The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Barbershop Quartet Singing in the United States
Statement of purpose---and other stuff
Men of good character have a love of song in their hearts. They yearn for the ringing tones of four voices tenderly harmonizing a well-tuned barbershop seventh chord.
In years gone by, they found fulfillment in being part of groups, both large and small, that cherished those seventh chords and the pure, downright ecstasy brought upon their whole being when they happened to achieve just the right intonation and just the right balance. Cheers and lots of backslapping arose from those wonderful experiences.
As the years have flown by, the joys have faded, the sounds have changed, and the music has drifted. The roots have been pulled out of the solid ground that they have rested in for many years. More than one old codger has been heard to say, “It ain’t like it used to be.” Truth be told, it ain’t! Hearts long for the good old days----to find their roots once again and to be swept away in close harmony with three other guys.
It all began with two Tulsa OK businessmen on a business trip to Kansas City meeting at the Muehlebach Hotel in 1938. They shared their love of music, particularly the old-time 4-part sweet harmonies of the Tin Pan Alley era, including the memories and traditions involved in singing them. They resolved that, on their return to Tulsa, they would do something to revive that “old barbershop style."
So, upon their return, O. C. Cash and Rupert Hall, a tax lawyer and an investor, composed a letter inviting 14 friends to join them in an evening of singing, food, and fellowship. Twenty-six men actually showed up for the gathering. The next week there were 70----and 150 the following week. News about the new club spread everywhere. Soon barbershop groups were forming in major cities and small towns all over the U. S. and Canada.
Of course, a society formed and grew to over 38,000 members. However, time, cultural changes and events have quieted the fervor that once existed. Men have found many other recreational pursuits and have become more invested in their work and their families. Society membership has declined to half of what it was in the halcyon days of yore.
The spirit of competition has swept over the barbershop landscape. In its path, fellowship and fun have taken back seats. The loss, or perceived loss, of these two vital elements, has caused many men to find other leisure time activities.
Yet, in the hearts of many men, the fire still burns. They long for the fellowship and camaraderie of other men in the songs of bygone days. They have called for someone else, something else to bring back the spirit of those bygone days.
A copy of the original letter by Hall and Cash is reproduced below. In his original draft, they called the nascent organization “The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of BarberShop Quartet Singing in the United States.” “Propagation” was quickly changed to "Encouragement" and “the United States” became "America".
As we begin this monumental endeavor, we wish to both remember and honor “Rupe” and “O. C.”
Therefore, be it known that:
The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Barbershop Quartet Singing in the United States is established to ensure that the wholly American institution of Male barbershop quartet singing is preserved in the form and manner in which it was birthed --- by utilizing songs typifying those composed during the years between 1890 to 1929. The hallmarks of particularly appropriate stylistic songs were recognized and codified by a meeting of barbershop song arrangers who met in Racine, Wisconsin in 1970. Such songs have easily discernible internal harmonies, which enable the singer to quickly and appropriately harmonize with the melody of the song, as well as 46 other discernible hallmarks. All records of the 1970 meeting have been lost. But the real old barbershopper will assure you that your ear is the best guide.
It is the noble and honorable mission of this organization to preserve and propagate this art form during the lifetime of every member and to pass it on intact, undiluted and unevolved to succeeding generations of male singers. In doing so, one the primary aims of this organization is to have fun --- fun in singing, fun in fellowship and fun in living a good life.
In this regard, therefore, one of the major outreaches of this organization will be to encourage the participation of young adult men that they may learn the art form in their formative years and carry the torch onward to succeeding generations.
Another major outreach will be a requirement that every viable group assists their community with concerts and performances --- free of charge, as much as is possible. Society auditors will not notice free meals and/or refreshments.
Finally, on the subject of outreach, it is the intention of the steering committee to find a charitable project that all individual members and groups will be asked to support. It may well be an organization that uses music to heal.
The organization itself consists of individual members who are encouraged to form quartets and affiliate with other members and quartets for the purpose of robust and boisterous singing, fellowship and fun. Although group (or gang) singing is a natural outgrowth of such affiliations, singing in quartets is the favored activity. Although many folks will need actual printed music to sing their part, ear singing (woodshedding) is a delight and highly-encouraged. Learning tracks is a forbidden term and should never be used in polite company.
