For a large part of my life, I’ve been a singer. When I was in middle school, I was introduced to barbershop harmony and the vibrant community of people who sing in that style. I learned how to sing with my ear, listening to great quartets such as Boston Common, The Bluegrass Student Union, and The Gas House Gang. The chorus I joined was mostly filled with middle aged and retired men. I was the lone kid, singing lead (the melody) most of the time. A long standing tradition in the barbershop community is the “Afterglow”. Generally, it’s an after-party after a big performance or show. It’s usually filled with food, drink, and lots of singing. The ‘glows tend to carry on late into the night sometimes to the next morning.
So why am I going on about barbershop singing in this brass band piece? This piece is meant to honor the spirit of the barbershop afterglow through harmony, melody, and texture. Many phrases are inspired by barbershop “tags” which are often sung at afterglows. The harmonies often features dominant 7th chords, also known as the “Barbershop 7th” chord. And much of the texture is 4 note homophony, especially in the middle of the piece.
This piece was written for the 2020 Youth Brass Band of America, lead by organizer Helen Harrelson. My original idea was that this piece would be an inspiration for the students to make friends, stay in touch, and remember how much fun they had at the festival. Unfortunately, the festival never happened in person due to the global coronavirus pandemic. So the piece transformed from being able to be performed live in person, to an online virtual performance. The entire festival was held online via Zoom and featured lessons, masterclasses, presentations, and performances from some of the world’s best brass musicians.
The message of Afterglow stayed the same, even through all this adversity. It’s about reminiscing about time spent making music with friends. In fact, I think it resonates at an even deeper level with musicians who have been unable to make music with other people throughout the pandemic. We are all looking forward to being back inside together making music. Until then, we can bask in the Afterglow of our memories.