Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association

Quartet Festival in Chicago, 9/4 - 7/2013

Thanks to Gerry Carroll, incorrigible Chicago Festival Chairman and his staff, another fine festival of “do-it-yerself” quartetting in the old style has chordially come and, alas, gone. More than 100 singers and guests populated the Lafayette room at the Hillside Best Western for our Saturday evening show, and close to 70 were on hand for our traditional “pick-up” quartet contest Friday evening.
Close to two dozen singers had checked in at the Best Western hotel in Hillside, Illinois by the end of the day Wednesday, the 4th of September. A good deal of QUARTET singing ensued (what a surprise), and foursomes were assembled for purposes both musical and golf-oriented. Dinner was informal, mostly in the lounge area of the Hillside Best Western, where our Midwest Festival was held for the third year.

Thursday morning dawned bright and early and – after the complimentary breakfast – the golfers drove off for rounds which included singing at every tee, as usual. Also as usual, nobody would admit to their scores when the golfers returned to join those who preferred just to sing (in QUARTETS) rather than spoiling a good walk by swinging a club.

Our BQPA/Pioneers Board conducted their usual meeting on Thursday afternoon, after the golfers had returned. The confab ran rather long, due to serious discussions about the location of our western Festival in 2015 and thereafter, the retirement of our long-time Registrars, Rosie and Shel Rosenthal, the status and future of our membership database, communications with our members and with the general barbershopping population, the BQPA Old Songs Survey and its results, the new BQPA/Pioneers “Key Notes” song list, and the status of our googlegroup email group and our website.

On Thursday evening, our Registration table opened up, staffed as usual by Rosie and Shel – their last Festival as Chairs of the Registration function. (We owe a large debt of gratitude to them for their YEARS of hard work!) We had hoped to get EVERYONE to check in at the registration table, but that did not happen this year. We KNOW that more members attended than checked in… (PLEASE, next time, be sure to check your address details at the Registration table, including your email address: this is the ONLY way we can figure out how many of us attend, and also be sure of being able to communicate with you…) And there was much QUARTET singing. (DUH!!!)

Friday morning came and the golfers perversely departed again for the links, and got back in time for the quartet contest draw. Once the pick-up quartets had been drawn, there was – as usual – much confusion, with folks searching for their other part singers. Some left, then, for somewhat leisurely dinners, but rehearsals of the die-hards continued until moments before the contest started at 8:00.

The contest went off very nicely, as usual. Raymond Schwartzkopf was the MC, as well as the Chairman of Judges. The winning quartet featured the composer of Sweet and Lovely, Norm Starks, as the Lead, and they presented a moving rendition of (wait for it…) Sweet and Lovely. They definitely deserved the purple ribbons with the gold medals inscribed in honor of our dear departed member, Jinny Janis,
and the plaques announcing their win in the Bob Leclair & Chuck Oliva memorial contest. Second and third place quartets were awarded ribbons again this year. For the details of the top three quartets, see the footnotes, below…

Again as usual, there was a bit more singing after the contest session. (Well, umm, HOURS more…) All four corners were occupied by quartets, and the singing spilled out into the corridors outside the Lafayette room. That informal QUARTET singing went on until well after midnight.

As occurred last year, I personally experienced participating in a couple of hours of the best barbershop QUARTET singing this year. Sang bunches of old but established arrangements with great bass Dave Brady, tenor John Olson, and bari Jim Milner – I got a chance to sing a few in the lead part for once. Then unique lead singer Frank Fabian joined us, I switched to bari, and we just kept ringin’ ‘em, with Jim and me switching in and out, until well after midnight, when Dave and Frank had to leave to get home, being commuters to our Festival.

Again this year, on Saturday morning we could not sing in the halls, as there were quite serious examinations for EMT and paramedics going on in the ballroom around the corner. But the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting in our own room went pretty quickly, as discussions in the Board meeting had taken care of most business earlier in the week.

The names of Departed Friends were read off, including some who may not have been members of BQPA/Pioneers. Within a bit more than the past year, we’ve lost Dave Mittelstadt (Easternaires), Dickie Johnson (Chordiac Arrest), Russ Foris, Burt Huish (former Int’l President of SPEBSQSA), Craig Huotari, Harry Williamson (Regents), Harry’s son, Ed Williamson, George Johnson, Larry Clemons, Joe Warren (Avant Guard), Dick Reed (Avant Guard), Don Bagley (Chiefs of Staff), Jimmy Collins (old-time Pioneers member & bass), Kenny Tompkins, Ruby Rhea and Sally Briner. A reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to send them all on their way to the Chorus Eternal.

