The British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (Registered Charity Number 1080930) and is the largest organisation of barbershop singers outside of North America. We have more than 60 registered choruses (choirs) and 100 registered barbershop quartets across the country, including male voice ensembles and mixed voice ensembles.
More and more people of all genders are experiencing the thrill and excitement of singing harmony in the distinctive barbershop style in both all-male and/or mixed choruses, which continues to bring new members of all ages to our associations. We all share the joy of singing - but it’s the harmony that makes the difference!
There are 6,000 people in the UK and 70,000 worldwide who believe that there is something special about singing barbershop harmony. We look forward to welcoming you to BABS, one of the country’s most energetic and enthusiastic groups of singers.
Our charitable mission is to further the education of the general public in any and all aspects of Barbershop Harmony and singing in the Barbershop Harmony style, through promoting it to all and encouraging participation.
We will achieve our mission by:
- Building our skills and reputation
- Increasing participation
- Being an inclusive, diverse and equitable organisation
Objectives for 2023-2024
Our objectives are:
- Increasing our membership numbers
- Promoting diversity and inclusion in tangible, meaningful ways
- Ensuring our financial security, partially through exploring sources of external funding/sponsorship
- Empowering and educating our club leadership teams
- Increasing the engagement of individual members
- Continuing our calendar of in-person events
What is Barbershop Harmony?
Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterised by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a primarily homorhythmic (the same word sounds at the same time) texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead (second tenor), with the tenor (first tenor) harmonising above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonising notes, and the baritone completing the chord. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.
Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal centre and imply major and minor and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that often resolve around the circle of fifths, while also making use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard meter. The basic song and its harmonisation are embellished by the arranger to provide appropriate support of the song's theme and to close the song effectively.
Barbershop singers adjust pitches to achieve perfectly tuned chords (instead of tempered tuning like the piano) in just intonation while remaining true to the established tonal centre. Artistic singing in the barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill, and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, not manufactured, and free from apparent effort.
The performance of barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. Barbershop singers traditionally do not hold sheet music. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic performance artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.
Barbershop can be performed in quartets as well as choirs, and can be found all over the world in male, female, and mixed ensembles.
Code of Ethics
- We shall do everything in our power to perpetuate BABS and the barbershop style of singing.
- We shall conduct the Association's affairs in such a manner as to reflect credit upon the Association and its members.
- We shall conform in all respects to the rules of the Association.
- We shall accept for membership only congenial persons of good character who love barbershop music.
- We shall exhibit a spirit of good fellowship towards all members.
- We shall refrain from forcing our songs upon unsympathetic ears.
- We shall not use our membership of the Association for personal gain.
- We shall not permit the introduction of political, religious or other controversial issues into the affairs of the Association.
- We shall endeavour to spread the love of barbershop and its spirit of harmony throughout the world.