BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Chicago, 9/7 - 10/2016


Thanks to our incorrigible Chicago Festival Chairman, Gerry Carroll, and his staff, another fine “do-it-yerself convention” for barbershop quartetting in the old style has chordially come and, alas, gone.  Nearly 90 singers and guests populated the Jefferson 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 7th 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 sixth year.


Thursday morning dawned rather cold and damp, but – after the complimentary breakfast – the golfers drove off for rounds which ended up somewhat soggy, 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 on a number of topics, especially our annual Spring Festival in the Phoenix area.  Since the Embassy Suites wanted to double the charges for our meeting room next year, we have decided to move to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Mesa, Arizona, five miles to the east of our previous gathering place.


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


Friday morning came and 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 few at the weekly Friday evening Fish Fry at Charlie’s, in-house), but rehearsals of the die-hards continued until moments before the contest started. 


The contest went off very nicely.  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 again consisted – as last year – of various Angells.  The winning quartet, Arranger’s Dangers, consisted of Barney Griffin, Adam Kaufman, Tom Larson and Bill Myers.  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 of the room were occupied by quartets, and the singing spilled out into the corridors outside the Jefferson room.  That informal QUARTET singing went on until well after midnight.


On Saturday morning, the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting was held, and again the major topic was the move from the Embassy Suites in Tempe to the Holiday Inn in Mesa, Arizona.


The names of Departed Friends were read off, including some who were not members of BQPA/Pioneers.  We remembered especially Gerry Carroll’s son, Gerry, and Bobbie Bostick, the tenor of The Cracker Jills.  A reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to help them along their way to the Chorus Eternal.   


Jim Milner, the Chairman for the Spring Festival in Tempe, Arizona, made the announcement about our move to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Mesa, emphasizing the room rate of $89 and the amenities there, which are almost as broad as those at the Embassy Suites.  The main disadvantages are two: no free happy hour, and the lack of a free airport shuttle.  But the management had agreed to cut the room rate to counteract the cost of that transfer.  (An Uber car trip is estimated at $17 to $22, and there is also a Super Shuttle franchise in Phoenix that can provide transport.)


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 again is $89.00 per night for a queen or king suite, and that rate is offered to our attendees three days before and three days after our Festival.  It’s just a bit more expensive out of pocket than Chicago, and the pool and hot tub look gorgeous.  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…


As usual, members were encouraged to email the Hillside Best Western hotel, to thank them for their hospitality in Chicago again this year.  Gerry and Raymond tell us that this helps significantly in their negotiations for the next year’s Festival in the Chicago area.  They’ve also asked us to post our complimentary reviews to Expedia, TripAdvisor and


Something new: we have agreed to cooperate with AHSOW in promoting each other’s events and activities, for the mutual benefit of both organizations and all of our respective members.   We’ve collectively realized that AHSOW can be viewed as the “farm team” for BQPA/Pioneers.   In particular, we’ll exchange press releases announcing and providing details of our respective activities, without any formal ties or exchange of membership lists. 


It was also announced that we had decided to dispense with the rental of sound equipment in Chicago next year, in favor of using the excellent system used during the Membership meeting.  This rig is co-owned by Jim Jarosz’s quartet and Gerry Carroll’s chapter, and we’ll offer them an honorarium for its use.


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 folks – went out to Stacy’s steak house for a repast together, and – again 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, ARRANGER’S DANGERS, led off on stage.  The other quartets that appeared on our Parade included Implied HARMONY, ABILENE PARADOX, and our headliners from Wisconsin, EASY DAYS.  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 Maggie and Gary Mathews and Jerry Steffen.  THANKS!


It needs to be noted that, over the run of this Festival, at least seventeen new folks signed up for membership in BQPA/Pioneers.  Huzzah!  It was so heavy a run on the registration table that we ran out of membership pins, and had to borrow from current members who had more than one.  (We PROMISE to replace them!!!)


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 April, in Mesa, AZ.   


Barily yours,


Tom Noble, President




Top Placing Quartets:


Win:     Contestant #9 – ARRANGER’S DANGERS

              Tenor – Barney Griffin                        Baritone – Tom Larson

              Lead – Adam Kaufman                       Bass – Bill Myers

            Song:  Sitting On Top Of The World


Place:   Contestant #8 – MAGNIFICENT SEVENTH

             Tenor – Jim Jarosz                               Baritone – Jim Fourmont

              Lead – Adam Kaufman                       Bass – Rich Carey

            Song:  From The First Hello


Show:   Contestant #13 – LARSEN’S FOLLY

            Tenor – Jim Angell                              Baritone – Tom Larson

             Lead – Jerry Larsen                             Bass – Gary Baker

            Song:  Sweet & Lovely