against competition that just doesn't lose.
Stick with it, even if you find yourself scratching your head. This develops in a way you really don't expect. At the very least, revel in the expression on director Dr. James Henry's face at the end. As the crowd explodes.
Oh, what a day.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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