A History to Celebrate the Harmonizers’
Prepared August 22, 2018
The Alexandria Chapter of the Society for the Preservation
and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Incorporated (SPEBSQSA
Inc., hereafter referred to as the Society) was chartered on June 19,
1948. We are now part of the Barbershop
Harmony Society (BHS), the new business name of the Society, headquartered in
Nashville, TN and members of its Southern Division of the Mid-Atlantic District
(M-AD). We were called the Alexandria
Harmonizers in a 1948 Alexandria Gazette
article to describe “the new group in town” that was having a concert and have
used the moniker ever since. Soon after
we were founded, the marketing gurus coined the phrase “George Washington Sang
Here,” (a play on the popular gag in the Alexandria/Mt. Vernon area “George
Washington Slept Here!”) and placed it on our name tags and chapter signs.
The chapter was conceived by Dean Snyder, an enthusiastic barbershopper and member of the Washington
DC chapter, active in spreading the
word and helping men discover this singing hobby. In the winter of 1947, he and his wife
rescued Gene Barnwell and his wife from
a bus stop in a bad rain storm. Dean
quickly led the discussion to singing and the rest is history.
Gene was into music and helped Dean rally enough singers to
charter a new chapter in Alexandria, sponsored by the Washington, DC chapter. Dean was
also quick to suggest to Gene that as director of the Alexandria
Recreation Department, he should consider adding barbershop harmony singing to
the department. This is how our chapter
came to be supported by the City of Alexandria, through Parks and Recreation. They
also arranged for the chapter to meet at the recreation center at 1605 Cameron
True to its name to preserve quartet singing, the chapter quickly
formed quartets in those early years.
One, THE VIRGINIA HAMS, was composed of several men who had been
founders of the chapter or who had joined right after the founding: Al Siepert, Bill Bennett, Henry Brown, and Wilbur Schmidt. They
combined humor and good singing to entertain a lot of audiences in the
Membership started with eighteen guys, the minimum number
required to receive a Society charter document signed by Society founder OC Cash. The number grew fast and stayed at about 60
for many years until chapter leaders, led by John Adams, made a concerted effort to grow to 100. Eventually, the chapter became the largest in
the Society with over 200 members. Many
men joined and when they were transferred for military or work reasons, they
retained their membership in Alexandria, which is still true today. We have had over 1,200 members join our
chapter since its founding.
From the earliest years, chapter members shared their
leadership skills at the Chapter, M-AD and Society level. Many men have contributed as officers, board
members, committee chairs in musical and administrative leadership. Six of our
members have served as M-AD president including Hal Schultz, 1958-60; Buck
Dominy, 1962-63; Wilbur Sparks,
1966-67; Alan Wile, 2005-06; Gary Plaag, 2009-10; Bill Colosimo, 2013-14; and Dennis Ritchey the current M-AD
president. Wilbur Sparks was Society
president in 1970. Darryl Flinn, a Harmonizer coach who coined the phrase “breathless moments,” was Society
president in 1987 and served a term as executive director. Dean Snyder never served as president, but he
was on the Society board and was its Historian for years. He was often called upon to speak or share
his knowledge of the Society as an elder statesman. (We had him on stage with us when he was 94,
and he introduced a song as part of our swan song package at the 1996
International in Salt Lake City.) Bud Arberg, a composer and one of our
early music directors, was the first to use the phrase “barbershop craft” to
describe teaching techniques and methods.
Bud worked for the Department of the Army and was assigned to develop
materials used around the world to help men sing better. He also adapted the “Caisson” song into the
official Army song in 1957. These four men, plus prolific arranger, Walter Latzko, are our chapter members
enshrined in the Barbershop Harmony Hall of Fame. Alan Lamson, was also a Society president in 2011 and 2012.
While the chapter grew in numbers and administratively, it
also was growing strong musically. We
have been so fortunate to have gifted chorus directors: Gene Barnwell – 1948-50; Werner
Paul – 1950-61; Bud Arberg –
1951-62; Oz Newgard – 1963-70; Scott Werner – 1970-80 and 1984-2002; John Hohl – 1980-83; Terry Reynolds – interim Aug.-Dec.
