BQPA/Pioneers Quartet Festival in Chicago, 9/5 - 9/2018


We put another fine “do-it-yerself convention” of old style barbershop quartetting in the record books in September.  Gerry Carroll and Raymond Schwarzkopf, as usual, were able to arrange reasonable 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…  This year we occupied the Jefferson room, which had enough space for a number of quartets singing at the same time, in the far corners.


There were about 75 singers and guests in the room for our Saturday evening quartet parade, and more than 45 attended the Friday evening pick-up quartet contest.  A number of illnesses 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 5th 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 eighth 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, 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, which also included Membership Records Chair Frank Fliszar.  The winning quartet, SO LONG 4, was made up of Ken Yergler, Chuck Guthrie, Jim Milner and Jim Foy.  What song they sang has receded into the past, but they 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. 

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 past midnight.


On Saturday morning, the BQPA/Pioneers annual Membership meeting was held.  The names of Missing Voices were read off, including some who were not members of BQPA/Pioneers.  We remembered especially two legends: Terry Clarke, bass of The Boston Common, who died in February, 2018, while attending a barbershop event in Florida, and Milt Christensen, lead of the 1972 gold medal quartet champion Golden Staters and of the 1992 Senior champs, One More Time.  We also remembered Earl McDougal, our host when we gathered at Fallbrook, who last visited us our last gathering at the Embassy Suites. A reverent rendition of The Old Songs was sung, to sing them along on their way to the Chorus Eternal.   


A musical “Changing of the Guard” was held, in which a QUARTET with President Tom Noble as the baritone started “Heart Of My Heart”.  Part way through the song, he was replaced at baritone by our new President, Lee Taylor, representing the passing of the torch to the new administration.  Tom gave a “Farewell” address and was greeted with applause.


Jim Milner, the Chairman for the Spring Festival in Tempe, Arizona, reported that the Holiday Inn and Suites in Mesa has a new owner and that the room rates have been raised significantly.  Jim has made Board-approved new arrangements with the Tempe Inn and Suites which has reasonable guest room rates, an airport shuttle, an adequate meeting room, and a hotel-sponsored “social hour”.  However, Jim reminded us that – unfortunately – the Wednesday night spaghetti dinners are no more, the Arizona QUARTET Chapter having lost its lease …


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 lenient cancellation policy, but late reservations are very difficult to switch into the group guest room rate.  That rate is $80.00 per night for a queen or king room and $90.00 for a 2-room suite.  Jim emphasized that reservations should be made by phone, at 480-897-7900, and be sure you indicate you’ll be attending the BQPA/Pioneers Barbershop Quartet Festival, to get the group rates.


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, new Prez Lee Taylor announced that Bernie Esberner has accepted the position of Vice President as well as taking on the Chairmanship of our Western Festival.  Lee also recognized the other officers and advisors who have agreed to continue in their positions.


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, SO LONG 4, led off on stage.  Three other QUARTETS, assembled for the event from attending members, regaled the audience, including Random Sample with Raymond standing (kneeling) in for Harlan Mellem, who could not be with us this gathering.  Our guest quartet was Implied HARMONY, who were very much the headliners.


Additional highlights of the event included June Noble performing a solo of the Chad Mitchell Trio’s somewhat bawdy “Mandy Lane”, and a rousing auction of a fine framed needlepoint depiction of a barbershop QUARTET which was ultimately won by member Don Doss. 


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, again this year I was able to sing “Creole Cutie” in a quartet.  We left our gathering room cleared of sound system, registration materials and banner, due to the help and assistance of many volunteers.


This was another most successful and enjoyable Gathering.  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 Tempe, AZ.   


Barily yours,


Tom Noble, Immediate Past President




Top Placing Quartets:


Win:    Contestant #9 – SO LONG 4

                            Tenor – Ken Yergler                      Baritone – Jim Milner

                            Lead – Chuck Guthrie                    Bass – Jim Foy



                             Tenor – Gary Mathews                  Baritone – Darrell Eggertson

                             Lead – Paul Herzog                       Bass – John Close


Show:  Contestant #2 – BLUE BY U 4

                            Tenor – Jim Angell                        Baritone – Art Dusenbury

                            Lead – June Noble                          Bass – Dave Brady