Barberpole Cats Original

Barberpole Cats – Original

Learn and Perform the Society’s Standard “Polecat” Songs

The “Polecats” are fun and easy to learn! These standard songs are sung by many across the Society and provide an easy way to begin harmonizing immediately with those you know, or with those you have just met along the way.

The information here presents a way to initiate the Barberpole Cat Program in your chapter. A successful Barberpole Cat Program requires the cooperation of the program vice president, the music director and other members of the Music Leadership Team. Therefore, board approval is needed so that the required modest expenditure of funds can be appropriated, and a regular time period allotted for the program during chapter meetings.

Barberpole Cat Program Details

How the program works

There are many ways in which the Barberpole Cat program can be used by the chapter to encourage quartet singing. Here is one way:

The Music Leadership Team presents to the chapter board a proposal to begin the Barberpole Cat Program. A successful Barberpole Cat Program requires the cooperation of the program vice president, the music director and other members of the Music Leadership Team. Therefore, board approval is needed so that the required modest expenditure of funds can be appropriated, and a regular time period allotted for the program during chapter meetings.

Each chapter member who participates in the program should have a copy of this book Stock no. 6053, available through your Harmony Marketplace catalog. Included with the book are all individual program materials except awards.

The music director, or an assistant, presents the songs so that members can learn their parts in a group. The songs may be presented one at a time, or in groups of two or three. Spend about five minutes per song and review each song for about five minutes during the succeeding three weeks.

The quartet teaching method can be used to advantage with the Barberpole Cat Program. (See Music Leadership Team Manual, Chapter VIII.) If talent is available, more than one teaching quartet may be used. Review should be continued, as needed, as songs are learned. As the teaching quartet accurately sings each song without music, the qumtet members automatically qualify for each song sung; Members of this group will probably be the first in the chapter to earn their Barberpole Cat pins.

A suggestion: Since there are twelve songs, it might be logical to present one song each month. By the end of a year, all of the Barberpole Cat songs could be learned.

Each week, there should be an opportunity for members to qualify on the songs. Since singing in quartets can speed the learning process, members may wish to practice their parts with three other men, with music in hand, in front of the chapter. Listening to the parts being sung by the quartet will help others gain familiarity with the music.

When a member feels that he can sing his part to one of the songs without the music, he may volunteer to do so, in a quartet, in front of the chapter. A section leader, another member of the music leadership team, or a barbershopper who is experienced in that voice part, should listen to the volunteer’s performance, to determine whether he has sung the words and music correctly.

Songs may be learned, and sung, by chapter members in any order. Members may learn more than one voice part. There is no set pattern.

The entire program should be carried out in a spirit of support, fellowship and fun. If determination is made that the volunteer has not sung the song satisfactorily, he should be praised for making the attempt and encouraged to take another look at the music, or listen to a learning tape, and try the song again at the next meeting. It should be pointed out to the membership that failing is an important part of the learning process. Each member should be encouraged to try to sing his part in a quartet.

Set reasonable standards for successful performance, then do not bend those rules. Qualifying should not be automatic.

Forms for recording individual qualifications and ordering of group awards can be found here. The quartet activity chairman should keep careful records and may wish to make copies of these documents for that purpose.

After a year or so, interest may wane, as most members of the chapter learn all twelve songs. The program can still be continued, perhaps on a monthly basis or at whatever frequency is desired, as new members join the chapter and want to participate.


When a member successfully sings his voice part to one of the Barberpole Cat songs, he should, in addition to having his individual record sheet updated, be applauded and have his name placed on a chart, with credit for that song indicated. The chart should be displayed prominently, so that all chapter members can observe everyone’s progress toward the goal of learning all 12 songs. A special chart for this purpose may be ordered from the Harmony Marketplace catalog (Stock no. 4001). Alternatively, the chapter may want to create its own chart.

Upon completion of the fIrst six songs, the member can receive a Barberpole Cat certifIcate. When the member completes all 12 songs, he is eligible to receive a Barberpole Cat lapel pin. Both are free of charge. To obtain the certillcates and pins, the chapter quartet activity chairman (See Music Leadership Team Manual, Chapter IV) fills out a Barberpole Cat Program Report Form, included in the back of this book, and has the chapter secretary send the form to the international office.

Award certifIcates, tie tacs, and/or individual part pins (tenor, lead, bari, and bass) can be presented with appropriate fanfare.

Members who become certified Barberpole Cats will enjoy singing the songs with other chapter members and with Barbershoppers they meet at Society activities. Once they experience the joy of singing in a quartet, they may want to become involved in other quartet activities.

Other ways to use the program

The Barberpole Cat program can be adapted to suit individual chapter needs and preferences.

The learning/qualifying program can be set aside and the songs used to promote informal singing. Instead of being presented as part of the chapter meeting, the program can be a separate break-out session. Or, it can be an “early-bird” program, presented before the chapter meeting. It should be pointed out, however, that there is value in the enthusiastic support of other chapter members when the program is part of the chapter meeting.

Awards can be eliminated, or additional awards may be devised by the chapter. For example, a tshirt could be awarded to members who learn all four voice parts to the twelve songs.

While a point will be reached at which there is no longer interest in presenting the Barberpole Cat program each week, the chapter may still wish to continue quartet promotion. One method of doing this is by creation of a similar program, using chorus repertoire songs instead of the Barberpole Cat series. A similar set of awards, using pins, cloth sew-on patches, tshirts, or other incentives can be devised. A chapter logo or some other design may be substituted for the Barberpole Cat emblem on these prizes.

Learning Tracks

Learning tracks for the 12 Barberpole Cat songs and the Songbook are available in the Harmony Marketplace