2002; Richard Lewellen – 2003-06;
and Joe Cerutti – 2007 until now.
There have been four associate directors: John Hohl, Mike Wallen, Terry Reynolds, and Tony Colosimo. Among the many
assistant directors there were Bob
Adams, Bob Balderson, Dave Barton, Will Cox, Larry Deters, Chuck Hunter, Mike Kelly, Craig Odell, Mike Riordan,
Wilbur Sparks, and Dick Whitehouse.
And of course there have been many section leaders who have helped the chorus
grow and improve.
In the 1970’s the chorus began to make its competitive mark,
finally winning its first Southern Division contest in 1975, and first M-AD
contest in 1978. Since then, the
Harmonizers have won 26 M-AD championships, and earned 19 International medals,
including four golds: 1986 in Salt Lake City, 1989 in Kansas City, 1995 in
Miami Beach, and 998 in Atlanta.
Some will say that one of the best successes was when we won
the M-AD contest for the first time and then earned a fourth place medal at the
ensuing 1978 International in Cincinnati. Others suggest that the 1998 gold medal
performance was another major contest milestone. Our ballad, arranged by Walter Latzko, was “In the Wee Small
Hours of the Morning” with lines inserted from the beautiful song, “Always”.
(This arrangement was one of the 28 of his arrangements for the Harmonizers .) The uptune was a medley of “Everybody Loves
My Baby” and “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” arranged by Ed Waesche. There were 124 of us on stage and we scored 2,793 or
93.1 percent. Scott Werner was
director for all four of the gold medals.
He was assisted by Geri Geis,
who created the performance plans.
Special coaches helped us shine. For several years Geri Geis was artistic director and helped us establish our reputation
for artistic performance. Cindy Hansen
Ellis worked with us in recent years, as did Carlos Barillo, who joined
the chorus and was named choreographer in 2014.
Out-of-chapter coaches for musical and visual matters are still an
important part of the current Harmonizer story and that list is like reading a BHS
“Who’s Who”: Jim Casey, Greg Clancy, Don Claus, Tony DeRosa, Darryl
Flinn, Jay Giallombardo, Brandon Guyton, Kevin Keller, Greg Lyne, Steve Plumb,
Steve Scott, Steve Tramack, David Wright, and Kirk Young.
In-house stage presence teams helped the chorus expand its
entertainment skills beginning with chairmen like Jed Casey, Jay Hargrove, Jack Pitzer, and Craig Odell and later Chris
Buechler, Scipio Garling, Chuck McKeever, Gary Plaag, and Dean Rust.
Chorus retreats have been a major training tool for the
Harmonizer preparation for competition. All members attend, and we have one or
two guest coaches. The first retreat was
in Fredericksburg, VA, then we started going out of town such as to Ocean City,
MD and then most recent years to McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. Chuck
McKeever has served as coordinator of a team to manage these retreats in
Each year we recognize the class of the year (all new men
and any other men who had not yet sung on the International stage with the
chorus). They wear special bandanas and
shed them on the morning of the contest in July. The class also traditionally
presents a skit at the retreat.
The Alexandria Harmonizers did not compete in the Las Vegas 2017
International contest – instead 75 members attended the BHS week-long Harmony
University (HU) on the Belmont University campus in Nashville, TN. It was a
very beneficial event and rated as one of the chapter’s history milestones.
Several members of the chapter were on the HU faculty or staff and all members
attended classes of their own interest, in addition to the chorus coaching
Musical arrangers have also helped us succeed in the
contests and in our show production work such as Jim Clancy, John Hohl, Rob Hopkins, Fred King, Walter Latzko, Greg
Lyne, Steve Tramack, Ed Waesche, Scott Werner, and David Wright.
The Harmonizer’s good singing and excellent performance packages
led to unique opportunities to showcase ourselves, such as at the Kennedy
Center Honors in 1987 for Perry Como;
1997 for Charlton Heston; 2000 for Angela Lansbury; 2001 for Van Cliburn; and 2003 for Mike Nichols; three Carnegie Hall
performances; singing with Dick Van Dyke
at Disneyland: Wolf Trap’s 20th anniversary gala with Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein and the Canadian
Brass and an 80th birthday special for Victor
Borge, and to help Elizabeth Taylor
launch a new perfume.
