Sheffield is famous for producing popular rock and indie bands such as the Artic Monkeys and Pulp – but there is a successful city music group of a different genre starting to grab people’s attention.
Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club – first established in 1978 with just eight members – has quickly established itself as a strong chorus, noted for its friendly and fun-loving ethos, as well as some talented singing.
Its competition choir Hallmark of Harmony has proved successful, winning the National Barbershop Convention six times and representing Britain on a number of occasions in the USA.
But following a win in 2000, the all-male group failed to finish in the top three of national competitions. Determined to regain their crown, the group sourced a new musical director, Andy Allen and, under his professional guidance, the group have risen from the ashes.
In 2012, they climbed back onto the National Barbershop Championship podium securing bronze, then improved again the following year bagging silver and this year they reclaimed the top spot in front of a 2,000-strong audience in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Club member Bob Devine says: “The turning point was changing our musical director – Andy is a young guy who has injected a lot of the fun back into the group.
“We also attracted some new younger members and are thriving once again.”
Hallmark of Harmony hit the right note with judges in Harrogate, delivering performances of ‘My Romance’ and ‘I Won’t Dance’ and finishing ahead of some 46 barbershop choirs from across the UK.
Bob says: “We were surprised when we won, although we’d worked really hard the competition was still tough and we noticed five or six groups had upped their game.
“What sets us apart is we try to do something different – there’s a lot more to it than just singing. We deliver an all-round performance with moves to go to the music and even have our own choreographer, Tim Briggs.”
The modern musicians perform in sleek silver or back suits and crisp white shirts. They are also forward thinking in their musical choices, covering show music, rock and roll, jazz and rhythm and blues songs, to name just a few.
Having conquered the national championships, the group are now preparing to represent Britain once again, in the international barbershop competition in Pittsburgh, USA, next summer.
Bob says: “Although it’s not until next year, we’re already looking at what we can do to impress the judges, who will be scoring us on both our harmonies and performance.
“We’re also looking at ways to raise funds for the trip, as it will be expensive for the club, but we want to take as many members of the group as possible.
“We will be working actively to secure sponsorships, donations, grants and would welcome any business or individuals who may be interested, to get in touch.
“We’ve never managed to get the international gold, but we will certainly give it our best shot. The American choruses are very good, but we’re catching them up.”
Bob, 66, from Sheffield, first joined the club after hearing a quartet perform on a ferry in France.
Upon returning to dry land, Bob found the Sheffield club was offering singing classes and plucked up the courage to go along, having never sung as part of a performing group.
He says: “The group was very welcoming and I got into it quite quickly. You don’t have to be the best singer, just as long as when we all sing together we make a nice sound.
“We currently have 60 members varying from experienced and non-experienced singers and ranging from 14 to 79 years of age.
“We are always looking for new recruits and welcome anyone to come and listen to us on practice evenings and maybe have a go.
“The club holds free singing classes once a year, which is a great time for new members to join as it gives them an understanding of what barbershop is about and where their singing voice best fits in.
“This year the classes, which run over eight to 10 weeks, will begin on Tuesday, July 29.
“Our main goal is to have fun although its great to be back at the top of our game.”
The Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club meets every Tuesday, from 7.30pm to 10pm, at The Jesus Centre, Broomspring Lane, Broomhall, Sheffield.
n For more information on the club, visit www.hallmarkofharmony.co.uk