In 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.
Groups from the Society have always been important and in 2012 our quartet Park Street became national barbershop youth champions and represented the UK in Toronto at the international contest the following year. They went on to take the full national title in 2014.
After previous tours to Belgium and the Netherlands, TUBBS arrived at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014 for the first time.
In 2015 the Society renamed to become the University of Bristol A Cappella Society, and the mixed chorus carried forward the expanded acronym TUBBS A Cappella, standing for The University of Bristol Barbershop and A Cappella Singers.
TUBBS A Cappella now represents the mixed, upper and lower voices choruses, and is sometimes grouped with HotTUBBS within the A Cappella Society, singing at society concerts and taking members on tours in the summer vacations.
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