No history is complete without mentioning some of the great
songs we sang over the years, such as: Red Rose Rag, Waitin’ on the Robert E. Lee,
Cohan Medley, Music of the Night, Hooked on Classics, Guys and Dolls Medley,
Director’s Lament, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, New York New York, Blue
Moon, Glenn Miller Medley, One Voice,
Slap That Bass, Jamaica Farewell, Kiss The Girl, Summertime, and
songs from our gold medal packages: Keep Your Sunny Side Up and You Can Have Every Light on Broadway in
1986; Oh How I Miss You Tonight and You’re Nobody’s Sweetheart Now in 1989; I’ll Be Seeing You and Sweet Georgia Brown in 1995; and Wee Small Hours of the Morning/Always and Everybody Loves My Baby/Steppin Out With My Baby in 1998.
Another important aspect of the chapter history was the
early adoption of strong show production activities. The annual spring show called the Spring
Tonic began in 1951 and was most often held in local high schools. Chapter members and their wives built
elaborate sets and wrote funny and entertaining scripts. In recent years, our major shows were held in
performing arts centers and our sell-out holiday dinner shows were held at
First Baptist Church on King Street.
joined the chapter in 1975 and brought a new energy for show production that
members Bob Bates, Gary Plaag, and Steve White expanded upon for about 20
annual shows. Other members such as Jack
Stevens, Ken Fess and Greg Tepe
served as show producers for various other package shows and Dixie Kennett was invited to light the
1989 Spring Tonic and nearly all follow-on shows for the next 25 years.
Popular productions and themed shows were the Toyland show,
which we took on the road to many chapters in our district and to the M-AD convention;
a fraternity house; a knights and dragons melodrama; pirates, westerns, magic
acts, prisoners, WWI, clowns, and a radio show set in a local small town radio
station with a sound effects guy, a detective, an office secretary and a cast
of characters doing the radio advertisement spots, were all well-received.
Steve White and Gary Plaag created the first Santa’s
workshop shows, and in recent years Scipio
Garling and Josh Roots wrote and produced the holiday shows with a
jack-in-the-box (played by Terry
Reynolds), toys and elves that were very popular dinner shows where chorus
members were both waiters and singers.
Santa and Mrs. Claus (aka Bruce and Ginny Minnick) were part of these
shows too. Brian Ammerman was
producer of our most recent holiday show which was back in T.C. Williams High
School in their new auditorium.
Our uniforms from the past often get talked about, too, such
as the wild yellow and green suits that scored high in stage presence in 1978,
or our popular red, white, and blue leisure suits when they were in style. We have had a few tux outfits, including
white ones, and the front row has used pop-up top hats and even snap
canes. And of course we have had a
number of Velcro tear-away uniform changes over the years. The end caps we started using again in 2010
(to expand the risers into a curved formation to hold more singers) were a
signature item for the Harmonizers in contests and formal shows beginning in
Over the years we have had some special feature shows like
the 2010 joint show with Westminster chorus from Southern California and seven
top quartets from around the world. In
1987 we hosted a joint show featuring the multiple gold-medal winning chorus,
the Vocal Majority, from Dallas, TX, at Constitution Hall in DC. Father Joe Witmer was the show chairman
who had the courage to make it happen. Chuck
Harner managed our performances with The King’s Singers at the Kennedy
Center in 1983 – their first in the DC area.
In 2014, we hosted the 120-man Ambassadors of Harmony chorus
from St. Louis to stay in our homes, tour DC, sing a “flash mob” at the WWII
Memorial, and then joined us for a huge show on June 21 at George Mason
University in Fairfax.
Then in the fall, we co-sponsored a show with the Pride of
Baltimore chorus just prior to the start of the Sweet Adeline convention that
was in Baltimore. It featured many top-ranked SAI and BHS quartets, plus the
two local choruses and championship SAI chorus from Sweden, Ronnige Show
Chorus. Ken Fess and Mick Stamps
made this event happen.