Membership is open to any male of good will and good character who is in concert with the mission of this organization. The first one hundred members, upon payment of a significant, yet fully-affordable, initiation fee, will forever be known as FOUNDERS. Their names shall appear on all founding documents. They will still be responsible if and when a levy is instituted by the board of directors. The first 400 members, upon payment of a nominal initiation fee, will forever be known as CHARTER members. After that, General Membership will be available.
Members of SPPBSQSUS may feel free to continue their enjoyment of barbershopping as members of any other organization. Becoming a member of this organization comes with no strings attached. There is no requirement to renounce previous memberships. We are not and do not desire to be in competition with any other organization. Rather, we would desire to be in Harmony with all of our brothers who love the purity of men singing in the barbershop style.
It is the intention of this society, upon its inception, to be as unorganized as possible --- and to remain that way until the federal government threatens prosecution. A steering committee will begin the process of formation of the organization as well as initial recruitment. Then they will gracefully retire --- unless they are daring enough to suggest themselves for election as the first board members.
After the organization is complete and functioning, but somewhere around 1 January 2019, with offices established, officers will be elected to fill them, as much as possible by an open vote of all of the members. Officers may serve for two years, without compensation of any kind and then retire to the ranks. If they attempt to run for any office, ever again in their lifetime, they will be dismissed for cause. By acclamation, the members may decide to --- very carefully, re-elect an occasional board member.
If groups desire to compete among themselves, they are certainly welcome to do so. They may feel free to establish their own rules, select their own judges and invite whomever they wish. The society itself will not, at this time, endorse any such undertaking. However, it does interpose the following caveat: Any such competition, that suggests an affiliation with this organization, must require that all participants use only entirely stylistic music for their performances. Any deviation from this requirement must be heavily penalized and, if severe enough, result in disqualification. Judges are warned that they serve at their own peril. The society will be held harmless for any audience retribution.
Initial membership will be conferred upon payment of $20 to fund start-up expenses. The initial board of directors will decide if there is to be an annual levy and how much it is to be. However, they are warned that they will be impeached if that levy ever exceeds $20 per annum and gets to be a habit.
If it is discovered that any extra-talented member is charging more than expenses and a very small stipend for his special skills and the extra time he spends away from home and family, he shall be warned to suspend such activities. If he continues to pursue such ignominy, he shall be disbarred, censured, tarred and feathered and "run out of town on a rail." This society will have no truck with professional barbershoppers.
If there is any subject that has not been covered by this mission statement, there are several reasons:
First, it is because the writers are unable to think of any other contingencies that need discussion.
Secondly, the less said about things the better.
If you discover or feel that there is more to be discussed, run for office.
In the meantime, blow a B-flat and let's get on with it.
Original Invitation sent by O.C. Cash and Rupert Hall
April 8, 1938
In these days of Dictators and Government control of everything, about the only privilege guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, not in some way supervised or directed, is the art of Barber Shop Quartet Singing. Without doubt, we still have the right of “peaceable assembly” which I am advised by competent legal authority includes quartet singing. The writers of this letter have for a long time thought that something should be done to encourage the enjoyment of this last remaining vestige of human liberty. Therefore, we have decided to hold a songfest on the Roof Garden of the Tulsa Club on Monday, April 11, at six thirty p.m. A Dutch lunch will be served.
After several months of research, and investigation, we are convinced that your record warrants our tendering you the honor of joining this group. We sincerely trust that you will not fail us.
As evidence of the work that your Committee has done in this connection, we enclose a compilation of most of the good old fashioned Barber Shop Quartet songs which we trust you will look over and familiarize yourself with. Bring this list with you. It is our purpose to start right in at the first, sing every song, in numerical order, plow right down the middle, and let the chips fall where they will. What could be sweeter than ten or twelve perfectly synchronized male voices singing “Dear Old Girl!” Just thinking about it brought back to your Committee fond memories of a moonlight night, a hayride and the soft young blonde summer visitor from Kansas City we dated on that occasion years ago.
Do not forget the date, and make every effort to be present, telephone us if convenient. We will have a private room and so will not be embarrassed by the curiosity of the vulgar public. You may bring a fellow singer if you desire.
THE SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION AND
PROPAGATION OF BARBER SHOP QUARTET
SINGING IN THE UNITED STATES
RUPERT HALL, Royal keeper of the Minor Keys
Braniff Investment Company---Phone 2-91921
O. C. Cash, Third Asst. Temporary Vice Chairman
Stanolind Companies----Phone 2-3211