What is Mixed Barbershop?
The Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) is a national and international men’s singing society, a “male voices only” organization. Women have Sweet Adelines International and Harmony Incorporated choruses available as “women only” barbershop singing organizations. (The closest of these is an hour’s drive away.)
The BHS has rules which preclude women singing in BHS-sponsored competitive events (although women may currently serve as chorus directors of all-male choruses at these events.) The Gold Standard Chorus is a non-competing chorus, and is one of the few barbershop choruses nationwide to have women participating in the chorus as “auxiliary singers.”
The Santa Cruz Chapter of the BHS has only male members. In 2005, in order to remain an active chorus with all four parts, the chapter voted to allow females to sing in the chorus as “auxiliary singers,” in order to fill in some of the parts where male singers were sparse or – at some rehearsals – non-existent. The female singers are not members of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the BHS, but they are considered fully participating members of the local performing barbershop chorus, known as the Gold Standard Chorus. Besides singing, they hold many of the “jobs” that keep the chorus functioning smoothly.
In order to preserve the male barbershop sound, the Santa Cruz Chapter has adopted rules at the chapter level. These rules are not in any way endorsed by the BHS, but are the result of conferring with several top individuals at Society Headquarters via the auspices of the Mixed Harmony Barbershop Quartet Association. The primary rule is that the ratio of male to female voices must be no more than 1/3 active female voices to 2/3 active male voices. The chorus sings only men’s arrangements, in the men’s key; women must sing their part in the same octave as the men.
Typical vocal ranges for singers in the Gold Standard Chorus (using standard pitch names; C4 = “middle C“):
- Tenors: From B3 up to D4.
- Leads and baritones: From D3 (or rarely C3) up to F4.
- Basses: From F2 (or rarely E2) up to C4.
If you’re curious about the specific numbers of men and women making up our vocal mix, get in touch with us and we’ll gladly offer some more detail.
When applying for “auxiliary singer” status in the Gold Standard Chorus, ladies sign an agreement which states, in part:
I understand that, as an auxiliary singer with the Gold Standard Chorus, I will be welcome to sing with the Chapter members at rehearsal, and in shows and other performances at the Director’s discretion (eg, if I know the music well enough), but I will not be eligible to sing in any Barbershop Harmony Society (formerly SPEBSQSA) competition or other official function.
I understand that as I will not be a member of the BHS, the Chapter insurance does not cover any injury I might sustain while performing or rehearsing with the chorus, except as might be extended to guests, and I will not hold the Chapter or the Society responsible for any such injury.
I understand that I will be expected to attend as many rehearsals as possible in order to be eligible to sing with the chorus. I will learn my part accurately for the current chorus repertoire as soon as possible. Within a reasonable time I will memorize any new songs taught to the chorus.
I am attaching a check (or cash) in the amount of $30 for payment of the first three months of the chapter voluntary contributions, and will keep current with this in the following months (suggested contribution can be from $5 to $20 per month). I will purchase any chorus uniform as needed; currently this is the red informal shirt @ $26, red/black jacket @ $30 (chorus pays the remainder of the cost, and the jacket remains the property of the chorus), & white chiffon scarf for formal outfit at $5.
And I will attempt to do these four things during the coming year:
1) Sing in a quartet at every opportunity
2) Introduce somebody new to barbershop (as a listener or a singer)
3) Decide in advance before each rehearsal that I’m going to have FUN
4) Treat the chorus as if it were my own quartet of friends.
The Santa Cruz area of California has long been known for doing things a bit differently… so it is only to be expected that we would find this rather unusual way to maintain our barbershop harmony. But it is certainly working, and we are definitely having fun, bringing lots of barbershop harmony to our schools and community, and still ringing those barbershop chords!