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TUBBS quartet (Iain, Patrick, Matt and Gareth) at the Bristol City Museum in 2005In early 2004, Patrick Williams, with Andy Gardner, Iain Hallam, Matt Pearson and Gareth Treseder, formed a barbershop “quartet” known informally (and rather grandly) as The University of Bristol Barbershop Singers. Joined occasionally by singers John Mountford and Rob Wigram, this group sang at a few concerts per year, generally as whichever four could do the gig! “TUBBS” was present at several Music Department parties, St. Paul's church Christian Aid concerts and the 100th anniversary of the opening of Bristol City Museum (see photo).

In 2006, Iain recognised that most of the founders were graduating or had moved on, and he had already sung with the Bath Alley Barbers group in 2000-2001, so decided to launch the group as an official UBU society. TUBBS secured an entry into the Guide, a stall at the Freshers' Fair, and 60 sign-ups in October 2007! With Iain as Musical Director, a new committee was quickly formed under our first President, Patrick Schurt-Weinketz.

The new chorus and smaller ensembles and quartets collectively earned TUBBS the award of Best New Society that year, and president Charly Oakley set up new links with the Great Western Chorus, who had recently won the UK national barbershop championships. This was followed in the second year by the award of Best Society under president Abi Dove, and the formation of our auditioned chorus, HotTUBBS.

TUBBS now performs regularly in a variety of forms: ladies' and gents' close-harmony a cappella and barbershop ensembles, ladies' and gents' quartets, and SATB a cappella.

The Barbershop Sound

So what's all this about barbershops, then?

Barbershop (learn even more at Barbershop music) is a style of a cappella (singing without instruments) in which the melody is sung by the lead voice, harmonised above (by the tenor) and below (by the bass) and with a baritone getting whatever's left over in the chord!

Most barbershoppers aim for a bottom-heavy sound, and the distinctive barbershop chords are produced by the combination of all four voices. When each part is perfectly in tune and balanced, a fifth “phantom” voice can be heard; that means you're hearing some really good singing :-)