The Harmonizers have also sung jointly with Sweet Adeline
choruses including gold medalist Ramapo Valley, gold medalist Vienna Falls, and
our neighbors, silver medalist Pride of Baltimore, as well as the Potomac
For several summers we performed in the 6,000-seat grand
auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, as the barbershop guest artists in their summer
series in this quaint ocean front town.
In January 1961 the chapter joined the DC Chapter for a show
featuring the famous BUFFALO BILLS, from “The Music Man” Broadway and movie
fame. Then in December, we hosted the “BILLS” again for a Sunday afternoon
show. In 1964, we had them back for a third visit at Francis Hammond High School.
Other fun chapter events were our exchanges with the
Cincinnati Western Hills chorus. They
came to Virginia and did their zany Robin Hood show, and we went to Ohio and
presented our Toyland show. Mike Everard
organized both of these exchanges including our stay in each others’ homes.
More recently Ken Rub produced a
show featuring ROCKAPELLA to help us attract a younger and diverse musical
The chorus sang at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
Washington, DC, on Memorial Day in 1996; and several times, a small group of
singers has entertained at the White House during the Christmas holidays. Also our quartets have appeared on the stage
at the annual lighting of the National Christmas tree. Many times the chapter
has sung for the Historical Society of the Supreme Court in their building –
often with several justices present.
Long-time chorus fan Senator John Glenn and his wife
attended our annual shows for many years.
In 1998 he took two of our CDs with him on his second trip into space on
the DISCOVERY shuttle. After he returned, he autographed them both and these
were then donated to the BHS Museum.
Many of these shows were financially successful. However, the Harmonizers’ largest non-musical
fundraising project might have been our sales of Wisconsin cheese products,
selling over 20 tons of cheese from 1976 through 1998. Jack
Pitzer started the sales project and Dick
Hall managed it for many years until the market changed. Currently we sell
White House Christmas ornaments with Sandy
Stamps as honcho. Skip Coburn, Roger
Day, and Dave Reyno have been three of the major
volume salesmen of ornaments. In recent years we sold Entertainment books with Chuck Harner as honcho. Our scrip sales program has also become a
growing source of income. Craig Kujawa has led this effort in
Also in April of 2018, thanks to past president Randall Eliason, the chapter earned over
$35,000 as a participant in the Alexandria Spring2ACTion program – an all-day
fundraising event for local nonprofits. We were one of the community’s arts
group participants. Our fans and
supporters were able to donate all day. The chorus gathered at Virtue Feed and
Grain in Old Town to sing for patrons there and the restaurant donated a share
of their sales. Mayor Allison Silberberg
stopped to see us and presented a City of Alexandria Proclamation recognizing
our 70th anniversary.
We produced several LP albums including “Harmony Heritage”
in 1968 and “Show Souvenirs” in 1974, followed by “A Gift of Music” cassette in
1983. We made 16 albums of the M-AD annual fall chorus contest from 1972-87, as
a fundraiser for our chapter and the district, produced by Mike Everard. Then as technologies changed, we produced CDs including
“Havin’ Fun” in 1987; “Photographs and Memories” in 1990; “Show Favorites” in
1994; “Live on Stage” in 1997; “Wee Small Hours” in 2002; “Comfort and Joy” in
2005; “Choir of the World Concert” in 2010; and “American Icon” in 2015.
Most recently we have had financially successful silent
auctions at our shows – especially the holiday shows. Members and friends
secured donations and then volunteers managed the auction in the lobby of the
shows. Brad Jones and his crew
initiated these auctions and then other leaders have carried on the work
including Randall Eliason, Don
Dillingham, and Saundra Deltac.
Grants have also provided support for the chapter’s programs
culminating in grant requests prepared by Dean
Rust in 2018 to obtain arts grants for the chapter from the city of
Alexandria and the state of Virginia.
The Harmonizers have also received grants from BHS for outreach to youth
and the community.
