Although it's nearly invisible on the radar screens of highbrow cultural observers, barbershop is folk music of a high order. With talents honed by a schedule of regional and national contests, some quartets make barbershop's complex harmonies their own and attain the comfort that comes with musical mastery: Washtenaw County's own all-seniors quartet, New Wrinkle, headed for California last year to represent the Huron Valley at the national level. And the music (with hidden African American origins) seems an unheralded linchpin of the culture of middle America. The ads in the program are for the businesses that keep the county and the country rolling along insurance agents, plumbers, hardware stores. It's music at the local level, and if you've ever wondered what happened to the guys who sang solos in your high school choir, it may be that they're singing barbershop somewhere.
The Huron Valley Harmonizers and their female counterparts, the County Connection Sweet Adelines chorus, hold their annual concerts jointly at Washtenaw Community College on Saturday, December 7.
[Originally published in December, 2002.]