European Harmony Brigade

  • Posted on: 26 July 2017
  • By: David Mirhady

Guest article by David Mirhady from the Greater Vancouver Chapter, brother of Alex Mirhady from the Ottawa Chapter.

Planning a European holiday next summer? You could consider including in it a very intense weekend of barbershop singing with a wide range of ages, national backgrounds, and both men and women. I attended the third European Harmony Brigade on the third weekend in June (2017) in Berlin and was really impressed by the talent and friendliness of the participants, the excellence of the organization and the venues, and the setting. The price was pretty reasonable too. 

As you might expect, especially since there is also a UK Harmony Brigade, most of the participants were German, but there was also significant participation from the UK, the USA, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as a Canadian. Since it is a barbershop weekend, all the songs are in English, and all the events are run in English.

The EHB includes 12 songs, and since it is now part of the Extreme Quartetting consortium, it will have more shared repertoire with it in the future. Learning tracks were either Tim Tracks or made specifically for the EHB by Sonny Vande Putte, a Belgian who has also done some beautiful 4-part recordings on Youtube. He was himself one of the participants.

The big difference with the EHB is that it is mixed, with almost an even male/female split, so most of the songs have been pitched up one or two tones from the male arrangements in order to accommodate the women singing Lead and Baritone. (There were no female Basses). For male Tenors (like me and 3 others) that creates some challenges, not insurmountable, and I was surprised how easy it was to pitch a song back down if that’s what the quartet wanted to do.

We were all checked on 3 of the 12 songs, randomly chosen for each of four groups, the assumption being that if we were note perfect on those, the other songs were in good shape too. That assumption seemed justified. The organizers insist on “100% perfect” preparation, and that seems to have been fulfilled, as much as one can expect when many participants have only ever rehearsed with the learning tracks. It’s a talented bunch.

Guests for the Saturday evening concert at the Romanesque Heilig Kreuz Church were 2015 International Collegiate Champions Trocadero and acapella guru Deke Sharon, all very accessible through the weekend.

There are direct flights to Berlin from Toronto. The hotel supplies complimentary transit passes throughout the stay, so why not spend some time getting to know a world capital with a lot of history?

Photo by Andreas Krause