The Harmonizers have experienced several major trips to
other countries. In 2012, 65 singers
went to China where they sang for two Chinese audiences, including an
appearance on The Great Wall. Part of that trip included a joint appearance
with our friends from the Toronto Northern Lights. This trip was planned and executed by Brad Jones.
A highlight of 2014 was our trip to Normandy, France, for
the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landing. To prepare for that trip,
we hosted our first Armed Forces Day show in Alexandria for World War II
veterans including our own Paul Griener.
For the trip to France, 100 singers and 150 other Harmonizer
family and friends flew to Paris and on to the Normandy area. We appeared at
three tribute events there – at the American Cemetery in Brittany; at the
musical salute to Liberation and parade in St. Mere Eglise; and at the American
Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Many members were able to pay tribute at graves of
their own relatives.
For many, the crowning moment was the celebration and
appearance for the small town of Les Ventes, France – which honors USA pilot
Billie D. Harris, who saved their town in a selfless move of crashing his plane
into a nearby field instead of into the middle of the village. The greatest
moment there was singing “Bring Him Home” to his widow, Peggy, who made the
trip to be with us. Tony Colosimo
sang the solo message to her and we all cried. Thanks to Chris Huber for arranging for this experience during our trip.
Ken Fess and Mick Stamps plus Peter Hubbard and Chuck
Hunter did yeoman work to plan, organize, coordinate, and translate to get
us all there and home. Many members and families spent extra time in Europe as
part of the trip. Also during the trip we sang concerts at the Cathedral Notre
Dame de Chartres, in Paris; at the famous cathedral in Koeln, Germany; and a
barbershop show with our new friends of the Erster Koelner chorus who are
members of Barbershop in Germany (BinG!).
During 2017, the chapter launched an effort to explore the
roots of barbershop harmony and sing some of the music that was a part of that
early era. That effort included meeting with and singing for Dr. Ysaye Barnwell
noted for her singing with SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK and her arranging and
composition. Our music team had taught us three songs by rote originally done
by Grammy-winning THE FAIRFIELD FOUR.
Later we joined Dr. Barnwell’s community sing in DC. We also spent one chapter meeting to have a
workshop on inclusion with guest presenter and facilitator Dr. Sheila Peters
from Fisk University in Nashville.
We reached out to Joyce Garrett, long-time director of music
at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria to initiate fellowship and to
sing for and with the men’s choir from Alfred Street. We also did a chorus
meet-up with the Alfred Street men again along with the Alexandria Singers
directed by Bill Colosimo and the
Hispanic Choir from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.
In May we co-hosted an Alexandria City two-day festival
called “Music Through the Ages: Gospel and Barbershop” where we sang with
several other local gospel groups on Friday and Saturday nights. The chapter
sponsored THE FAIRFIELD FOUR guest appearance for those shows as well as our
A major musical experience in 2016 for the Harmonizers was
singing two performances of “I Am Harvey Milk” at The Music Center at
Strathmore in Bethesda, MD, with the National Philharmonic; Kristin Chenoweth,
well known for her role in “Wicked;” and Andrew Lippa, creator of the oratorio We rehearsed on this choral piece in tenor
one, tenor two, baritone and bass sections starting in January leading up to
the April 23-24 shows. There were 12
works in the piece. There were 110 singers – we were joined by a dozen men who
auditioned to sing with us for this event.
In 2018, the chorus was invited again to participate in a major premier
presentation at Strathmore, to provide the major choir for an original work
called “Iron and Coal – Survivor, and Son.” The rock music work was created by
composer and lyricist Jeremy Schonfeld as a multimedia event to pay tribute to
his father’s experiences leading up to and including his time in
About 70 Harmonizers and
about 40 women who auditioned to sing with us formed the choir.
