HomeBlogsDekeSharon's blogYou Say "A Cappella," I Say "WHAT!?!?"

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A conversation I had with a prominent barbershop singer yesterday.

In the midst of a discussion about the direction of their next album, he mentioned a desire to bridge the gap "between the barbershop and the a cappella sound."

He said it a couple other times in the conversation in different contexts, and then it hit me (as I can be thick skulled sometimes):

The barbershop community refers to us as the "a cappella" community.


A brief run through past conversations in my mind confirmed this. I thought it strange before, but perhaps unusual. Now I'm pretty much convinced.

To them, we're "a cappella."

Talk about a paradigm shift!

In my previous blog, I comment on how 20 years ago the term "a cappella" meant some combination of choral, barbershop or doo wop, depending on the individual. What we call the "contemporary" sound/style was new, and didn't have a name.

I coined "contemporary" to try to incorporate all styles (including those three) but make it clear that it's a modern sensibility and current movement.

However, people rarely get to choose the name of their own movement. Do you think Nirvana called their own music "grunge" or Ike Turner had any expectation that Rocket 88 would be considered the first "rock and roll" song?


But now, increasingly in the media, we're seeing reference to collegiate a cappella groups, professional vocal bands and the like, and they're being simply referred to as "a cappella."

Again, whoa.

Have we been successful enough to this point to not only begin to attract attention but also to effectively co-opt a term that came out of Italian chapels and has meant a variety of things over the ages (but remained a term that most people didn't recognize)? What percentage of Joe Public understands the term, and of them, how many think of our Johnny-come-lately sound?

It's certainly too early to tell. But from now on when what we do is referred to as simply "a cappella" whereas doo-wop, barbershop or choral music doesn't warrant the term, I'll definitely take notice.