BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Tempe, AZ, 4/6 - 9/2016


Well, another great Festival of “do-it-yerself” quartetting in the old style has been chordially completed – thanks to our VP (West) and Tempe Festival Chairman, Mr. Jim Milner.  Nearly 90 singers and guests populated the Tempe Ballroom at the Embassy Suites Tempe for our Saturday evening show, and close to 60 were on hand for our traditional “pick-up” quartet contest Friday evening.


Two dozen singers had checked in at the Embassy Suites by the end of the day Wednesday, the 6th of April.  A good deal of QUARTET singing ensued (what a surprise), and foursomes were assembled for purposes both musical and golf-oriented.  A great spaghetti and meatball dinner was consumed at the American Italian Club in northern Phoenix, followed immediately by 3 cycles of do-it-yerself pick-up quartetting, hosted by the Arizona Quartet Club.  There were some almost surprisingly good sounds, and lots of camaraderie (read that as “cat-calls” and “friendly”, “helpful” comments…)


Thursday morning dawned early and bright, and – after the complimentary breakfast – the golfers drove off for their 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 stick.  (Many said they had more fun singing than golfing that day…)


Our BQPA/Pioneers Board conducted the usual meeting on Thursday afternoon, after the golfers had returned.  The confab was chordial and salubrious, without very much rancor, approving in general the continuation of our efforts to reach out to the general barbershopping population to encourage them to join us for a few days of fine, fun singing – IN QUARTETS.  Although we’re taking a year off as regards the big screen ads, this past year, we’ve shown them at the SPEBSQSA International, the Mid-Atlantic District convention and the Harmony, Inc. International convention, as well as posting and emailing – at a raft of events – flyers announcing our Festivals.


On Thursday evening, our Registration table opened up, staffed by our volunteers.  And there was much QUARTET singing.  (DUH!!!)


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


But the contest went off very nicely, as usual.  BQPA/Pioneers Founder, Tom Neal, while he visited with us Friday afternoon, could not be with us to MC in the evening, so your correspondent filled in.  The “round robin” judging methodology which had caused cries of outrage last year was replaced with “qualified” judges: Mr. Al Lindseth, Mr James Milner, and Mr. John Fynmore, the tenor of Audacity quartet. 


Eleven QUARTETS took the stage in turn, and – for once – no song was repeated.  QUARTET names were, as usual, strange, ranging from “Aardvarks” to “Zero”.  “Three Good Voices” took third place and white ribbons; “East Meets West” gained second place and red ribbons.  The members of “OK By Me” were invested with blue ribbons from which depended gold medals inscribed in honor of our dear departed member, Jinny Janis (of The Chordettes.)


It transpired that each of the QUARTETS awarded the top three places in the contest included a member of an SPEBSQSA champion QUARTET: Pete Tyree (bari of The Orphans), Bill Myers (bass of Revival), and Jim Foy (bass of Happiness Emporium.)  As judge Fynmore had garnered a gold Seniors medal with Audacity, it was deemed appropriate, yea mandatory, for those four to arise and present a song, which – after much false modesty – they proceeded to do with alacrity.  (Always wanted to use that word in a sentence…)  Great applause resulted, as they sounded significantly better than the competing QUARTETS.  (Duh…)


Again as usual, there was a bit more singing after the contest session.  (Well, umm, HOURS more…)  All four corners of our gathering room were occupied by QUARTETS, and the singing spilled out into the corridors and down into the bar and restaurant area downstairs.  That informal QUARTET singing went on until well after midnight. 


Some other notable attendees must be mentioned.  Members Terry and Christine Aramian were in our audiences, and Earl and Beverly Mc Dougal were present, as well.  I was honored to sing a couple of songs with Earl, who I had not met previously.  (You may remember the Mc Dougals were the folks who hosted BQPA/Pioneers gatherings at their wedding resort at Fallbrook, CA.) Earl’s voice, at ninety-something, is as strong as ever – it was a joy to sing with him.


On Saturday morning, the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting went pretty quickly, as discussions in the Board meeting had taken care of most business earlier in the week. 