The strong music program over the years yielded many
quartets and some of them earned high marks in the international barbershop
contest world. Their successes led to
more chapter and chorus successes as coaches and good musical arrangements came
our way because of them. The most
notable were the NOVA CHORDS with John
Adams, Scott Werner, John Hohl and
Dick Whitehouse third-place bronze medalists in1976, VAUDEVILLE with John Casey, Scott Werner, John Hohl, and Bill Cody, second-place silver medalists
in 1985, BSQ with Rick Taylor, third
place medalists in 2000; RIPTIDE with Richard
Lewellen, third place medalists in 2004; OLD SCHOOL with Rick Taylor fifth place medalists in
2008; and THROWBACK with Sean Devine
fourth place medalists in 2017.
Other chapter quartets helped the chapter make history, such
as PROFESSORS OF HARMONY; THE BUREAUCRATS; FRIENDSHIP FIRE COMPANY (with Mike Everard always on bass and about a
dozen leads and baritones over the years); HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, which is
registered each year by the chapter and made up of our section leaders; and
FOUR FROM THE HEART, a group of guys headed mostly by Bruce Lauther who will sing any time or place and do so several
times a year.
Over the years there have been many M-AD champion quartets comprised
of Harmonizers. Some of those members
have earned the honor more than once. (The bold names were members at the time
they won, or have joined our chapter later.)
1968 – NOVA CHORDS – John
Adams, Scott Werner, Brian Rodda, Dick Whitehouse
1977 – SUSSEX COUNTS – Ron Allen, Jim Marberger, Carroll Beard, Jon
1981 – VAUDEVILLE – Harold
Nantz, Scott Werner, John Hohl, Bill Cody
1985 – ALEXANDRIA’S RAGTIME BAND – John Adams, Mike Wallen, Alan Durick, Craig Odell
1988 – COPYRIGHT 86 – Bill
Colosimo, John Casey, Mike Wallen,
1992 – ARCADE – Dave Hinman, Diz Disney, Rick Taylor, Jim Grant
1994 – BINGO BROTHERS –
John Casey, Fred Womer, Dennis Malone, Gary Parker
1996 – THE BAY RUM RUNNERS – Ed Cazenas, Lynn Conaway, Barry
Galloway, Steve White
1997 – PREMIERE – Rick
Savage, Fred Womer, Dennis Malone, Bill Clark
1999 – HIJINX – Gary
Plaag, Will Cox, Howard Hull, Chip Guffey
2000 – CASINO – Mike
Wallen, Scott Disney, Michael
Gellert, Mike Kelly
2003 – WHEELHOUSE – Brandon Brooks, Rich Gray Jr., Jeff
Gray, Mike Kelly
2004 – PHAT CATS – Ed
Cazenas, Scott Disney, Mike Pinto, Steve White
2005 – IGUANAS IN FLIGHT – Joe Sawyer, Tony Colosimo, Andrew Kay, Wayne Adams
2006 – FOUR ACES – Ed
Cazenas, Nick Aiuto, Richard Lewellen, Scott Risley
2007 – RINGERS – Rob
Seay, Scott Disney, Mike Pinto, Al
2008 – NEW RELEASE – Ryan Griffith, Shawn Thomas, Noal
Morrison, Joe Eckert
2009 – OLD SCHOOL – Rick
Taylor, Joe Connelly, Jack Pinto, Joe Krones
2011 – TOUCHSTONE – Rob Seay, Rich Gray, Jay Butterfield, Steve White
2012 – MAD HATTERS – Rob
Seay, Scott Disney, Rick Taylor, Steve
2014 – MAYHEM – Matt Fellows, Pookie Dingle, Mike Pinto, Ken White
2015 – LAST MEN STANDING – TJ Barringer, Drew Freyrer, Mike
Bell, Mike Kelly
2016 – ROUTE 1- Brian
Schreiner, Scott Disney, Brandon
Brooks, Thomas Moyer
2017 – DA CAPO – Ryan Griffith, Tony Colosimo, Joe Sawyer,
Many of our chapter quartets have gone on to compete at
International contests since 2012 including TOP SHELF, MADHATTERS, BSQ, DA
CAPO, THROWBACK, LAST MEN STANDING, and MAYHEM.
