Barbershop quartet singing has been around in New Zealand for many years although little is recorded of actual performances or personnel. Mostly they were one-off events or performing quartets with little contact with each other.
In 1979 the Merry Macs, a visiting male quartet from Hawaii, sang to an entranced audience in Auckland. This led to the formation, by Ken Redwood, of a singing group which became known as the MoTAT Chorus recognising that the singers met at the Museum of Transport and Technology. Now called the City of Sails Chorus, it has been the gold medal winner on many occasions since the inception of the NZABS Chorus competition in 1992.
The New Zealand Association of Barbershop Singers was established in the early eighties but did not function as an association until the Harbour Capital Chorus was formed in Wellington in February 1988 followed by the Canterbury Plainsmen, based in Christchurch, in 1989.
During this period the number of quartets continued to grow and in 1989 the inaugural NZABS Convention was held in Wellington for quartet competitions only.
Since that time, other chapters have been established in Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Nelson,New Plymouth, Dunedin and Invercargill. Auckland also has a second Chapter Pride of Auckland and a second chorus Vocal FX has been started in Wellington.
Pan Pacific Conventions
NZABS usually holds a convention every year, bringing Barbershoppers together from around New Zealand. In 1994, the first of the Pan Pacific Conventions, involving quartets and choruses from around the Pacific rim, was held in Auckland, attended by Australian and Hawaiian barbershoppers. The second Pan-Pacific Convention was hosted by Hawaii in October 1998. It was attended by 320 New Zealand barbershoppers. The Third Pan Pacific was held in Melbourne Australia, followed by the largest to date with over 700 attending at Christchurch, New Zealand in October 2004. In October 2008, the latest Pan Pacific was held once again in Hawaii. The Pride of Auckland Chorus won the 2008 Pan Pacific Chorus Contest.
Down-Under Harmony Colleges have been held between Australia and New Zealand every two years since 1994. A Harmony College is a week long residential music school with a focus on barbershop singing and music. Positions at this music school, where quartets and chorus members are taught and coached, are keenly sought after as attendance numbers are normally limited.
Young Singers in Harmony
Since 1990, barbershop has been taken into the New Zealand schools. The first National Secondary School Quartet competition for boys took place in 1992 with the inclusion of the girls' quartet competition in 1996. The National Young Singers in Harmony finals now includes a Secondary Schools Chorus Competition and a series of regional competions are held around the country prior to the National Finals.
In 1998 the winning boys' quartet Southern Harmony was invited to take part in the 1999 International Convention's Collegiate (University Level) Finals at Anaheim, USA. The was the first time this had ever happened and the first non North American Continent quartet to have received the invitation. Southern Harmony placed fourth in the finalist field of 23 quartets at this event, and later in the same year won the Adult New Zealand Open Champion Quartet contest! In 2000 they were invited for a return trip to USA to compete at the Kansas City International Convention at Kansas City.
In July 2006 the Musical Island Boys quartet, who had "grown up" through the YSIH movement, won the International Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Championship in Indianapolis and the entire NZ Barbershop community was extremely proud of them. Prior to this, they represented New Zealand at the 2004 and the 2005 International Convention's Collegiate competitions being placed third equal in 2004, third in 2005 and then in 2006, won the gold medal as International Collegiate Champions. They also won the NZABS Open Quartet Competition in 2004 and again in 2007.
In 2007, Resonance Quartet (the 2006 NZ Open Quartet winnersand previous YSIH winners) competed in the International Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Championship in Denver and were placed 11th and in 2009 Pacific Flavours Quartet competed in the International Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Championship in Anaheim and were placed 14th.
Both the City of Sails and and Canterbury Plainsmen choruses had previously competed in the USA, but July 2009 has seen the most spectacular performances by NZ Barbershop groups in the International Convention in Anaheim and has placed NZ firmly on the international stage by scoring in the top 10 in the two Open competitions.
Vocal FX were placed 10th in the Open Chorus Competiton, with a score average of 88.2
- Musical Island Boys were place 10th in the Open Quartet Competition, with a score average of 84.1 and were the recipients of a brand new award called the "Dealers Choice" award for the highest scoring first time international quartet.
In 2015, the New Zealand Association of Barbershop Singers undertook a process to rename and rebrand. this resulted in a name change for the national organisation to Barbershop Harmony New Zealand, a change of logo to the current logo, and a number of other branding changes.