By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
One of the lesser-known reasons for the success of the Masters of Harmony is the generosity of its host city, Santa Fe Springs. It provides an excellent, centrally-located, spacious, comfortable rehearsal and storage facility at no cost to the chorus – a substantial savings that enables the chorus to pursue its goals more effectively. In return, the Masters provide free entertainment to Santa Fe Springs, its community home for most of the past 30 years. The entertainment includes a mini concert at the town’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and quartet participation in one of America’s unique holiday programs.
The Masters kicked off their 2018 holiday season by following other local performing groups to the outdoor stage near a huge tree festooned with strings of lights ready to be lit to celebrate the start of the holiday season. Under the direction of Dave Tautkus, dressed in a spectacular multi-colored suit that had to be seen to be believed, the festive audience responded enthusiastically to both the chorus and to Dave!<.p>
Few things fire up the imagination of kids more than the anticipation of the joys of the Christmas season. The Santa Fe Springs Float Program brings some of those joys to neighborhood kids by bringing holiday music and Santa to various parts of the city over nine nights in early December. The program features two towed floats. The first float is a flatbed truck with a faux train engine, a narrow stage and a sound system carrying that night's assigned quartet. These quartets need not be registered and, more often than not, they are formed just for this occasion and give some members their first experience as quartet performers in a public setting. The quartets choose their own holiday songs and often bring some of the more adventuresome kids up on stage with them to sing songs like "Feliz Navidad," "Jingle Bells," and "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" while doting parents record them. The second float features Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and a group of comely local elves. When it arrives, the kids get to pose with Santa, have their pictures taken, and perhaps drop some suggestions as to what they would like him to leave under the tree on Christmas Eve. Masters members have been performing this joyous duty since 1990 and this year, 28 MOH members took part.
The 2018 Christmas Show was held at two locations; Colony High School in Ontario and the Carpenter Theater at Cal State Long Beach. The shows opened with "Gloria," a powerful paean to the season and the audiences rewarded it with long, loud applause. "Feast Of Lights," a traditional Chanukah song arranged by legendary MOH Director Dr. Greg Lyne, paid homage to the fact that the holiday season is celebrated by several faiths. "Calypso Carol" and "Betelehemu" honored how the season is celebrated in other parts of the word. Featured quartets included Masterpiece, 2013 International Quartet Champion (Brett Littlefield, Alan Gordon, Patrick Haedtler, Rob Menaker), and The Newfangled Four, 2017 Top Ten International Quartet (Joey Buss, Jackson Niebrugge, Jake Tickner, Ryan Wisniewski). Six young ladies of the To The Pointe Dance Productions, Inc., a group founded by Lindsay Dixon in 2004, added interpretive dance movements beautifully synched to several songs. The Jessica Ragsdale Trip Jazz Ensemble greeted the arriving audience, entertained it at break, and accompanied the chorus on several songs. Audience favorite Les Weiser closed the show with a chorus-backed rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas" that brought the audience quickly to its feet in thunderous applause for his stunning performance.
The first Masters of Harmony event for 2019 featured the installation of the new slate of chapter officers. Alan Gordon served as Master of Ceremonies, MOH Hall of Famer Marlin Fors was the keynote speaker, and Far Western District President Craig Hughes was the installing officer. The main awards presented were as follows: Doug Maddox Master of Harmony Award (Barbershopper of the Year) – Maurice Freleaux; President’s Award – Skip Farrar; Director’s Award – Patrick Haedtler; Jeff Baker Award (Quartet of the Year) – The Velvet Frogs (Craig Ewing, David Livingston, CJ Sams, Bill Wilson).
One of the recurring problems faced by nearly all barbershop chapters is that members sometimes wish to take time away from the chapter to deal with personal matters without losing membership status. In his message to those attending the Awards and Installation of Officers Banquet, incoming Chapter President Joe D’Amore described the newly implemented Seasonal Commitment Program as follows: "Asking our members to commit to smaller increments of a year allows those of us, who need to take breaks, the ability to do so without guilt and to be able to return from a break with clear expectations. The Seasonal Commitment Program will allow leaders to know what to expect, to re-establish goals as needed, and to enforce them more clearly because the commitment was made more recently." To find out how this is working, stay tuned!