By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
After months of meticulous planning shepherded by the tireless organizational skills of Mark Travis, a group of 35 singers, 32 from the Masters, two from Harborlites and one from the Carpe Diem Chorus, traveled to St. Petersburg, its imperial capital for two centuries and still its cultural center. They were determined to charm Russian audiences with a cappella barbershop music, and charm them they did! Each performance venue is unique and steeped in Russian history. The Capella Concert Hall is part of the oldest active professional music institution in Russia. The intimate St. Stanislaus Church saw performers and audience in close proximity. The Saint Petersburg Philharmonia dates from 1839 and the chorus filled its 1500 seats to capacity. All three audiences received chorus members warmly. MOH Interim Director Alan Gordon led the group as it sang MOH favorites such as "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder," Route 66," "Precious Lord," and "Deep River." A specialty song named "Moscow Nights" was a huge hit with the Russian audiences. The Russia Chorus and Masterpiece (Rob Menaker, Patrick Haedtler, Alan Gordon, Brett Littlefield) also shared the stage with 3 to 5 exciting local groups making the a cappella performances truly international in nature. Some chorus members took advantage of the numerous sightseeing opportunities in this beautiful far northern European city. One notable example was a visit to the world-famous Hermitage Museum, founded in 1764, the second largest art museum in the world next to the Louvre in Paris. Two-thirds of the chorus members extended their stay in Russia with a visit to its capital city, Moscow. True to the nature of barbershop singers anywhere, given the opportunity, there were several impromptu songs performed for onlookers at various street corners–a parting message to Russians with love from the MOH.
In order to qualify as a competitor in the 2020 International Convention in Los Angeles it will be hosting, the Masters of Harmony took part in the 2019 Far Western District Convention held this year in Modesto. Because of fires in the Southern California area, just getting out of the Los Angeles area became a challenge. For some, the traffic diversions produced miles-long traffic jams that increased travel time by 2-3 hours. The Masters performed as the last chorus competitor and won the chorus contest over a very talented chorus from the Bay area, The Fog City Chorus. The Vocalocity quartet with Rob Menaker won the quartet contest. A crowd-pleasing MOH quartet Noteable, featuring two new chorus members (Jacob Gonzalez, Emilio Pichardo) won the Lloyd Steinkamp Award (most entertaining Friday night quartet), the Novice Quartet Championship, and placed fifth overall in the quartet contest.
On Saturday, October 19, the Masters of Harmony took the stage at the Second Annual Ontario Festival of the Arts. This event is a partnership between the City of Ontario and the Ontario Museum of History & Art, and this year's theme was "Let's Celebrate Our Story." The event featured 50 artist booths selling a variety of artistic wares. In addition to the MOH, the music groups included a symphony orchestra, a mariachi band, bluegrass and jazz bands, as well as native cultural dancers. The enthusiastic audience reception is a harbinger of what promises to be regular appearances by the Masters of Harmony in this unique city arts festival.
The Masters of Harmony are proud to announce the formation of a unique partnership with City of Hope, the world-class medical research and treatment facility best known for its work treating cancer patients. COH will promote the MOH's November 30th Christmas show at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center on its extensive social media feeds. In return, the Masters will send singing groups to their various COH facilities to bring the healing joy of Christmas music to patients and staff. The MOH will be giving a percentage of its gross sales from that show to COH representatives during the show. Erin Howden once challenged us to "reach out beyond the floodlights, and change someone's life with our performance." This very special partnership gives MOH another tool to bring Erin's words to fruition.
In yet another opportunity to "reach beyond the floodlights," John and Sharon Miller have announced a challenge program in cooperation with the Barbershop Harmony Society and Harmony Foundation International. The Millers will contribute $1 for every $3 raised at the BHS Fall District Conventions, up to $50,000. The funds raised will be used to strengthen BHS programs that help young people experience barbershop harmony through healthy chapters, Harmony University, youth programs, and musical education.
On October 9, the following members were chosen as leaders of the Masters of Harmony for 2020: – President (Joe D'Amore), Secretary (Maurice Freleaux), Treasurer (Skip Farrar), VP Chapter Development (Mark Travis), VP Music & Performance (Dave Tautkus), VP Marketing (Bart Halberstadt), VP Operations (Foster Howlett), VP Public Relations (Larry Icenogle), and Board Members-at-Large (Hugh Brown, Bob Hartwig, Justin McQueen, and Ed Schackman).
Since the last issue of Westunes, the Masters of Harmony welcomed Jim Browne, Paul DeWeese, Stan Gile, Jacob Gonzalez, Matthew Hasty, and Emilio Pichardo into membership.