By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
For the first time in twenty years, the Masters of Harmony returned to the La Mirada Performing Arts Theater and joined the Harborlites Chorus for a reprise of several very successful joint concerts there in the 90s. The chorus songs included "Mary, Did You Know?" plus the ever-popular "Please Come Home for Christmas" featuring Les Weiser's solo accompanied by his saxophone and harmonica, and a new traditional Hanukkah song, "Maoz Tzur," arranged by Grant Goldstein. The Harborlites repertoire included "We Need a Little Christmas," "The Secret of Christmas," and "O Holy Night." Guest quartets included The Newfangled Four (Joey Buss, Jackson Niebrugge, Jake Tickner, Ryan Wisniewski) and from the Harborlites, Dragonfly (Carol Krenek, Amber Carroll, Catherine Berriz, Jennifer Philbin). Interspersed throughout the program were the delightful holiday songs of the Jessica Ragsdale Trio (Jessica Ragsdale, Dylann Asa, Mina Choi). The combined choruses sang "My Christmas Wish for You," "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" with such gusto that the audience likely hoped it would not be another twenty years before these choruses shared the same stage!
Thanks to the efforts of Tim Truesdell, the Masters were granted the opportunity to perform at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church for the first time. Joining the Masters for this historic appearance was La Jolla's Pacific Harmony Chorus. Just as in La Mirada, the show opener "Gloria" produced a high level of audience appreciation that continued unabated to the finale. Among the Pacific Coast Harmony selections were "White Christmas" and "Mary Had a Baby." The highly enthusiastic audience reception led the parish council president to suggest that this appearance by the Masters be made an annual event!
The Masters show in this 400-seat auditorium marked the first-time performers were able to utilize its recently upgraded state-of-the-art audio and lighting system. The guest stars were 23 members from the high school's award-winning drama program, Players of the Palace, expertly coached by James and Molly Griffen. To a rapt audience of largely of family members, the young students performed four songs from their recent musical, Elf, and joined the Masters for the show finale.
Over the years, the Masters of Harmony have honored the generosity of Santa Fe Springs for making its Town Center Hall available for chorus rehearsals and storage of chorus equipment. One event is to perform a mini-concert on the evening of the lighting of decorations on a huge Christmas tree. This year, that was done on December 7 under the direction of Interim Director Alan Gordon. The other program involves providing quartets to sing on a float to entertain children and their parents awaiting the arrival of a float carrying Mr. and Mrs. Claus and a contingent of comely elves. Some of the quartets performing were chapter foursomes such as Top Notch (Bob Heron, Dan Place, Larry Goodfriend, Art Taylor) and Six Feet Off Bass (Eric Emmons, Leonard Jensen, Mark Travis, Willie Daw). Other foursome combinations made performance debuts on the float. The program is so much fun that some participants sing more than one night and some quartets have been participating for over a decade!
On January 15, 2020, after tireless organizing work led by Mark Travis, the Masters held a casting call/guest night designed to bring in new members and encourage former members to return. Thirty-six such guests filled the risers for an introduction to the Masters of Harmony way of singing. Dr. Chris Peterson first took the assemblage through warm-ups. Director Gordon then led the group through some of the new MOH repertoire, including portions of one of the contest songs for the upcoming 2020 International in Los Angeles. After rehearsal, about 45 went to nearby Maggie's Pub for food and more singing.
Members of the Masters family gathered at the Yorba Linda Country Club to install the incoming Board of Directors. Gary Stone, resplendent in his white dinner jacket a la Captain Stubing of Love Boat, kept the evening's activities going smoothly. Keynote Speaker Gary Steinkamp pointed out that the MOH is truly unique in the world of Barbershop – winners of nine world championships under four different directors! President Joe D'Amore reminded the audience that the daunting task of hosting the 2020 International Convention while competing to win is possible to dreamers willing to do what it takes to make their dreams reality. Director Gordon urged us to approach the tasks ahead of us with a sense of urgency bordering on foolishness to those who don't share our vision and our passion. The Jeff Baker Award (Quartet of the Year) was presented to Six Feet Off Bass. Mark Travis received the Doug Maddox Master of Harmony Award (Barbershopper of the Year), an acknowledgment of the tremendous work he did to make the chorus trip to Russia such a success and for his work organizing the highly successful Casting Call/Guest Nights.
During the past year, the Masters bade a sad farewell to four members as they joined the ranks of the Chapter Eternal: Dave Briner, John Rambo, Rob Ransom, and Lou Tedesco.
Since the last issue of Westunes, Spencer Randell was welcomed into membership.