Jazz festivals
and barbershop harmony shows bring devoted
fans to the coast
throughout the year.

Jazzin’ it Up

Dee Houston

A jazz trio and a barbershop quartet, while playing totally different music, have something in common. They each play forms of music developed in this country. Both jazz and barbershop harmony can be called true American music.

Jazz has its roots in slave field hollers and spirituals, the blues, ragtime, and brass bands. It’s generally acknowledged to have started in New Orleans and then spread north to Chicago, New York, and across the country. By the 1920s, the United States was well into the jazz age, which evolved into the swing era of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Today jazz groups are found all over the world and vary widely from contemporary to Dixieland and from small trios to big bands. Jazz groups may or may not have vocalists.

Barbershop harmony, on the other hand, uses only vocalists who sing in fourpart harmony, with absolutely no instruments. This a cappella form of music took root about the turn of the 20th century in African–American

communities where barbershops were one of the social gathering places. It was revived in 1938 and today both men’s and women’s choruses and quartets thrive in many countries around the world. Barbershop harmony usually features songs from the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s with understandable lyrics that are always delivered “from the heart.”

Recently I saw Canadian jazz singer Barbara Blair with JazzAffair (trio) and enjoyed every single note. Although my feet were tired from keeping time, I wanted more. For people like me, there are jazz festivals where I can immerse myself in jazz and hear several groups over a two- or three-day period.

Last year I attended the Harbormasters Barbershop Men’s Chorus Show in Florence, which was sold out for the third year in a row.

There were choruses and quartets from all over the state, including Sweet Adelines, composed of women who sing barbershop harmony. I enjoyed the rich, deep sound of the men’s chorus, the humor of the men’s quartets, the sweetness of the women’s voices, and the overall feeling of nostalgia that the show evoked.

The Oregon Coast plays host to four jazz festivals and five barbershop harmony shows in 2007, all of which are profiled here. Call for tickets early, since these are popular events.

Story by Judy Fleagle

Oregon Coast January/February 2007

Jazz FESTIVALS   reggie
Jazz & Oysters
Oysterville, Washington, August 19
(800-451-2542; www.watermusicfestival.com)

Live jazz comes from the stage set up by the schoolhouse, oysters sizzle on the grill, and folks spread out on blankets or beach chairs on the grass to enjoy it all. Historic Oysterville has celebrated Jazz & Oysters for the past 21 years, having between 400 and 500 attendees for each of the past two events. The jazz artists come from the Northwest and provide gospel music from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and solid jazz from 1 to 5 p.m. Local growers gather oysters at the closest low tide, so they are as fresh as possible. A large grill holds about 240 oysters at a time and last year’s attendees consumed almost 3000; for non-oyster lovers, sausages are available. To top it all off, local restaurants provide scrumptious desserts. Last year’s ticket prices were $18 all day, $5 morning, and $15 afternoon. Pets are not welcome.


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