Castlebar is ready for barbershop singing invasion

It’s all systems go for the Irish Association Barbershop Singers (IABS ) convention in Castlebar this weekend, and music fans are in for a treat as most events are open to a public audience. A weekend of non-stop barbershop singing and fun is in store for Castlebar and you can expect top quality concerts, and no doubt many impromptu performances in venues throughout Castlebar.

Members of the Mayo International Choral Festival, after attending several conventions over the years, successfully invited IABS to host their convention in Castlebar in 2015. With groups confirmed from Sweden, the USA and England, this is truly another international event and will bring over 1,000 people to Castlebar, many of whom will take time to tour Mayo as part of their holiday. The convention takes the form of competitions and performances for barbershop quartets and choruses over two days and nights.

“Having attended some of the conventions over the years, the IABS convention weekend is tops when it comes to sheer fun and entertainment. We would encourage people to support the event by going to at least one concert or competition over the weekend; all open to public audiences — you will not be disappointed,” said the Mayo Choral Festival director, Declan Durcan, the driving force in bringing the convention to Mayo, along with the Mayo International Choral Festival committee and several regional stakeholders.

Máire Hunt, chairperson of IABS, stated that she was very excited about the convention being in Castlebar in 2015, and was delighted to be working with the Mayo International Choral Festival committee and the people in the town.

Festival chairman, Edward Horkan, said: “IABS has seen that we have the key ingredients in Castlebar and Mayo to host such events, as is evident from the very successful Mayo International Choral Festival – great performance venues, plenty of accommodation in Castlebar and surrounding towns, and a team on the ground, not to mention the best scenery in Ireland! I’m very proud of the Mayo International Choral Festival Committee, who have done tremendous work for the convention."

IABS was founded in Birr, County Offaly, in 1988 and promotes the tradition of barbershop singing in Ireland. There are many studies and theories relating to the history of barbershop, and many believe that, as the name implies, it started in barbershops in the USA, while people were waiting their turn for a haircut or shave. The barbershop soon became the place to hang out, and the singing continued in the streets after the barbershop closed for the day. It is said that barbershop really took off in the USA during Prohibition as men shared hip flasks while they were being shaved and getting their hair cut. Apparently the number of people attending barbershops for these services greatly increased during Prohibition!

By the early 1900s, barbershop had become immensely popular, and no show was complete without a barbershop quartet. The influence of barbershop music on other forms of popular music has been profound. Frank Sinatra sang in a barbershop quartet before he became famous as a solo singer. The vocal quartets of bands such as those of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller were also greatly influenced by the barbershop style. Close harmony was the hallmark of many pop groups such as the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons, and is very popular today with many singers and groups.

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