Sean Bui is the recently-appointed Chorus Director of the Knights of Harmony.
He’s the man who stands out in front, in performances and rehearsals, helping us to sing and perform to the highest standard.
Sean, age 28, is an accomplished professional musician who composes, teaches and edits musical scores.
He also conducts four other choirs – classical, church and Barbershop.
And he’s a gold medal winning singer in his own right.
Sean’s background is mainly classical and he’s a relative newcomer to Barbershop. He stepped in to direct the highly successful Royal Harmonics’ chorus only in March 2016.
Sean works with the Knights every Thursday evening – starting with small groups at 7.30pm – then right through with full chorus till 10:30pm.
It’s fun – but a lot of work too. Getting 45 men to sing perfectly in harmony requires both skill and graft.
“If the guys are willing to put in the effort, we will get better,” he says. “The only way we will do that is to be challenged…there’s no quick fix”.
That means, in part, going back to the basics of good singing – the breathing, the positioning of the sound in the mouth, the technique.
Sean is also aware of another key component of his job: enjoyment. Barbershop singing, he says, ’is also about you guys having fun’, and there’s certainly a lot of laughing going on in rehearsals.
Is he daunted by taking on the Knights?
‘Not at all’, he says. ‘When I took on the Royal Harmonics I absolutely was, because I knew nothing about Barbershop and I thought, my god, what have I done?
‘Then I went to my first Convention and it was amazing. I absolutely loved it and I thought: Wow, how did I not realise this was here?’.
At the beginning of October Sean sang lead with the First Edition quartet in the IABS contest in Cork. It was their first time out and he came away with a Gold Medal.
‘After working with the Royal Harmonics, I understand Barbershop,’ he says. ‘I have the confidence to know what I’m doing, but you also need someone who understands the singing.’
Doing What’s Best
Sean has an MA in film composition from the Royal Holloway University He started playing the piano at 7. At the age of 9 he began singing with the Berkshire Boys’ Choir and ‘just fell in love with it’. At 17, he had one of one of his compositions publicly performed by choir and orchestra.’
He wants the Knights’ to measure their success not by their BABS national competition rankings – we’re currently 12th – but by the points the judges award us.
Why? Because the judges’ scoring offers a truer reflection of progress, whereas rankings reflect the performance of the other choruses around you.
Of his own easy-going style he says: ‘I always wants what’s best for the chorus or choir I’m working with. This is what I do, every day, and I thoroughly, thoroughly, enjoy it.’
Sean is married to Kirsty, a speech and language therapist at a major London hospital. They have two children.