BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Chicago, 9/6 - 10/2017


Well, we’ve put another great “do-it-yerself convention” of old style barbershop quartetting in the record books.  Gerry Carroll and Raymond Schwarzkopf, as usual, were able to arrange fine accommodations for us at the Hillside Best Western.  They fought long and hard in the negotiations for guest room pricing, but could not get the BW folks to give up that extra twenty-five cents…  On the other hand, this year we had the nice large Lafayette room again – large enough to accommodate five quartets singing at the same time, in the far corners.


There were nearly 90 singers and guests in the room for our Saturday evening quartet parade, and more than 45 attended the Friday evening pick-up quartet contest.  This was more than might have been expected, what with hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and fires out west, threatening folks’ homes.  We definitely had a few members message us at the last minute to say they could not in good conscience come to be with us this time around.  A number of illnesses also contributed to the slightly smaller membership attendance – hope everyone has recovered their good health by now.


Close to two dozen singers had checked in at the Best Western hotel in Hillside, Illinois by the end of the day Wednesday, the 6th 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 seventh year (believe it or not!)


After the complimentary breakfast Thursday morning 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 (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.   Later, 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 – a lot of confusion, with folks searching for their other voice part singers.  Some left, then, for somewhat leisurely dinners (some few at the no-longer-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, all of whom were from the distaff side – a first for BQPA/Pioneers.  The winning quartet, UNICHORDS, was made up of Tom Noble, Jerry Larson, Jim Gallagher and Bill Myers.  They sang I Don’t Mind Being All Alone, and were awarded 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 Lafayette room.  That informal QUARTET singing went on past midnight.


On Saturday morning, the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting was held.  The names of Departed Friends were read off, including some who were not members of BQPA/Pioneers.  We remembered especially Bob Dykstra’s wife, Lou Ann, who passed away in July.  She was a 60-year member of Sweet Adelines International, and sang bari in the 1982 International gold medalist quartet, Music Gallery.  Other names included Glen Perdue, a barbershop mover and shaker in the Illinois District, and  Connie Keil – Bryn Mawr, PA, Houston, TX and Tucson, AZ – a quartet man (Mainliners), coach, director, judge, member of DELASUQUHUDMAC, the Mid-Atlantic District’s Honor Chapter.  A reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to sing them along on their way to the Chorus Eternal.   


Jim Milner, the Chairman for the Spring Festival in Tempe, Arizona, reported that  our move to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Mesa, was a rousing success, due at least in part to the lower guest room rate there, as opposed to the rates at the Embassy Suites.   He noted that next year’s spring festival is already contracted for, at the same rates.  They liked us and we liked them.  Some minor hitches, such as the shortage of bar staff at some hours, have been discussed and will be adjusted.


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 again $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.  The rooms are just twenty-five cents LESS expensive out of pocket than Chicago, and the pool and hot tub are 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, Gerry Carroll encouraged members 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


Finally, VP Lee Taylor noted that he’s chairing a nominating committee, the other members of which are Rex Touslee and Jack Martin.  Lee mentioned that from time to time there will be rotations from the ranks of the officers of the organization, and that the guys are reviewing succession possibilities for various positions.  The committee, whose methods Lee described as “primarily stealth”, may be approaching folks, looking for people to understudy and prepare to assume officers’ and advisors’ roles when the time comes.


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, The UNICHORDS, led off on stage.  The other quartets that appeared on our Parade included Implied HARMONY, ABILENE PARADOX, and JUKEBOX.  Wonderful to have all of the groups as our Parade entertainment – THANKS!


One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of an honorary membership in the BQPA/Pioneers to Jarmela Speta, who attended our gathering, coached at least one of the performing quartets, made constructive comments to many of the informal groups, and gave us all a short talk about the importance to good singing of good health, proper posture and body alignment.  Jarmela is a long-time member of Sweet Adelines, a coach and a chorus director, and sang in THREE Sweet Adelines champion QUARTETS!


The other outstanding event was the song sung on stage by Mr. Billy McKnight, who again attended our parade.  Bill was the lead of the Barber-que Four, back in the day, with Moose Haeger, Emmett Bossing and Tom Watts, now all gone.  Bill’s wife of some sixty years burst into happy tears when he began singing informally as soon as they arrived, as Billy had apparently declined to sing at home for quite some time.  We got Bill up on stage, and he sang right out with three other guys, to be applauded with a Standing “O”.


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 even into unoccupied rooms down the hall, and proceeded to sing some more.  Singing continued until nearly one o’clock in the morning.  I‘m happy to say that this year I WAS in the last quartet left on the field of battle, but even so, we left our gathering room cleared of sound system (thanks Jim Jarosz!), registration materials and banner, due to the help and assistance of many volunteers.


It needs to be noted that, over the run of this Festival, at least ten new folks signed up for membership in BQPA/Pioneers.  Huzzah! 


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.  And a bunch of people made sure they sang with Pete Tyree…


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 #7 – UNICHORDS

                            Tenor – Tom Noble                              Lead – Jerry Larson

                            Baritone – Jim Gallagher                     Bass – Bill Myers


Place:  Contestant #5 – THE DISCHORDS

                            Tenor – Barney Griffin                  Baritone – Paul Ludwig

                            Lead – Adam Kaufman                   Bass – Don Doss


Show: Contestant #8 – NEW TONIANS

                             Tenor – Jim Angell                        Baritone – Chuck Guthrie

                             Lead – Adam Kaufman                  Bass – John Close