Ever wonder how someone takes a simple creative spark and turns it into something magical for the world to share? One of Barbershop’s finer examples of this wizardry is found in a writer, arranger, BHS music judge, International quartet champion baritone, devoted husband, and loving father…..the Chord Master himself, Clay Hine.
So in honor of this first week in July, typically one of celebration at Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Convention, I interviewed Clay about his recent gift of the song; It’s The Music That Brings Us Together.
What is your process and advice for budding arrangers?
“For me, arranging and writing are a lot like woodshedding and improvising. I get an idea, either from an existing song or just from a situation, and start to picture how that could be cool if it were done in a certain way by a certain group. After that, it’s filling in the words and notes to fill out that picture. I find the best way to get better at doing that is to do it a lot. I was fortunate to sing with quartets and a chorus that enjoyed singing stuff I arranged so I practiced and got a better feel for what worked and
what didn’t. Honestly, I’m still going through that process! Two great resources I’d suggest – The Theory of Barbershop Harmony by Dr. Burt Szabo (an awesome primer on music theory specific to barbershop) and www.rhymezone.com (great place to go to find rhyming words when you’re writing lyrics).”
What prompted you to write this new song?
“Right after the Covid19 lockdown, our choruses started having virtual rehearsals. I began working on a virtual recording project for my chorus, Atlanta Vocal Project. I wanted to write a long tag but nothing very deep just a fun project that expressed a sentiment! But as I wrote it, it seemed like there was more sentiment around what we were doing than this short piece expressed. And since I’ve often heard from barbershoppers, “We come for the music, but we stay for the friends,” it seemed especially important now.”
What was the original intention for the song?
“I thought a song like this would be a great way to help everyone realize that even during all of the weirdness in the world that remembering why we need and love what barbershop has to offer was especially important. It’s easy to focus on the tasks we do and not take time to remember ultimately why we do them. So I spent more time remembering what barbershop really means to me personally and figured most other barbershoppers probably shared that sentiment.”
What were the moments leading up to the song being released for all barbershop voices?
“I did the original chart for male voices with my chorus in mind (when I arrange or write, I always picture a specific ensemble performing the piece). With help in tweaking the song in a few places, Tony DeRosa, one of my favorite people to collaborate with was generous enough to make tracks and make them available to BHS all for no charge! It was then that it occurred to me maybe other organizations might feel similarly too! So I emailed them all (actually, my rock start daughter Melody checked with SAI and
Harmony, Inc.) trying not to sound too pretentious, but everyone was very nice and showed interest! So looked at creating versions with higher voices (reaching out to Michaela Johnston for female voices and Tony for a mixed version). To no surprise, they were totally supportive and very happy to donate their time to the chart and the tracks.”
Any future projects?
“Nothing specific, but the response from this song has been fun, so who knows? Any suggestions as I’m always looking for fun new material…..although I’d be happy not to have the opportunity to draw inspiration from any more global catastrophes! I do have some fun, short, simple pieces with juicy chords that I’ve done over the years. It is kind of my own polecat collection that I may start to throw out there for anyone who wants to sing them.”
And finally, what has writing this song meant to you on a personal level?
“It was the kind of project that got more personal as it progressed. I’ve been very blessed to have been engrossed in barbershop since I was born and even more blessed to have had amazing opportunities to meet barbershoppers all over the world. I’m passionate about what the lyrics in this song talk about and I think that’s something that barbershoppers everywhere share. I love that barbershop can be a place where that’s what’s important to us. Where people who love music, ringing chords, and sharing that with good folks can put aside any other differences we might have. We can just enjoy the music and the friendships. Would be great if the world could find a way to do that!!”
Our world is certainly getting closer to that goal thanks to arrangers like Clay bringing us together, especially during these unprecedented times. And while he may get called “Melody’s Dad” more often than Clay these days (his daughter, also an arranger & BHS Music judge, is one of our own Harmony Queens (2019 International Quartet Champions, Hot Pursuit)), we all can attest to the impact a “Clay Hine Arrangement” has had on our lives at some point during our barbershop careers.
So we thank you, Clay. For although it’s the music that brings us together, it’s the gifted dreamers like you, who continue to arrange a special place in our hearts and encourage us to always share our joy.
Submitted y Robyn Lynn Matula