Founder Charlie Rose began the North Carolina Harmony Brigade in the early 1990s. Each January since then, there has been a harmony brigade weekend in North Carolina. As the years went by, the NCHB began to get attendance from people from other areas. Two members of the Circle City Sound from Indianapolis, Duane Henry and Terry Silke, decided that they wanted to bring the Brigade program to Indiana. In November of 2003, the first Indiana Harmony Brigade weekend was held in Indianapolis, attracting about 80 singers. The first Atlantic Harmony Brigade was held in 2006, a Harmony University Brigade began a couple years later, and in 2010 the first Great Lakes Harmony Brigade was held. Other brigades are in the works but have not yet had their first weekend event.
About five months before the brigade weekend, each participant receives music and learning CDs for the year's list of songs (for example, NCHB has 12 songs a year while IHB has 10). Usually one or two of the songs on the list are repeats from a previous brigade. All participants are expected to learn the music on their own before the brigade weekend.
Upon arriving at the event, most participants jump right into quartets and sing the songs. On Friday evening, all participants are assembled and are put into quartets (selected by random draw), and each quartet is assigned a song (once again selected by random draw). They are given a couple hours to practice their songs (some participants may be drawn to sing in multiple quartets if there are uneven amounts of the different parts, so they would need more time). Each quartet sings its song for the other participants and a panel of judges (usually non-participants with judging experience and/or quartet credentials). At the end of the round, 10 quartets are selected to move on to Saturday night's finals round.
Besides the contest, the other main event of the Brigade weekend is the show. All participants sing together in a chorus, have a rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, and then put on a show in the evening. Usually, registered quartets comprised of brigade members (and possibly one or two non-brigade quartets) will sing on the show as well.
After the show, the participants come back to the hotel for the quartet finals (guests are invited as well). Some brigades have a "wildcard" quartet chosen by random draw and comprised of non-finalist participants. Also, there is usually some element of more "extreme" quartetting in the finals. For example, in the Indiana Harmony Brigade, quartets do not know what they will sing until they walk onto stage and draw their song from a jar. This serves as a true test of the members' mastery of the music.
After everybody has sung, the top three are announced, and each member of a top 3 quartet receives a certificate and bragging rights. Afterwords, people sing well into the night.
Appearances at other events
Groups comprised of brigade members are sometimes asked to mic test at district chorus competitions. In fact, a large group of brigade members mic tested at both the 2006 and 2007 International Chorus Competitions.
Also, the Rocky Mount Chorus, out of Rocky Mount, NC, has competed at the district level on a couple of occasions, and it is largely comprised of brigade members.