By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
In December 2019, the Santa Fe Springs City Council decided not to renew the agreement that allowed MOH to use its Town Center facilities for the previous 32 years. Public Relations VP Larry Icenogle joined Ron Andreas and Bart Halberstadt to canvass local areas for suitable rehearsal and equipment storage space. The search led them to the La Mirada United Methodist Church and with the help of MOH legal advisor Kirt Thiesmeyer, a contract was drawn up just before the MOH coaching session with Tony De Rosa on March 11, 2020. Who knew that March 11 coaching session would be the last rehearsal the Masters would have for the next 15 months because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic!? However, with the unwavering support of LMUMC Pastor Paige Eaves, the agreement came to life in mid-2021. Pastor Eaves, her church chain of command, and MOH leaders worked tirelessly to make sure that MOH rehearsals would be in full compliance with CDC, national, state, and local guidelines. The first in-person MOH rehearsal was held on June 16 at Smith Hall on the LMUMC campus. Rehearsals since then have averaged 55 members with 96% of them fully vaccinated.
Because of the known risks of unprotected indoor singing, a MOH Safe Return Committee was formed to study and coordinate full implementation of current CDC, local government and LMUMC requirements to make the rehearsal experience as safe as possible. The committee was made up of Craig Hughes, Dr. Chris Peterson, Larry Icenogle, Hugh Brown, Justin McQueen, and Kirt Thiesmeyer.
In addition to taking these rehearsal precautions, the MOH purchased and installed top-of-the-line MERV-13 filters for the HVAC system in Smith Hall. The building itself has four open doors on each side of the hall and eight ceiling fans circulating air continuously to promote good airflow through the building during rehearsals. Spacing guidelines used by choruses such as Alexandria Harmonizers, Sound of the Rockies, Vocal Majority are maintained throughout the rehearsals.
Sometimes being forced to change is a blessing in disguise. The move from Santa Fe Springs to La Mirada offers greater opportunities to market the MOH. The population of La Mirada is 2.5 times larger. It has a larger high school and a private college with an enrollment of 6,000 students thus offering greater youth outreach opportunities. VP of Marketing Bart Halberstadt says the MOH will reach out to its new community home by joining the La Mirada Chamber of Commerce, meeting the mayor, and by Christmas caroling at assisted living facilities. The MOH will be offering a benefit performance in our new church home and will propose musical collaborations with La Mirada High School as well as Biola University. Events such as these will be posted on the MOH email newsletter, available on Facebook and our public website. Kudos go to Kenny Rios and Mark Freedkin for making Masters events such as these visible to our social network followers.
The Masters of Harmony-Alexandria Harmonizers collaboration to produce a virtual recording of John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" in time for the July 4th "Tribute to America" program was a big success. The video was shown at the 2021 Virtual International. Los Angeles TV station KTLA Channel 5 broadcast a portion of it on its Weekend News segment. The MOH posted it on its Facebook page and it is now viewable on the Masters of Harmony YouTube channel.
AIC and BHS are sponsoring a community outreach program that brings some of our top quartets with different racial backgrounds to communities that seldom experience a musical style that began with minority singers. This showcasing of barbershop talent can pave the way for barbershop workshops in local high schools. Community Outreach Manager Charles Carothers is working on developing the MOH version of that outreach program.
It is with sadness that the Masters announce the passing of long-time member and nine-time chorus gold medalist Dan Place. During his 32-year stint with the Masters, Dan served as a board member-at-large (six terms), VP-Marketing, VP-Public Relations, and staff writer for MOH publications. He shared the 2003 Quartet of the Year award (Top-Notch) with Larry Goodfried, Art Taylor and Les Weiser and the 1997 Harmony Union award with his wife Gay.