Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association

BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Chicago, 9/3 - 6/2014

Thanks to our incorrigible Chicago Festival Chairman, Gerry Carroll, and his staff, another fine festival of “do-it-yerself” quartetting in the old style has chordially come and, alas, gone. Nearly 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 3rd 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 fourth year.

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

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 how best to attract talent for our Saturday evening Quartet Parades and communications with our members and with the general barbershopping population. This year, we’ve shown big screen ads at SPEBSQSA International, and we’ll be doing that at the Mid-Atlantic District and Harmony, Inc. International conventions later in the year, as well as posting and emailing 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 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. Raymond Schwarzkopf was the MC, and Lisa, his lady, was Chairman of Judges, and the panel was made up of various Angells. The winning quartet featured the lovely wife of yours truly, and they were the standout of the evening, as agreed by all (except, of course, for the other competing quartets.) They definitely deserved the blue 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 a couple of hours of the best barbershop QUARTET singing this year. Sang bunches of old but established arrangements and more unfamiliar songs from our lyrics books. Also had an opportunity to teach a tag that nobody else I know is aware of: Way Down South Where The Sweet Magnolias Grow.

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 Friends were read off, including some who may not have been members of BQPA/Pioneers. We remembered especially Forry Haynes, the bari of The Mid-States Four, and Ron Starling, the bass of the Four Chorders, both of whom left us since our last Festival. 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 8th through the 11th, 2015. We will again be occupying the “L” shaped “Tempe Ballroom” on the second floor. This upstairs space has proven to be more than adequate for all our needs, and will be available for us to sing in all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
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 $114.00 per night for a queen or king suite, up $5.00 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 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 occurs after the (excellent) dinner…

 Members were encouraged to email the Hillside Best Western hotel, to thank them for their hospitality again this year. Gerry tells us that this helps significantly in his negotiations for the next year’s Festival in the Chicago area. They’ve also asked us to post our compliments to Expedia, TripAdvisor and

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. A large contingent – about 25 – went out to a local steak house for a repast together, but got back rather late, due to a shuttle bus snafu.)  Nevertheless, the Saturday evening Parade, with Raymond as MC, was a rousing success. The pick-up contest champs, NOBLEAIRES, led off on stage. But GADZOOKS were there, for the fourteenth 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: FACE THE MUSIC, MENAGERIE, AUDACITY (Sweet Adelines), and JUKEBOX. Wonderful to have all of the groups as our Parade entertainment – THANKS!

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. I have to say I was in 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.

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.

I have to mention that we were joined this festival by Robin Thomas and his lovely wife Val. They won the competition for coming the longest way, hands down, as they live in Holland On Sea, Essex, England! (Regrettably, Robin’s quartet, With One From Across The Pond, came only fourth in our pick-up quartet contest, so the Thomas's flew home without trophies, medals or ribbons. But they left us with happy memories and professed to have had a fine time while with us.

THANKS – as usual – must go to all the folks who made it all 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

Top Placing Quartets:

Tenor – Harlan Mellem
Lead – June Noble
Bari – Lee Taylor
Bass – Rex Touslee

Tenor – Frank Fabian
Lead – Rex Touslee
Bari: Darrell Egertson
Bass: Jim Milner

Tenor: Gary Mathews
Lead: John Q. Morris
Bari: Tom Millot
Bass: Dave Brady