Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association
BQPA/Pioneers Fall Festival in Chicago, 2015
Thanks to our indefatigable Chicago Festival Chairman, Gerry Carroll, and his staff, another fine “do-it-yerself convention” for quartetting in the old style has chordially come and, alas, gone. Nearly 75 singers and guests populated the Jefferson room at the Hillside Best Western for our Saturday evening show, and close to 60 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 9th 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 fifth year.
Thursday morning dawned cold and overcast, but – after the complimentary breakfast – the golfers drove off for rounds which ended up rather damp, but 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 a bit long, due to serious discussions regarding the costs of mounting our annual Festival in the Phoenix area. Our revenues from the Spring Festival in Tempe did not cover the expenses for that Festival, and a major segment of time was taken up by discussion and consideration of alternatives.
Thankfully, for 2016, our VP for Western Festivals has succeeded in negotiating a reasonable contract with Embassy Suites, although the hotel had wanted to double the charge for our meeting room. Jim was successful in emphasizing the fact that our Festivals are funded exclusively by our donations, and that was sufficient to tip the balance for next year, but we need to be aware that Embassy Suites may price us out of their facility thereafter.
It was reported that, again this year, we’ve shown big screen ads at the 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!!!)
Our Founder, Tom Neal, was unable to attend this Festival, due to pressures of business, but provided an Old Songs List, which was featured on the Registration table. Many voices mentioned the hope that Tom can be with us next spring in Tempe…
Friday morning came and – because the rain stopped short at EXACTLY 8:50 am, as forecast – a few 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 (some at the weekly Friday evening Fish Fry at Charlie’s), but rehearsals of the die-hards continued until moments before the contest started.
The contest went off very nicely. In Tom Neal’s absence, Raymond Schwarzkopf acted as the MC and presided as the Chairman of Judges, and Lisa, his lady, was on the panel, the remainder of which consisted – as last year – of various Angells. The winning quartet, Totally Uncalled Four, consisted of Harlan Mellem, Frank Fabian, Pat Lanphier and Dave Brady. 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. Again this year, second and third place quartets were awarded ribbons. 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 theJefferson room. That informal QUARTET singing went on until well after midnight.
As has happened the last few years, 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 and some sheet music.
On Saturday morning, the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting was held, and again the major topic was the cost of our festivals to the organization, and how to address that challenge.
The names of Departed Friends were read off, including some who were not members of BQPA/Pioneers. We remembered especially James Sabina, the tenor of Metropolis, and Gene Cokeroft, tenor of The Suntones. A reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to help them along their way to the Chorus Eternal. We also asked for prayers and healing thoughts for Dr. Greg Lyne and for our members Emmett Bossing and Chuck Guthrie, who were battling illnesses.
But – as noted – the topic of most interest was the cost of funding our Festivals. Sentiment seemed to lean toward appreciation for the Embassy Suites venue, if we can generate enough revenue to afford it. Members were encouraged to be as generous as they can, to support the cost of our meeting rooms, which represents the largest outlay we experience from our Western Festival…
Jim Milner, the Chairman for the Spring Festival in Tempe, Arizona, confirmed that we will in fact be meeting in the Embassy Suites in Tempe April 6th through the 9th, 2016. 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 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 $119.00 per night for a queen or king suite, up $5.00 from last year, and that 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 really nice, suite-type rooms and other accommodations, such as the 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 Club meets. Much quartetting occurs after the (excellent and inexpensive) 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 Hotels.com.
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, and – this year – got back in time for our Quartet Parade.
The Saturday evening Parade, with Raymond as MC, was a rousing success. The pick-up contest champs, TOTALLY UNCALLED FOUR, led off on stage, singing Nellie. For the first time in recent memory, GADZOOKS were unable to be with us. The other quartets that appeared on our Parade included MEASURE FOR MEASURE (a young Sweet Adelines quartet in their debut performance), ABILENE PARADOX (BIG repertoire – and you should look up the name on Google!) and JUKEBOX, who also sang for us last year. Along with their stand-alone performance, MEASURE FOR MEASURE sang Will I Ever Tell You with a pickup quartet who sang Lida Rose! 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 not in the last quartet left on the field of battle this year, but we left the room cleared of sound system, registration materials and banner, due to the help and assistance of a number of folks, especially Jim Hedding, Jerry Larson, Harlan Mellem and Jerry Steffen. THANKS!
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 a number of 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 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 folks who helped strike after the Parade. 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!
Tom Noble, President
Top Placing Quartets:
Win: Contestant #5 – TOTALLY UNCALLED 4
Tenor – Harlan Mellem Baritone – Pat Lanphier
Lead – Frank Fabian Bass – Dave Brady
Song: Sweet Roses Of Morn
Place: Contestant #9 – BY YOUR SIDE
Tenor – Jim Angell Baritone – Jim Richards
Lead – Brian Cromer Bass – Frank Fabian
Song: Sweet And Lovely
Show: Contestant #7 – THE TANTAPHONICS
Tenor – Gary Mathews Baritone – Darrell Egertson
Lead – June Noble Bass – Jim Milner
Song: I’m Alone Because I Love You