Isabella Abbott | Features Editor
When hearing the words “barbershop quartet,” one may think of four men wearing vests, straw hats, bow ties and sleeve garters with signature barber shop pole colors of red, white and blue.
But for the group Gimme Four, more modern approaches are used, including a nice jacket with the occasional use of a bow tie. Mary Pappert School of Music alumni Dave Ammirata, the group’s lead, said the typical barbershop style isn’t used often anymore.
“I feel like most people think of a barbershop quartet, and they think of Jimmy Fallon and the Ragtime Gals where everybody’s wearing a striped suit and have hats on and garters,” Ammirata said. “But that’s really not what barbershops are anymore. There is a quartet that kind of embraces that image, and they were modeled after the Dapper Dans who sing at Disney World, but most 99.9% of other quartets don’t wear that.”
And although barbershop quartets are less popular in this generation, many groups still sing in the a cappella style today.
According to the Barbershop Harmony Society, approximately 850 quartets are registered with the society in the U.S. and Canada, including another estimated 1,000 more active quartets who are not officially registered.
In every quartet, there is a tenor who harmonizes above the melody, a bass who sings the lowest harmonizing notes, a baritone who provides in-between notes to form pleasing chords and a lead who carries the melody in the second-highest voice.
Bass of the group and full-time orchestra teacher Will Downey said he enjoys being a part of the quartet because of their singing style.
“We tend to sing in what is called very tight harmony, so our voices are always very close together, and it creates this certain high when you do it,” Downey said. “Basically, when four people or even two people are singing together, they’re creating more notes than are actually there, so there’s what’s called overtones, and it’s like this head high that you get when you do it, which made me fall in love with it.”
The four of them met in high school and were part of the same a capella group, The Retromen at different times. They felt a special bond as alumni.
Fast forward a couple of years, they all sang with an a capella group in their area called The Dapper Dans of Harmony where they were four younger members of the group, which ultimately led to their beginning, Ammirata said.
“We decided to learn one song, and everybody went crazy and gave us a standing ovation and we were like, ‘should we continue this? I think we have something special.’”
And they did have something special. The baritone of the group, Joe Servidio, said their audiences continue to appreciate their music to this day.
“My favorite part of being in the quartet is the rush of energy you get when you are giving everything you have to the performance and the audience is really enjoying your music so they send it back to you on stage,” Servidio said. “It’s not just applause, it’s the feeling that you created a moment for the audience that they hopefully never forget.”
Gimme Four may seem to be a normal title for a singing group of four, but that’s not the case for Paul, Joe, Will and Dave.
“Most people would assume that we are called Gimme Four because a quartet has four people and a four-part harmony,” Ammirata said.
The name was suggested by a chorus acquaintance in New Jersey, Ammirata said, one who only had four fingers on one hand instead of five, and used the phrase when he wanted a high-five.
Thinking the name wouldn’t last long, the four of them went with it while entering their first contest, and it’s stuck ever since.
“Looking back on it, a name is what you make of it,” Ammirata said.
Though the group only gets together typically once a month due to being spread out across the world, they still find time to come together for weddings, street fairs, competitions, and even opening for Jay Leno in 2017 at The Freeman Stage at Bayside in Delaware.
Their 12 years together keep them ready and willing to sing, which can be seen in their two released albums available for purchase on their website at gimmefour.squarespace.com/store.
“Nothing can compare to the feeling of the crowd’s energy, passion and joy,” the tenor, Paul Franek said.
“Being able to change someone’s night or maybe even change their life is the greatest gift performing has bestowed on me and on us.”