Featured Story - The Great British Barbershop Boys
The Great British Barbershop Boys have had the humblest of beginnings. They were four friends who one day decided to try singing in quartet, who suddenly found themselves picked up by Sony and currently promoting their first album, Christmas Time, the fruit of a £1 Million deal with Arista Records, a division of Sony Music. We caught up with the boys deep in Sony headquarters as they’ve just started using a RØDE NT4 stereo mic in their live performances…
So how does one get into Barbershop in the 21st Century? Joe Knight, the groups’ baritone, expounds:
“We all met at The National Barbershop Youth Chorus. For about a year we sang with the youth chorus, and just became really good mates. Later we thought ‘let’s try singing in Quartet’, and we liked how it sounded.”
Their new group found success in the Barbershop community, winning the 2008 BABS Quartet of the Year… but it was at a convention in Philadelphia that Sony spotted them, and things spiraled from there. Picked up, signed, they had to learn a whole new repertoire within a month and were thrown headlong into a professional recording studio. And all the while holding down day jobs. Alan Hughes, the tenor:
“Up until recently it’s just been something we do at the weekends. We’re normal people Monday to Friday and then at the weekends we’re the Barbershop Quartet.”
“The way this whole record deal happened, it’s all happened in the last three or four months. It’s been crazy. We pretty much turned up here (Sony), where they said ‘We like it, get in the studio now!’.
It was quite alien to us all, but we had a good producer in a really good studio with good equipment, so we quickly got used to it. It was really a fun process. Four months ago we knew three Christmas songs, and there’s 16 on the album! So it was crazy trying to learn the music, basically sight-reading the music into a microphone…”
The touring process had led to them wanting a consistent microphone for gigs. Venues simply didn’t carry a decent stereo microphone, and after a search they chose the RØDE NT4. Alan, who incidentally used to work for one of our dealers in Liverpool, clarifies why:
“It seemed to be a really good choice, because our sound doesn’t get created on a mixing desk, it kind of happens in the space around us. So you need a mic that’s discreet but can pick up all the details. When we’re singing well, Duncan will do very low notes and all there’ll also be all these overtones and buzzing high frequencies as well – we thought it would do a really good job of picking all that up.
We’ve used it a few times on big outdoor gigs and it’s been absolutely great for that.”
In fact it’s joined them outdoors and in, and was recently spotted joining them on ITV’s This Morning. Furthermore, Duncan (the bass), interjects with another reason the RØDE NT4 is particularly well suited to Barbershop:
“The reason it’s good to have one central mic is that when we sing, is we tend to balance the parts amongst ourselves by backing off a bit, and you come in to the microphone when you’ve got a feature. You can’t really do that as well with four handheld mics.”
“…plus it doesn’t break the bank either. We’re only just kind of starting out, so that helps!”
So what advice would you give someone thinking of starting out in Barbershop today, we ask? Joe is quick to answer:
“I think the main thing to remember, and I think I speak for all of us in that we’ve always done it for fun. Having fun doing it has been the central focus of our rehersals, of our shows – in choosing songs to sing and performing, it’s been about what’s going to be fun for us and fun for the audience.”
Christmas Time by The Great British Barbershop Boys is widely available now. We wish the guys all the best with their continuing tour and the new album!
For more information on the RØDE NT4 Stereo Microphone, please visit: http://www.rodemic.com/microphone.php?product=NT4
Visit the 'Boys site here: http://www.barbershopboys.com/
For more information on Barbershop and the British Association of Barbershop Singers, please visit: http://www.singbarbershop.com/
For general information, contact:
Unit 6, Pembroke Buildings
Cumberland House Business Park
London NW10 6RE
T: 020 8962 5080
Photo caption 1: The Boys with their latest addition.
Photo caption 2: The Boys being less than serious with their latest addition...!