The Barbershop Revival is an ongoing project in Research Triangle, NC, intended to celebrate the African American roots of barbershop harmony. We view this project as a restoration of a cultural heritage to its founders. The Revival is a project of the Carolinas District of the Barbershop Harmony Society, in cooperation with the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission.
The goal of Barbershop Revival is to re-introduce Barbershop Harmony to the African American community, where it originated.
The initial event was a two-day singing workshop held March, 2019 on the campus of NC Central University and included the students of NCCU, St. Augustine University, Shaw University and others.
Recent music scholarship has shown that barbershop quartet harmony is rooted in the African-American quartet tradition of the 19th century. Barbershop harmony gained popularity in the early 20th century, along with Blues and Jazz, which share the same musical foundations.
But by the time the Barbershop Harmony Society was formed in 1938, due to the racial bias of the time. SPEBSQSA (Now BHS – The Barbershop Harmony Society) specifically denied membership to African American quartets. Barbershop became a “whites only” pursuit, as NAACP Executive Director James Weldon Johnson (who sang barbershop when he was young) feared it would.
Lost to musical history is that so many jazz greats, like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin and W. C. Handy, sang in barbershop quartets on street corners in New Orleans as young men. Like Jazz, Blues, and modern Gospel, Barbershop is yet another indigenous musical art form that sprang from the traditions of African American music.
This effort is aimed at furthering the BHS Vision of Everyone In Harmony and the Revival team is taking a leadership role in making that happen.