Somerset Hills Harmony is the Somerset Hills Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society as well as a member of the Contemporary A Cappella League. We are only one of two performing arts organizations in the world to share in such diverse membership. While the current performing ensemble is relatively new, we have quite the history! FOUNDING THROUGH THE NEW MILLENIUM
Way back in 1949 the Barbershop Harmony Society was known as its legal name: The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, or SPEBSQSA for short. It was a clever satirical name created in 1938 to lampoon the acronyms of "The Big Deal". The Somerset Hills chapter was founded to bring together men in the joys of singing in the barbershop harmony style both in a chorus as well as quartets.
For decades the chapter proliferated under names including the "Hounds of Harmony" and the "Somertones" serenading the northern-central region with four part close barbershop harmony.
JERSEY HARMONY EXPRESS (JHX)
In 2010 the group decided to embrace the broader a cappella experience by expanding its repertoire to include multiple genres of music, from contemporary to rock and roll, while still maintaining its strong ties to the barbershop community. The name changed to "Jersey Harmony Express", and the group showed artistic success and sustained a loyal core of performers for the next eight years.
During this time the male voiced ensemble would periodically be joined by female guest singers and even a female beatboxer. Eventually, Jersey Harmony Express decided to admit its first female regular singer. However, there was a problem: The Barbershop Harmony Society, of which we were still members, was all male. So this was not an officially sanctioned step.
EVERYONE IN HARMONY - THE EMERGENCE OF SOMERSET HILLS HARMONY
In June 2018 the Barbershop Harmony Society opened its membership to all - finally breaking away from the vestiges of a male-only, exclusive membership base. The "Everyone in Harmony" initiative finally allowed groups like the Somerset Hills Chapter, to officially welcome people of all walks of life into its membership. This watershed moment inspired our leadership to take the group in an entirely new direction.
In the Fall of 2018 Somerset Hills Harmony was founded. This new chorus was founded on principles of diversity, musical excellence, thrilling performances and thoroughly enjoyable rehearsals. We are proud to have been one of the first BHS chapters to elect a female performer and executive.
COVID AND CHORAL QUARANTINE With the change of the calendar from 2019 to 2020, the future for SHH looked extremely bright. The group was growing, had completed a year of multiple concerts, and was looking forward to its first convention/contest. Then Covid struck. The group pivoted to three approaches designed to keep interest: Online Meetings (some singing, mostly educational/social), Virtual Performances (more than two dozen songs published), and then Hot Rods & Harmony (driveway choir). The latter development revolutionized a cappella choruses around the country and around the world. A documentary film called "The Drive to Sing" chronicles the success of SHH as a key driver of the efforts to meet this unique choral challenge.
A CAPPELLA RE-IMAGINED
The singing world has returned to normal in many ways, but in others, it has been forever changed.
For example, choruses have learned that the ability to touch audiences involves both in-person performance as well as digital performances. A studio recording and accompanying video of the beloved Irish Folk/Rock anthem "The Fields of Athenry" has garnered nearly 60,000 views on YouTube, which exceeds the total audience from decades of live performing.
Somerset Hills Harmony has grown in the last two years to about 30 members, and we look to the future with excitement. We strive to be at the leading edge of the evolution of vocal music through excellence, friendship, energy, variety, innovation, community, and education. We call this commitment "A Cappella Re-Imagined", and we can't wait to see what comes next!