Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association

                    BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Tempe, Arizona, 4/4-7/2012

Thanks to Rex Touslee, Festival Chairman and his staff, another fine
festival of “do-it-yerself” quartetting in the old style has – joyfully and
harmoniously – come, and – sadly – gone.  More than 120 singers and
guests crowded the hall for our Saturday evening show, and nearly 90
were on hand for our traditional “Out Of The Bag” quartet contest Friday

Close to two dozen singers checked in at the Embassy Suites in Tempe,
Arizona at various times on Wednesday, the 4th of April.  After singing a
few mandatory songs and tags, we adjourned in the early evening to the
American-Italian Club in the northern reaches of Phoenix, where the finest
inexpensive spaghetti and meatball dinner you could ask for was
consumed with gusto.  No singing during dinner; we were all too taken by
the food: simple but delicious!

After the meal, we joined the Arizona Quartet Chapter for two rounds of
pick-up quartetting.  If I’m not mistaken, there were at least 19 quartets
who sang, some to loud applause, and some to friendly (I think) catcalls.
The AZQC meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, and this
fits in capitally with the BQPA/Pioneers’ schedule, so the dinner and
quartet singing there are now an official part of our Spring Festival

Festivities at the AZQC ended at about 10:00 PM, and our folks trooped
back to the hotel to sing a few more and then to bank up some sleep
against the expectation of singing a good bit on Thursday.

Thursday morning dawned early and 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, rather than spoiling a good walk by swinging a club.

Our Thursday was a bit unusual this year.  Since the lobby, main
restaurant and public halls of the hotel were closed for renovation, and
our usual space had been double-booked to another group, we had to set
up registration under a canopy on the hotel lawn.  And in the evening, a
country-western singer/guitarist showed up on the hotel patio, making it
pretty difficult to sing our songs, since he did not know our music, nor we,
his.  Seemed that a lotta folks went to bed a bit early that evening.  But we

And Friday was a different story.  Lots of singers from all over –
Minnesnowta, Californiya, Ohioh, Ioway and other points checked in, and
by late afternoon we were able to appropriate our appointed space for
registration, singing, and madly searching for folks we’d never met before
and didn’t know from Adam, so as to rehearse in our Out Of The Bag

The contest went off swimmingly.  Chairman of Judges Joe Salz would not
admit to the judging categories until after the competition, but they turned
out to be “Tenor”, “Lead”, “Baritone”, “Bass”, “Entertainment” and
“Sweetness”.  (Sweetness?!?!)  In any case, the best foursome won.
(Well, at least THEY said they were the best…)  Actually, they actually did
sound pretty good; good enough to deserve the purple ribbons with the
gold medals inscribed in honor of our dear departed member, Jinny Janis.
And the winning quartet, “With A Bullet”, actually sang a DIFFERENT
acceptance song!  And it sounded even better!

More singing after the contest session.  (Well, DUH…)  Tags in this corner,
established but ringing arrangements in that one, really old songs over
there, woodshedding out on the patio.  Groups of six or eight grouped
together, changing in and out of the foursome actually singing.  Folks who
knew lead-lines singing ‘em for three other folks to harmonize to, some of
it supported by lyric sheets and songbooks.  And always, founder Tom
Neal, pounding ringing chords and progressions into the ears of close

Actually, Tom (who was – as usual – MC for the contest) brought a bunch
of ringers up on stage as an interlude during the Out Of The Bag contest.
The quartet consisted of his son, Robbie, the celebrated Rex Reeve, the
bari-turned-awesome-bass Pete Tyree, and Tom himself.  They rang a few
chords – oh, yeah…  (While we knew who was singing tenor and bass, the
lead and bari parts kept changing back and forth, even during the same
word, sometimes…)

That informal singing went on until well after midnight.  I know – I was

Saturday morning’s Membership meeting went well, with a new Board of
Directors and simplified By-laws being announced.  (You can find Board
members’ names and the new By-laws elsewhere on the website:  Our outgoing President, Jack Martin, was presented
with a beautiful wall clock and plaque expressing the appreciation of the
entire Association for his five years of dedicated service.  Chicago
Festival chairman Gerry Carroll announced that the room rate for our Fall
Festival will be a bit higher than last year: $69.00.  But such a bargain:
thrown in are our meeting room, breakfast buffet, shuttle (from O’Hare
only), beverages.  And our block of rooms are all in one wing, so we don’t
disturb unappreciative ears.  Like I said, such a bargain!  See the details
on the website.  When?  Always: the weekend AFTER Labor Day.  Y’all

Saturday afternoon, Robbie Neal presented some GREAT old audio tracks
and video footage, going back a long, long way.  There are promises of
more to come, and some of what he showed is already on YouTube.  Look
for The Orphans quartet, The Village Idiots, even The Nighthawks.  BOY,
they could ring ‘em…

The Saturday evening show, even with Gerry Carroll as MC, was a great
success.  (Really, we love ya, Gerry – really!  You looked nice, out there…)
The Out Of The Bag champs, With A Bullet, started off as mike-testers,
followed by a fine Sweet Adelines foursome, together some eight years,
Havin’ A Blast.  Also appearing were The Reformed Villains, FOGS (Four
Old Guys Singing), Back Spin, Dry Heat (back together for this
appearance), and the Arizona Chord Company.  Our headliners, as for a
number of years now, were Audacity, the 2009 BHS Senior Quartet
Champs.  They keep getting better every year, and acquitted themselves
in championship style.

With the formal elements of the Festival completed, we all adjourned to
the public areas, nooks, crannies, corners, porcelain rooms, etc., and
proceeded to sing the night away.  Again, it lasted well past midnight.  I
was still singing with Byron, the lead of Audacity, when I decided I had to
knock off at about 12:15 or 12:30, since I had to get up Sunday morning to
make pancakes for the grandkids in Tempe…

I have to say that, even with the oddities caused by the hotel renovations,
this was a most successful and enjoyable Festival.  LOTS of singing.  (Well,
DUH; it’s what we came for, eh?  Ain’t that the bottom line?)

THANKS 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!

And special thanks to our founder, Tom Neal, for, well, founding this
organization.  And to our President for the last five years, Jack Martin,
who coaxed this group of different faces and voices into becoming an
organized but simple Association so we could continue to sing together, a
tremendous thank you!

Tom Noble, President