There’s a buzz in the air when it comes to singing. The popularity of choirs of all genres has never been greater and people all over the country are ditching their inhibitions and finding their voice. The current poster boy of choirs is Gareth Malone whose latest series The Naked Choir on BBC2 follows his search for the nation’s best amateur ‘a cappella’ group.

‘A cappella’ music is specifically group or solo singing without instrumental accompaniment and it comes from the Italian for “in the manner of the chapel”. There are many forms of a cappella and one of the most popular worldwide is barbershop harmony. Consisting of four parts (bass, baritone, lead, tenor) modern barbershop singing challenges the stereotype of the past – gone (thankfully!) are the days of straw boaters, stripy blazers and cheesy ditties. What characterises today’s barbershop is the beautiful choral quality of the sound and an emotional power that can stir the soul.

The best of barbershop is on display this Sunday evening 4th October at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. The Cottontown Chorus from Bolton are five-times UK champions and this 55-man strong choir will be performing a range of traditional and contemporary songs that may seriously challenge perceptions about barbershop – particularly in the second half of the show. Their guests are the American quartet Storm Front whose entertaining brand of singing and performance won them the International Gold Medal in 2010. So, to experience ‘a cappella’ singing at its best see it live and head to the RNCM on Sunday evening. For tickets and more information go to

For anyone wanting to have a go at barbershop singing Cottontown have open rehearsals in Bolton every Tuesday evening and anyone’s welcome to go along. More information is at