Tag Archives: barbershop singing

Tea and Spontaneity

My husband and I can offer visitors over 50 varieties of tea, from one of perhaps 10 pots, in any of a frighteningly large number of mugs or cups. [If that worries you, well it worries me too and I’m on a new mission to downsize our tea capacity — since I don’t want to open a tea room!]

Suffice to say, we love our tea. So this building was iconic to me when I saw it recently in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Red Rose Tea Building, Saint John, NB

Red Rose Tea Building, Saint John, NB “Only in Canada, you say?”

Here’s a link to Red Rose’s history of tea.

You can’t read much of this photo, but part of the text explains that King Cole tea originated with Barbour’s General Store.

Harbour Passage's tourist information: A Legacy of Tea

Here’s a link to Barbour’s history of King Cole tea. Writing this post, I discovered there’s actually a tea museum in the General Store. That would have been fun to explore when I was wandering around the city. (I did have a mighty fine cone of gelato, though.)

On a somewhat related note, check out what my brother and sister-in-law gave me for my birthday.

Teacup-shaped planter with pansies

So that’s the tea. Where’s the spontaneity? We were in Saint John for a Barbershop competition (my husband co-directs the newly-formed Halifax Harmonizers (who took second place) and sings in two quartets (September Sound competed and also took second place in their event). The competition was held in the gorgeous and historic Saint John High School. The school has flat, wide, marble banisters. Without those nasty impediments most schools put at the bottom to discourage sliding.

Blurred image of Janet sliding down the banister

Janet in action: moving too fast for the camera!

Review: Murder a Cappella, by James R. Callan and Diane Bailey

Murder a Cappella cover artMurder a Cappella, by James R. Callan and Diane Bailey (Wayside Press, 2012)

The stereotypical image of barbershop music is a quartet of older men in straw hats, singing four-part harmony. What most people outside barbershop circles don’t know is that A) men’s quartets and choruses have young and middle-aged guys too, and B) there are ladies’ quartets and choruses. And both groups have regional, district and international competitions.

So… the scene is San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo plaza, to be precise, where an identically-dressed quartet of female barbershoppers is part of an open-air concert. It’s part of the Sweet Adelines’ international competition, and women have travelled from all over the US and beyond to participate.

When a sniper kills two members of the quartet, is it random violence? Or is someone after the singers?

Barbershopper Tina Overton is in town for the competition, but she’s a cop in her other life. The victims were her friends, and she wants to help find their killer. She works herself into the investigation as a liaison between the San Antonio police and the Sweet Adelines.

This is a mainstream novel and there’s some minor profanity. Because a lot of my readers are Christian, I’ll warn you there’s one instance of Jesus’ name used as a curse. The sad thing is, another word would have done as well and been less offensive. Otherwise, the novel’s a good read.

By definition, a competition for barbershop choruses involves a lot of characters. While only a few are central to the story, like Tina, Angela and the detective, there are a number of interactions with what I’ll call “mid-level” characters. At times I got their names jumbled. If you’re prone to that sort of thing, I’d suggest taking a blank paper for a bookmark and jotting down each person as s/he appears. First and last name (the detective uses surnames) and a cue, like “director.” It’s times like this I wish for the Agatha Christie-style cast list.

Murder a Cappella is the first barbershop-themed mystery I’ve read, and the authors do a fine job of balancing the intricate behind-the-scenes world of the women’s international competition with the unfolding mystery and clues. The solution took me by surprise.

If you’re a barbershopper, you’ll nod and smile at some of the details and situations. If you’re not, you’ll learn a bit about something new. You won’t feel lost in jargon or technicalities. This is Tina’s first time at International, and she’s new enough to her chorus that if there’s anything you need to know, she’ll need to know too. Her friend and mentor Angela will explain it in a non-disruptive way.

You can learn about co-authors James R. Callan and Diane Bailey at their respective websites. For more about Murder a Cappella, to read chapter 1 or to view the book trailer, visit the Sweet Adelines Mystery site. Yes, there will be more Sweet Adeline Mysteries. And that’s a good thing.

[review copy from my personal library]