The Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association (BQPA/PIONEERS) is an ever-growing group of singers dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the traditional style of barbershop quartet music described in our style definition. Barbershop harmony developed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is one of only two uniquely American musical art forms. We believe that barbershop harmony is an important component of the American cultural fabric. BQPA is committed to perpetuating the traditional style of barbershop quartet singing by performing the music as it was during its zenith of popularity. We do this for our own amusement and to educate and proselytize the American public. We encourage barbershop quartet activities based on the enjoyment of singing four-part harmony in an atmosphere of fun and good fellowship. We wish to serve and educate our communities through the medium of barbershop quartet singing.
The Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association / Pioneers is an organization of guys and gals who love to sing in quartets. We believe in doing, not just listening. We get together a couple of times a year to do just that. We don’t assign any music, we don’t set any pre-requisites. We sing all the old songs we know and love, in quartets that form spontaneously and last for a song, for an hour, for a day, for a weekend, and then melt away, perhaps to re-form in other, different combinations.
We come together to sing the old songs, from Stephen Foster’s time to perhaps the 1960s or so. We love well-known, singable quartet arrangements from the 1940s to the 1980s. We do some woodshedding, from memory and from lyrics books, although that’s not our primary focus. We do quite a bit of tagging, but there are many, many folks who very much prefer singing whole songs to crushing tags, and we love having organized quartets come to sing for us and with us. The one thing we don’t do is chorus or gang singing: we’re quartetters.
We generally prefer arrangements which are clearly less complicated than most of the songs performed in competitions these days. We tend to avoid the sophistication of which Val Hicks warned back in 1974, as well as the hyper-competitive mind-set that seems to prevail in recent times. We favor the chords that folks like Molly Reagan and Jim Richards describe as ringing the best, in simple progressions that people like Bob Johnson and Dave Stevens have reminded us work the best. After all, they sound the best, don’t they? Think of the barbershop songs sung by quartets such as the Buffalo Bills, the Confederates, the Suntones, the Nighthawks, the Cracker Jills, the Four Rascals, Dealer’s Choice, Bluegrass Student Union, the Boston Common. Even Old School, albeit a recent Champ, is committed to singing arrangements sung by some of those famous old quartets.
We permit, yea, we encourage quartets to form, informally, and then to sing at will, for most of the hours during our festivals. That’s what we come together for. We do assemble quartets by the luck of the draw for our Friday evening pick-up quartet contest. But that’s the only organized construction of foursomes that’s done, and even that is made possible by folks voluntarily dropping their names in the hat. The rest of the time, quartets form of their own volition, organically, and sing what they want.
Ultimately, we recognize that we are fellow travelers with men and women singers who belong to various other barbershopping organizations, and we welcome them all to join with us in making wonderful sounds, amazing music, in what we believe are the best of all a capella groupings: barbershop quartets. When you think about it, on a certain level we are actively engaged in preserving and encouraging barbershop quartet singing. But when it comes down to it, all we want is to find three other voices, pick a song, blow a pitch and let fly. All that other good stuff will simply follow along.