Derek Schmidt, junior
Barbershop is not just another genre of music; it is whole different method of singing. It’s a way to make four voices sound like 40, it’s a way for people all around the world to join together and sing, regardless of their backgrounds.
The Sugar Cubes, a men’s quartet at Maria Carrillo High School, embrace the history of barbershop music and create music that resonates with the audience. Members Patrick Lawrence, James Edmonson, Blake Larson and Elliott Smeds have done their part to keep this form of music alive.
The Sugar Cubes formed last year after Patrick Lawrence attended a concert put on by the Barbershop Harmony and then went to a barbershop camp. He asked, “Why not start a quartet?”
Lawrence, along with Edmonson and former MCHS students Austin Meyer and Eric Titus, formed the Sugar Cubes. “At first we didn’t really take it too seriously. We said ‘Let’s do it next year,’” said Lawrence.
The additions of Smeds and Larson helped complete the full and pure sound that makes barbershop such an enjoyable form of music. The four positions in a barbershop are the tenor, lead, baritone and bass.
Lawrence sings the tenor, which is “the high part.” Edmonson sings the lead, which is also known as the melody. The lead and bass, sung by Smeds, are the two most prominent parts of the quartet, but all are equally important. “You may not hear the tenor and baritone unless you really listen for it, but if you took them out it would make a big difference,” said Larson, the baritone singer.
A barbershop quartet can be described as a pyramid with four parts, starting wide with the bass and getting narrower up to the tenor. Each level supports the one above it and “the baritone is the glue that brings it all together,” according to Edmonson.
The Sugar Cubes are run entirely by these four students, who book their own shows and take it upon themselves to practice nearly four hours a week. They choose what songs they wish to sing, but their favorites are upbeat ones “that [they] can move to,” said Edmonson. Like any quartet, they also sing polecats, which are songs known by all quartets across the world, making it easy for any member of a quartet to fill in and pick up with a group that they have never met before.
One special thing about being in a quartet is making four voices sound like a full chorus of voices and pitches. “We love making chords ring,” said Smeds. To make a chord ring is when each part of the quartet is singing in the right tone and pitch to make the sound resonate. This is the major appeal of barbershop and why it is enjoyable to listen to and listen four people fill an auditorium with rich, distinct music.