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A brief history of The Heart of England Chorus
The Leicester Club was formed in 1974 by Roy Phillips and three other singers.
At that time, a presenter on Radio 2 called Charlie Chester played a Barbershop Quartet record in his weekly programme.
Upon hearing this Roy wrote to Charlie to request more information about this unique style of singing, and he was put in touch with Eric Evans of the Crawley Club.
Eric explained about the formation of the British Assocication of Barbershop Singers (B.A.B.S.) and at that time, there were five other Member Clubs.
This led to Roy, Ian (his son), and John O’Malley attending their first rehearsal at Bournemouth. They arranged some music from a Canadian Barbershopper, and started to meet on Sunday evenings - and so was formed The Leicester Barbershop Harmony Club.
The chorus grew, and was a joint club with a ladies chorus for many years before they split, owing to the fact that the two organisations BABS and Ladies Association of Barbershop Singers (LABBS) were both single sex organisations.
The ladies kept the name ‘The Charnwoods’ which both groups has previously used. and the men took the name ‘Heart of England’ Chorus. Unfortunately the ladies group folded some years later.
Most people meeting with The Barbershop style of singing for the first time associate it with gentlemen’s hairdressers. In a sense this is partly correct - Samuel Pepys in his famous diaries mentions singing barbers, and some would say that it was prevalent in nineteenth century England.
Although the general perception is that it came about by men singing while waiting for haircuts and shaves in the USA. This was probably the late nineteenth century and involved many different nationalities - immigrants from all over Europe.
The modern style of Barbershop singing was formalised by a man called O.C.Cash in America when he formed the organisation for quartet singing just before the second world war.
It has gone from strength to strength since then, with organisations springing up all over the world.