Jim Milner, the Chairman for our Spring Festival in Tempe, announced that we will again be meeting in the Embassy Suites in Tempe April 9th through the 12th, 2014. We will be occupying the “L” shaped “Tempe Ballroom” on the second floor, as the price for the Grand Ballroom on the main floor has been raised from $100 to $900 a night, a pretty unreasonable rise. The upstairs space should be more than adequate for all our needs.

Jim encouraged reserving your guest rooms early, even if you might have to cancel later if your plans or your calendar change. The hotel has a very lenient cancellation policy, but late reservations are very difficult to switch into the group guest room rate. That rate is $109.00 per night for a queen or king suite, up only $4.00 from last year, and the rate is offered to our attendees three days before and three days after our Festival. It’s a bit more expensive out of pocket than in Chicago, but with great rooms and other accommodations. And the rate includes cooked-to-order breakfast and a Manager’s reception each evening. Come one, come all…
Oh, and remember the spaghetti dinner on Wednesday evening, at the American-Italian Club, where the Arizona Quartet Chapter meets. Much quartetting after (excellent) dinner…

The location for our Festival in 2015 and thereafter had been discussed in the Board meeting, and thoughts were floated of possibly moving to the northwest seaboard (Seattle or Portland). Some “pro” comments were made, but there were perhaps more “con” remarks heard, during the general meeting and after. (Your opinions, with associated reasoning, would be welcome; send your emails to any member of the Board of Directors.) In the meantime, Jim Milner will be exploring other venues in the Phoenix area, as well. The schedule and venue for 2015 need consideration due to the Christian and Jewish holidays occurring in the same week as we usually hold our Festival, as well as conflicts with Spring Training and university visitations…

Members were encouraged to email the Hillside Best Western hotel, to thank them for their hospitality again this year. We’re told this helps Gerry significantly in his negotiations for the next year’s Festival in the Chicago area…

After the membership meeting and into the afternoon and early evening, QUARTET singing abounded. There were quartets at the Registration table, in the bar, in the halls and the lobby, etc. (We understand that a LARGE contingent – two or perhaps even three shuttle loads – went out to a local steak house for a fairly early repast together.)

The Saturday evening Parade, with the inconceivable (sorry, incontrovertible) Ray Henders as MC, was a rousing success. (Henders had told Raymond that he had three new jokes, but unfortunately they turned out to be the same old ones, just presented in a higher key…) The pick-up contest champs, WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, led off on stage with Gerry Carroll as substitute lead, Norm Starks having had to depart early to attend a conflicting event. But GADZOOKS were there, for the twelfth or thirteenth time in a row, again with a new bass singer, which seems to happen almost every year. (Grin…) The other quartets that appeared on our Parade included RANDOM SAMPLE, from the Minneapolis-St.Paul area (all members of BQPA/Pioneers), CHICAGO TIMES, unfortunately including Ray Henders as tenor, from the greater Chicago area, SYNERGY, and Q’d Up. Wonderful to have all of the groups as our parade entertainment.

The Parade ended with our traditional rendition of Keep America Singing.
With the formal elements of the Festival completed, we all adjourned to the corners of our meeting room, as well as areas immediately adjacent, and proceeded to sing some more. Again, it lasted well past midnight. When I left the field of battle, having had an hour singing with tenor Ben Miller, lead Frank Fabian and legendary bass Pete Tyree, there were still quartets singing in two rooms off the hall leading from our meeting room, and a bunch of college-age guys – friends of Jim Angell’s grandsons(s?).

This was a most successful and enjoyable Festival. LOTS of QUARTET singing. (Well, yeah, that’s what we came for, no? That’s the bottom line…) There were MANY gents with medals of one color or another from SPEBSQSA, but just as many and more “Joe Barbershoppers.” Didn’t matter who you were or what your past accomplishments – everyone got a chance to sing some good stuff in QUARTETS.

THANKS – as usual – must go to all the folks who made it happen! The Chairs of all the committees that DO things. The Board members who remind the Chairs of what the Chairs already know. The registration volunteers who labor, but also get to sing with everyone who comes up to the table to register. The quartets. Everyone!
Remember the spring Festival, in Tempe. Don’t remember who it was, but one of the folks said he already had his reservations at the Embassy Suites!

Barily yours,
Tom Noble, President BQPA/Pioneers

Top Placing Quartets:
Tenor – Jerry Steffen Lead – Norm Starks
Bari – Lee Taylor Bass – Bill Myers

Tenor – Harlan Mellem Lead – June Noble
Bari – Chuck Guthrie Bass – Jim Hedding

Tenor – Emmett Bossing Lead – Earle Holt
Bari – Tom Noble Bass – Glenn Mills