By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
On March 10, 2020, 60 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale of Mt. Vernon, Washington attended a 2.5-hour rehearsal unaware that a member who felt ill was carrying COVID-19. In the days that followed, 52 of the 60 attendees became ill, two would die, and tests confirmed the presence of covid. Developments like this made some choral groups cease operations at least temporarily. However, in time, groups like the Masters of Harmony began to find workarounds such as Internet Zoom meetings and the use of JackTrip equipment to make online rehearsals as realistic as possible. Gradually, groups like the MOH have returned to in-person rehearsals using masks following current government requirements. While choral singers are eager to rehearse safely and once again entertain live audiences, groups like MOH must adapt to the changing conditions and even rethink their mission statements.
Throughout its 35-year history, the Masters of Harmony motto has been "Dedicated to Musical Excellence" and that dedication has resulted in nine international chorus championships. However, despite being located in the middle of a metropolitan area of 19 million people, MOH is sometimes considered one of Southern California's "Best Kept Secrets." Its success has been achieved mostly in a "Barbershop Bubble" of about 30,000 and it is largely unknown to the larger entertainment world. In the 2010 Virtual Midwinter Convention, Keynote Speaker Kevin Keller encouraged attendees to consider "What if" thinking. Under the leadership of Joe D'Amore, the MOH Board took up the challenge and produced the following 2021-2025 Vision Statement:
"The Masters of Harmony is an entertaining and dynamic vocal ensemble recognized by a broad, worldwide audience for its award-winning performances."
Some of the noteworthy goals laid out in the chapter's 4-year strategic plan are as follows:
- Achieve greater name and performance recognition in the LA Metropolitan area.
- Seek performance opportunities for smaller MOH groups to perform in places unsuitable for the entire chorus, perhaps in combination with groups from other genres.
- Find experienced male singers from other musical genres willing to give MOH a try.
- Collaborate and perform with other choruses and singing groups in our local area.
- Reach out to diversified cultural communities who may be unfamiliar with our type of music.
- Align us with the music industry for commercial gigs that bring exposure to the public.
- Become more involved with events and celebrations in our local communities.
- Modernize and enhance our show performances so that they become "must-see" events.
One part of the new Vision Plan was achieved when the Greater Los Angeles Chapter became a member of the La Mirada Chamber of Commerce, a way to build relationships in our new home city. In a recent meeting of the Chamber, Larry Icenogle, Mark Travis, Eric Emmons, and Bart Halberstadt sang The Star-Spangled Banner and two polecats to La Mirada Mayor Ed Eng and our new fellow Chamber members. The meeting generated two invitations for the MOH or a chapter quartet to sing at upcoming civic events in La Mirada. In addition, our chapter quartet Soundwave (Adam Marangakis, Tom Moore, Peter Trist, Joe D'Amore) will be performing and representing the MOH at the city's "Salute to Veterans" at the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts on November 8.
On December 11, 2021, the Masters of Harmony will join the Pacific Coast Harmony chorus again for a joint performance at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Cardiff, California, a church building known for incredible acoustic quality that envelops the audience with vibrant sound. Due to COVID regulations, two volunteers will be checking for vaccination records or negative COVID tests. Usage of masks by the audience is encouraged but not required.
Several months ago, the Masters of Harmony family was deeply saddened by the loss of Dan Place, a man much beloved within the chorus, his Church of the Good Shepherd congregation, and his Arcadia community. Dan loved his MOH family and in his 32 years as a member, he never missed a performance. His family has created The Dan Place Memorial Fund as part of our Masters Circle donation program. This is an unrestricted fund that can be used to support a wide variety of MOH activities. The Place family has agreed to match any donations made for the remainder of 2021 up to $10,000. To donate to the fund, go to the Masters of Harmony public website, navigate to the Donate page, and select the Dan Place Memorial Fund. You can pay through PayPal or your credit card. Checks can be mailed to the address shown on the Donate page. Write Attn: Treasurer on the envelope and put Dan Place Fund on the memo line.
The following MOH members have been chosen to lead the Masters through the 2022 year:
President-Craig Hughes; Secretary-Maurice Freleaux; Treasurer-Peter Trist; VP-Chapter Development-Mark Travis; VP-Marketing-Bart Halberstadt; VP-Music & Performance-Joe D'Amore; VP-Public Relations-Larry Icenogle; Board Members-at-Large–-Hugh Brown, Skip Farrar, Bob Hartwig, Kenny Rios, Ed Schackman.
Kevin Perales (lead) was welcomed into membership and Bill Finlan (bass) was reinstated after a six-year absence. There are currently five candidiates in the membership pipeline.