The story of the Masters of Harmony begins in the mid-1980's when a small group of barbershoppers from the Pasadena Chapter decided to start a new chapter dedicated to musical and performance excellence. This new group with 31 members received their charter in October, 1985 and called themselves the Foothill Cities Chapter reflecting the area south of the San Gabriel Mountains where many of the members lived. The new chapter chose "Masters of Harmony" for its chorus name, and from the beginning plans were firmly in place to make that name a reality.The Masters, led by their director, Joe D'Amore, competed for the first time in March, 1986, and with 23 men on stage won the Far Western District Small Chorus Contest. The chorus continued to work hard, but membership growth was a challenge. Then, in the summer of 1987, Dr. Greg Lyne, a well-known and respected director from Illinois, moved to Southern California. The men of the Foothill Cities Chapter along with other prominent barbershoppers from the area approached Dr. Lyne with an offer to lead them in building a chorus dedicated to musical excellence. Dr. Lyne agreed and a more centrally located rehearsal facility was chosen in the City of Santa Fe Springs. The "new" Masters of Harmony held their first rehearsal on December 9, 1987 with 79 men in attendance.
Less than one year later, the Masters of Harmony won the Far Western District chorus contest in October, 1988, and in July 1989, went on to capture a fourth-place bronze medal in their first International competition held in Kansas City. The following year, in July, 1990 In San Francisco, the chorus achieved the ultimate honor by winning the International chorus championship. In July of 1993, when the chorus was next eligible to compete, it again won the International championship-this time in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Three years later, in July, 1996 in Salt Lake City, MOH achieved its third International chorus championship.
Immediately following their win in Salt Lake City, the Masters of Harmony had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday, July 7th. Later that summer, after more than eight years and four International medals, Dr. Lyne resigned as Musical Director to accept a position with the Barbershop Society. In January, 1998, Jeff Oxley from Dallas was appointed the next permanent Musical Director of MOH. In March of that same year, the Masters of Harmony were invited to participate in the Guinness Roaring 1920's Festival in Killarney, Ireland. Seventy-two members plus family and guests made the memorable trip which was the Masters' first over-seas performance.
Later in 1998, after more than 10 years rehearsing at the Town Hall Center in Santa Fe Springs, the chapter officially changed its name from the Foothill Cities Chapter to that of the Santa Fe Springs Chapter. As part of our favorable relationship with the City, MOH performed each year at the Santa Fe Springs Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration. Additionally, for 19 years we provided established and pick-up quartets to entertain on the Santa Fe Springs Christmas Floats, bringing the joy of holiday barbershop arrangements to thousands of residents, young and old.
At the 1999 International competition in Anaheim, the chorus hosted the event as well as won their fourth consecutive chorus championship. Two months later, the Masters appeared on the live world-wide TV broadcast of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon hosted by Jerry Lewis and Ed McMahon. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Oxley who had been commuting from Texas, resigned as Musical Director and was replaced in April, 2000 by Mark Hale. Success at the International level continued for the Masters of Harmony, with consecutive victories in 2002 (Portland), 2005 (Salt Lake City), 2008 (Nashville), and 2011 (Kansas City). This brought MOH's total gold medal count to eight!
After this very successful run, Mark Hale announced his resignation as Musical Director in early 2012. Following a search, the Board of Directors announced Justin Miller as the new Musical Director effective August, 2012. Justin had been an active member of the chorus as well as had led the Westminster Chorus to a championship in 2010.
In their next opportunity to compete at the 2014 International in Las Vegas, the Masters faced the iconic Vocal Majority for the first time in history. Both groups gave stellar performances with the VM besting MOH. This marked the first time in nine attempts that the Masters had not won the Gold.
While taking an extra year off from the competition cycle, the Masters continued an important musical outreach program. From 2001 until 2018 the chorus, under the leadership of Mark Freedkin, organized and sponsored an annual "Young Men's Harmony Festival". Each year this event brought together nearly 200 boys from high schools throughout Southern California for a day-long clinic and rehearsal followed by an evening performance for the public. As advocates for Arts and Music Education, this festival helped introduce the "barbershop style" to music teachers and their students. MOH's involvement in this event continues to this day.
Two major events took place in 2016. First the chorus returned to the International contest stage in Nashville and earned a third place Bronze medal. This was the eleventh time the Masters had earned a medal at International. In December, 2016 the chorus traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to participate in the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Masters performed with several other Hawaii based barbershop choruses, marched and sang in the Pearl Harbor Parade and performed in the rain on the deck of the USS Missouri. It was a memorable and emotionally moving week for the Masters of Harmony.
After two competition cycles of less than Gold medal results, MOH under the leadership of Justin Miller, began a re-tooling process. With hard work and total commitment, the chorus embraced a new, brighter sound as well as a more engaged performance style engineered by our long-time performance Coach, Erin Howdin. MOH returned to Las Vegas in July, 2017 for a much-anticipated rematch with the Dallas Vocal Majority. Again, both choruses gave inspired performances, with the Masters returning to the top of the podium and capturing their ninth Gold medal. Following the competition, the Masters received a congratulatory visit from the VM as we had done for them in 2014. Clearly, there is deep admiration between the men of both choruses.
In 2019, the Masters again ventured overseas to perform at the A Cappella International Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. This "Russia Chorus" as they were fondly nicknamed was led by Alan Gordon and anchored by Masterpiece, our 2013 International champions. The group included three barbershop sisters from local Sweet Adelines choruses, a first for the Masters of Harmony. The week-long trip saw the Russia Chorus perform in three amazing and historic venues: Capella Hall, Philharmonia Hall and St Stanislaus Church.
2019 also brought a sad moment as Justin Miller announced his resignation as Musical Director to move his family to the Portland, Oregon area. We all felt the loss of this gifted and inspiring musical talent. Long-time chorus member, baritone section leader and performance coach, Alan Gordon, accepted the offer to step into the Musical Director role and build on the success established by Justin Miller over the past seven years.
Also in 2019, we were disappointed that changes in City Government forced us to end our 32 years of rehearsing at the Town Hall Center in Santa Fe Springs. We are grateful to the City of Santa Fe Springs for their support over so many years, and we changed our Chapter Name to the Greater Los Angeles, California Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
In the later portion of 2019 and into early 2020, the Masters were beginning preparations to host and compete at the 2020 International competition in Los Angeles with the hope of winning their 10th Gold medal right in Southern California. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Pandemic ended those dreams as the competition was cancelled and safety concerns temporarily prohibited us from rehearsing or performing as a group. Similarly, the 2021 International Convention that was planned for Cleveland was also cancelled. Nevertheless, we continued to meet weekly via the Zoom Video Conferencing platform. We even found an electronic device named "Jack Trip Virtual Studio" that allowed us to sing together remotely with minimal network latency.
In June of 2021, we found a new rehearsal venue at the La Mirada Unified Methodist Church that allowed us to resume holding in-person rehearsals, except for a brief period in early 2022 during which the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic surged to dangerously high levels. Once that subsided, we were able to resume in-person rehearsal while observing all necessary masking and social distancing protocols. We have continued building a positive relationship with the Church leaders and the City of La Mirada.
In spite of these challenges, we move forward, constantly motivated by the memory of the over 600 men who have joined their voices as the Masters of Harmony. United in our dream of success at the 2022 International competition in Charlotte, we remain dedicated to our shared goal of achieving musical excellence.