Masters of Harmony Update - Spring 2017

Ron Larson, Jan 18, 2017

In the second half of 2016, the Masters of Harmony took part in two memorable 75th anniversary events. The first was the 2016 Far Western District competition at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside in mid-October. It was the Masters’ first opportunity to put on display vocal techniques taught by coaches Greg Clancy and Tony DeRosa. The result was a noticeably improved sound and a first-place finish that propelled the Masters to an eagerly anticipated rematch with choruses that recently bested them – The Vocal Majority in 2015 and Central Standard in Nashville in 2016, as well as several other medalist-caliber choruses. In addition, convention planners chose Bill Rosica as the Convention Honoree. Bill, who has been president of the Santa Fe Springs and Bakersfield chapters and has received Barbershopper of the Year honors at both chapters, has served as a Far Western District officer and chaired conventions at Division, District and International levels. Thank you, Bill, for enriching the barbershop experience for so many of us!

The second memorable 75th anniversary celebration involving the Masters of Harmony took place in Hawaii with ceremonies commemorating the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The chorus was invited to participate as the official representative of the USS California, one of the ships sunk that day but repaired and put back in service later in the war. After months of planning by Skip Farrar and Ed Churchill, the Masters met in Honolulu on Monday, December 5. On December 7, the chorus appeared at the Opening Ceremonies and marched in the parade down Kalakaua Avenue to enthusiastic applause from the massive crowd lining both sides of the street. We closed the ceremonies with a performance at the world-famous Waikiki Shell. The audience included a number of Pearl Harbor survivors who stood proudly when the Masters sang their service anthems. The following day, the Masters performed in light rain at the USS Missouri, not far from the place where the surrender ceremonies ending World War II took place. It was such a great honor to represent the State of California and the Barbershop Harmony Society at this momentous event.

In December, the Masters performed several duties that repay the City of Santa Fe Springs for the generous support it has given us over the years. On December 3, the Masters took part in the city’s annual tree-lighting ceremony and entertained the audience with a mini-Christmas concert. Then, with some of the more experienced Christmas Float singers in Hawaii, Bill Niemand skillfully organized other Masters members to sing on the float that precedes the float carrying Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. Once again, children and parents of Santa Fe Springs got to hear wonderful holiday season songs before the kids got their pictures taken with Santa. The Christmas Floats program has been a highly praised part of the Santa Fe Springs Christmas season for over 25 years.

Once again, the Masters presented Christmas shows in two venues. The first was at a new site, Colony High School in Ontario, with Alan Gordon directing in the job-related absence of Justin Miller. The second was at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. The theme of this show was “Christmas Cards.” In addition to the chorus, the show featured the introduction of a smaller group of singers called the Masters Ensemble. The group of about 24 was created out of a desire to take the Masters experience to places not suitable for the entire chorus while adding needed revenue to chorus coffers. Quartets featured on the show included Masterpiece (Rob Menaker, Patrick Haedtler, Alan Gordon, Brett Littlefield) and The Newfangled Four (Joey Buss, Jackson Niebrugge, Ryan Wisniewski, Jake Tickner). Special kudos go to the Jessica Ragsdale Trio (Jessica Ragsdale, Mina Choi, John Urban) that entertained the audience before the curtain, at intermission, and accompanied several chorus songs. The well-paced show was rewarded with enthusiastic applause throughout.

The Masters started off their quest for Las Vegas Gold with the chapter’s Annual Awards and Installation of Officers Banquet, held at the Yorba Linda Country Club on January 7. Joey Buss was the emcee and Brian Philbin was the keynote speaker. The following members were installed as the 2017 Board: President – Jackson Niebrugge; Secretary – Maurice Freleaux; Treasurer – Bernard Priceman; VP-Chapter Development – Cody Littlefield; VP-Marketing – Bob Czubiak; VP-Music & Performance – Patrick Haedtler; VP-Operations – Tom Christman; VP-Public Relations – Michael Van Schoonhoven; Board Members-at-Large – Charles Carothers, Bart Halberstadt, Ed Schackman, Brent Schultz, Walter Tang, Dave Tautkus. Jim Ernsberger was named 2016 Barbershopper of the Year for the countless hours he has devoted to making the Masters organization run more smoothly. In one of the most unusual honors ever bestowed at a Masters of Harmony banquet, the Quartet of the Year Award was given to four men who have never competed together in a barbershop contest and are not even a registered quartet! The Marshfellows (Kirt Thiesmeyer, Jack Peters, Ron Larson, Ron Van Winkle) has participated in the Christmas Floats program for more than 10 consecutive years, sometimes singing on two different days of the nine-day program. They epitomize the Joe Barbershopper aspect of our unique hobby, men who just love to sing and do so regardless of any reward other than the enjoyment they bring to their audiences and themselves.

On January 15, the Masters made their fourth appearance at the Sun Lakes Country Club in Banning. The first Masters performance there was the result of a club resident touting the high quality of his chorus, one whose rehearsals were located 78 miles away. The club leadership decided to test his commitment by inviting the Masters to perform at one of their Sunday afternoon concerts. Each time, the audience has responded with sustained applause throughout the performance.

Since the last edition of Westunes, Shaquille Dobson and David Vorobyov were welcomed into membership.

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