From The Sing-Off, to The Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Contests, to the International Championships of High School and Collegiate A Cappella, there may no greater organizing force, and no greater platform for today’s a cappella musician’s than the competition stage.
Perhaps the greatest contradiction in all of a cappella rests in the fact that, despite so much of the genre revolving around competition, it still maintains one of the tightest-knit communities you’re likely to find in all of music.
The idea of community may be what’s most attractive about Abraham Santiago’s Street Corner Harmony, a documentary centered on the cadre of 1950s- and 1960s-era a cappella groups carved a unique niche New York City, Philadelphia and Jersey City.
In poignant recognition to how oft forgotten this unique, pioneering era in a cappella truly is, the documentary includes no video footage from the era of which it speaks, relying on recorded sounds and interviews with the singers decades after their heyday. Nonetheless, listening to the passion with which men speak of their time hearing and performing a cappella can’t help but stir up emotions in any reviewer, regardless of whether he or she was around to partake in that musical era. As Kenny Bank from The Five Sharks said, “I listened to people harmonize out on the street and got goose bumps—I couldn’t believe four or five voices could fill up a space like that.”