The names of Departed Voices were read off, including some who may not have been members of BQPA/Pioneers.  We remembered especially BQPA members Cal Revis (our Festival photographer), Dave Walker (Allied Four), Emmett Bossing (Barber-Q Four), Jim Richards (Society President and bass of Grandma’s Beaus, 1990 Senior Chanps), and Phil McCabe (The Four Colonels (military) quartet), as well as Bob Welzenbach (Oriole Four), Al Baker (Border Patrol) and Dottie Hummitsch Schwartz (The Chordettes).  A slow and reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to send them all on their way to the Chorus Eternal. 


Gerry Carroll, VP (East) and the Chairman for our Fall Festival in the Chicago area, announced that we will again be meeting at the Best Western in Hillside, Illinois, September 7th through the 10th, 2016.  We will have gathering rooms on the same familiar hallway which will be available for us to sing in all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  (See all the details on the


Gerry encouraged reserving guest rooms early, even if you might have to cancel later should 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 room rate.  That rate is still an enormous bargain: $69.00 per night for a queen or king guest room!  And the rate includes free breakfast! Come one, come all…


Members were encouraged to email the Embassy Suites hotel, to thank them for their hospitality again this year.  Jim Milner tells us that this helps significantly in his negotiations for the next year’s Festival in the Phoenix 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, on the patio, in the halls and the lobby, etc. 


As seems to occur at every Festival, I personally experienced hours of the best barbershop QUARTET singing available.  A group spent some time singing through about half of the song titles listed in our 2013 Old Songs Survey.  Another group sang bunches of old but established arrangements and more unfamiliar songs from the Heritage of Harmony songbooks. 


Later on, a large contingent – about 25 or 30 – went out again this year to the Four Peaks Brewing Co. for a repast together, but got back in good time to attend the QUARTET Parade at eight o’clock. 


Our Parade was a rousing success.  As is our tradition, the pick-up contest champs, “OK By Me”, led off on stage.  The Parade, ringmastered by our MC Emeritus, Bob Dykstra, proceeded with “Cheaper Than Therapy”, a women’s quartet who took the stage wearing nuns’ wimples and began by singing a medley starting with “Follow The Fold And Stray No More”, from Guys & Dolls; “Entrenous”, a men’s QUARTET from Sun City West; and “Lilac Crazy”, another women’s QUARTET, who encouraged us to “pronounce their name out loud.”  “High Priority”, this year’s Seniors QUARTET champs, were our headliners.  Wonderful to have all of the groups as our Parade entertainment – THANKS!


The Parade, and with it, the official parts of our Festival, 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.  I have to say I was in not quite the last QUARTET left on the field of battle, and we left the room before we really wanted to, as people had to get up in the morning to travel homeward.  But I got to sing a couple that really rang!


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, including Chuck Brooks, the bari of The Colonials, 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, with good people, in QUARTETS. 


I have to say that the last song I had the pleasure of singing at this Festival, late Saturday evening, was absolutely orgasmic!  We sang “I’m Alone Because I Love You”, and the other three in that QUARTET were John Fynmore, Byron Bennett (lead of this year’s Seniors champs, High Priority) and Bill Myers.


THANKS – as usual – must go to all the folks who made it all happen!  The VP and Producer of the Tempe Festival, Jim Milner!  The Chairs of all the committees that DO things.  The Board members who remind the Chairs to do the things the Chairs already know how to do.  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 Fall Festival, in Chicago – get the details from our website.  I don’t remember who all of them were, but a number of folks said they already had their reservations at the Hillside Best Western!  See you there!


Barily yours,


Tom Noble, President




Top Placing Pick-up Quartets:


Win:     OK BY ME

            Tenor – Jim Angell

            Lead – Frank Fabian

            Bari  Tom Noble

Bass – Pete Tyree




            Tenor – Gary Mathews

            Lead – Adam Kaufman

            Bari – Dick Kimball

            Bass – Bill Myers



            Tenor – Jim Jarosz

            Lead – Dick Kimball

            Bari – Bernie Esberner

            Bass – Jim Foy