BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Mesa, AZ, 4/5-8/2017


Well, another great Festival of “do-it-yerself” quartetting in the old style has been chordially completed – thanks to our VP (West) and Tempe Festival Chairman, Mr. Jim Milner and his side-kick, Bernie Esberner.  Nearly 80 singers and guests populated excellent new digs: the Rio Salado Ballroom at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Mesa, for our Saturday evening show, and more than 50 were on hand for our traditional “pick-up” quartet contest Friday evening.


Two dozen singers had checked in at the Holiday Inn by the end of the day Wednesday, the 5th of April.  A good deal of QUARTET singing ensued (what a surprise), and foursomes were assembled for purposes both musical and golf-oriented.  A great spaghetti and meatball dinner was consumed at the American Italian Club in northern Phoenix, followed immediately by a number of cycles of do-it-yerself pick-up quartetting, hosted by the Arizona Quartet Club.  There were some almost surprisingly good sounds, and lots of camaraderie (read that as “cat-calls” and “friendly”, “helpful” comments…)


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


Our BQPA/Pioneers Board conducted the usual meeting on Thursday afternoon, after the golfers had returned.  The confabulation was chordial and salubrious, without very much rancor, approving in general the continuation of our efforts to reach out to the general barbershopping population to encourage them to join us for a few days of fine, fun singing – IN QUARTETS.  


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 just barely 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.  BQPA/Pioneers Founder, Tom Neal, was again our MC, as in days gone by.  The members of “Anything Goes” quartet acted as the judges, and the participants praised the expertise of the judges, since they could actually sing together, as demonstrated the following evening when they appeared on our Parade.   


Eleven QUARTETS took the stage in turn, and – thankfully – only two songs were repeated.  QUARTET names were, as usual, strange, ranging from “States Of Confusion” to “Over The Edge”.  “Mother’s Pride” took third place and white ribbons, after a tie with “Tonsorial Bartering” was broken by their respective “Singing, Sound & Musical Presentation” scores.  “Colonel Mustard And His Privates” gained second place and red ribbons.  The members of the cryptically named “SPIT” quartet were invested with blue ribbons from which depended gold medals inscribed in honor of our dear departed member, Jinny Janis (of The Chordettes.)


Again as usual, there was a bit more singing after the contest session.  (Well, umm, HOURS more…)  All four corners of our gathering room were occupied by QUARTETS, and the singing spilled out into the corridors and out into the lobby and bar area.  That informal QUARTET singing went on until well after midnight.  We also had the pleasure of singing for members of the high-school age leadership seminar that was hosted by the hotel at the same time as our gathering.


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 Voices were read off, including some who may not have been members of BQPA/Pioneers.  We remembered especially BQPA members Rich Vormelker, Tom Millot, Dave Lyman, Cal Revis, and Dave Walker.  We also noted the passing of Chuck Harner, Jeff Baker, ‘Doc’ Sause, Ed Beaver, Bill Johnson, Glen Arenson, and Stan Sharp.  A slow and reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to send them all on their way to the Chorus Eternal. 


Gerry Carroll, VP (East) and the Chairman for our Fall Festival in the Chicago area, announced that we will again be meeting at the Best Western in Hillside, Illinois, September 6th through the 10th, 2017.  We will have gathering rooms on the same familiar hallway, which will be available for us to sing in all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  (See all the details on the website:


Gerry encouraged reserving guest rooms early, even if you might have to cancel later should your plans or your calendar change.  The hotel has a very lenient cancellation policy, but this year a deadline of JULY 28, 2017 has been imposed to get the group room rate.  That rate is still an enormous bargain: $89.25 per night for a queen or king guest room!  And the rate includes free breakfast!  Come one, come all…


Members were encouraged to email the Holiday Inn, to thank them for their hospitality this year.  Jim Milner tells us that this helps significantly in his negotiations for the next year’s Festival in the Phoenix area. 


After the membership meeting and into the afternoon and early evening, QUARTET singing abounded.  There were QUARTETS at the Registration table, in the bar, on the patio, in the halls and the lobby, etc. 


Later on, a large contingent – about 25 or 30 – went out again this year to the Four Peaks Brewing Co. for a repast together, but got back in good time to attend the QUARTET Parade at eight o’clock.  


Our Parade was a rousing success, as usual.  As is our tradition, the pick-up contest champs, in this case “SPIT”, led off on stage.  The Parade, ringmastered by Paul Ludwig, proceeded with “Saucebox”, “Two Under Par”, “Lilac Crazy” (a women’s QUARTET who encouraged us to “pronounce their name out loud”), “Renaissance”, “Anything Goes” (our Friday evening judges), and “Trans-Sonoran Xpress”.  Wonderful to have all of the groups as our Parade entertainment – THANKS!


The Parade, and with it, the official parts of our Festival, 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 not quite 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.  But I got to sing a couple that really rang!


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, with good people, in QUARTETS. 


THANKS – as usual – must go to all the folks who made it all happen!  The VP and Producer of the Tempe Festival, Jim Milner!  The Chairs of all the committees that DO things.  The Board members who remind the Chairs to do the things the Chairs already know how to do.  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 Fall Festival, in Chicago – get the details from our website.  I don’t remember who all of them were, but a number of folks said they already had their reservations at the Hillside Best Western!  Remember there’s a reservation DEADLINE, this year!  See you there!


Barily yours,


Tom Noble, President




Top Placing Pick-up Quartets:


Win:    SPIT

            Tenor – Jim Jarosz

            Lead – Jerry Larson

            BariTom Noble

Bass – Bill Myers



            Tenor – Gene Schuh

            Lead – Rob Baltensberger

            BariPaul Ludwig

            Bass – Mike Werner


Show:  MOTHER’S Pride

            Tenor – Barney Griffin

            Lead – Dave Purcell

            Bari – Darrell Egertson

            Bass – Brian Kreft