Barbershop singing has been around in New Zealand for many years although not a lot is recorded of actual performances or personnel. Mostly there were one-off events or performing quartets with little contact with each other.
In 1979 the Merry Macs, a visiting male quartet from Hawaii was sponsored by McDonalds! They sang to an entranced audience in Auckland. In the same year, Ken Redwood advertised in Auckland for Barbershop Singers and out of this the MOTAT Barbershop Chorus was formed. Their meeting place was the Museum of Transport and Technology.
In the mid-80’s, that group was re-named the City of Sails Barbershop Chorus, that became the gold medal winners on many occasions after the inception of the National Chorus contests in 1992.
Barbershop Harmony New Zealand was then known as the New Zealand Association of Barbershop Singers and was established in the early eighties after Choruses were stablished in Wellington in 1988 and Christchurch in 1989.
During the mid-80’s, the number of quartets continued to grow and in 1989 an inaugural National Convention was held in Wellington and a first quartet contest was won by Vocal Minority from the City of Sails. Contests have been held annually since then.
Chapters have now been established across the country and chorus contests have been held annually since 1992.
PAN PACIFIC CONVENTIONS
In 1994, the first of the Pan Pacific Conventions (PanPac), involving New Zealand, Australian and Hawaiian quartets and choruses was held in Auckland.
The second PanPac was hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1998, attended by 320 New Zealand barbershoppers.
Since then, PanPac has been held every 3 or 4 years: 2011 in Melbourne Australia, 2004 in Christchurch New Zealand, 2008 in Hawaii, 2011 in Brisbane, 2014 in Wellington and 2017 in Sydney.
Since 1994, annual Education sessions, from a long weekend to a whole week, have been held in New Zealand to raise the quality of singing. Initially this was achieved by bringing in overseas experts but, more recently, this has also been staffed more and more by our own country’s growing number of experts, coaches and trainers.
These sessions offer individual and quartet development opportunities in singing, performance and musical leadership.
YOUNG SINGERS IN HARMONY (YSIH)
Since 1990, barbershop has been taken into the New Zealand schools.
The first National Secondary School Quartet contest for boys was held in 1992. Contests have been held annually since then.
From 1996, girls were included in the event. YSIH finals now includes both a National Secondary Schools Chorus and Quartet Contests, preceded by regional competitions.
Several quartet winners have gone on to attend the International Collegiate (University Level) Finals in the USA.
Musical Island Boys (MIB) quartet, who had grown up through YSIH, won the National Quartet Open Contest 2004 and again in 2007. In July 2006, they also won the International Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Championship. In 2014, MIB finally achieved the pinnacle of Barbershop by winning the International Quartet Contest, having been placed 2nd during the preceding three years.
Both the City of Sails and Canterbury Plainsmen choruses have competed in the USA.
2009 saw Vocal FX from Wellington placed 10th in the Open Chorus Competition. They have since returned to better that position.