We have also had some senior quartets earn high marks. One winner
of the BHS Seniors contest was REMINISCE in 1995 with John Adams, Scott Werner, Alan Durick, and Dick Whitehouse. Other
senior quartets of note were AULD LANG SYNE with Bob Wilson, Scott Werner, John Hohl, and Bill Cody, third place medalists in 2003; CITY SLICKERS with Bob Caldwell, fourth place medalists
also in 2003; and YOUTH RECLAMATION PROJECT
with Mike Wallen who were recently
recognized as the oldest quartet (based on accumulated age) at the 2017
On the other side of the coin, some of our younger members
have done well in the collegiate quartet contest: ROADTRIP won the gold with Tony Colosimo singing lead in 2007.
IGUANAS IN FLIGHT earned second in 2002 with Joe Sawyer singing tenor, Tony
Colosimo singing lead and Wayne
Adams singing bass. NEW RELEASE earned second in 2005 with Joe Eckert singing bass. Eric Wallen sang bass in CRUNCH TIME
and earned fifth place in the 2008 collegiate contest.
In 2017 Bill Colosimo
represented the chapter in the first M-AD mixed quartet contest (with men and
women) and his quartet, SERENDIPITY, with Sheryl Berlin, Anne Bureau, and Ig
Jakovac took first place. In 2018, BLIND WIVES quartet with Tony Colosimo and his wife Elizabeth and Andrew Havens and his wife Heather
won the M-AD mixed quartet contest.
Our chapter launched CAPITAL FORCE – an ensemble of
under-30-years-of-age singers from the Greater DC area with Tony Colosimo as director – and they
participated in the youth chorus events at Society midwinter conventions in
Vegas in 2010 and in Orlando in 2013. Several of our current chapter members
have sung in CAPITAL FORCE.
The chapter holds its annual Youth Harmony Festival with a
chorus of about 40 young men and 40 young women. Brad Jones has headed up this activity in recent years with help
from the chapter auxiliary, many members of the chapter including the musical
leaders and nearby Sweet Adeline chapters. Recently this project has been
headed by the chapter’s education director.
TBD, our modern a cappella group, was formed in 2008 by Tom Kraus and Scipio Garling. Today Reed
Livergood is their musical leader and the group appears with the chorus and
makes appearances of their own all during the year.
Ken Rub helped
launch our first Aca Challenge in 2014 to recognize local area a cappella
groups. The successful event continues
and has featured the chorus, our TBD a cappella group from within the chorus,
and a contest for six groups from around the Northeast. The first place winner
now receives a $2,000 prize. The panel of a cappella judges combines their
choice with the electronic vote by the audience. Currently TBD coordinates the
In addition to the TBD ensemble, there have been two other
ensembles (both VLQ – very large quartets) that appeared on shows and sang for
audiences in the DC area: THE HOMETOWNERS in the 1970s and CAMERON STATION
Since 1966 when Wilbur
Sparks proposed the first one, the chapter has had a fun “Put-Together”
Quartet contest. Members were encouraged
to form a quartet or the contest chairman would ‘put” guys into a quartet. The event yielded new quartets to move on to
other contests or sing on shows. Prizes
are given for comedy quartets or regular quartet based on adjudication by guest
assigned as judges.
One important aspect of the chapter history has been our
efforts to communicate effectively. We
used the typical formats for news releases, displays, and radio announcements
for ticket sales and recruitment.
Several Harmonizers have been honored at the Society level for their
work in public relations including Terry
Jordan, Alan Wile, Martin Banks, and Father Joe Witmer. Wilbur Sparks was
well known as the editor (the original YeEd)
of our chapter bulletin, THE ECHO,
although he was not the first editor. Scipio Garling served a term as editor
and produced a landmark edition on diversity that garnered much attention
across the Society. Clark Chesser was editor of THE
ECHO when it was designed as an electronic vehicle to communicate with
friends, family and customers. The
historical aspects of the old Echo
are now published as a Looking Back
blog each week by Jack Pitzer.
Over the years, the chapter has presented an Award of
Harmony to local leaders that have made a difference in the arts community,
including local congressional and city leaders, restaurateurs, arts
benefactors, city staff members, arts council representatives, and other a
cappella groups. Another award that was given from 1995-2005 was the Jack
Shields Music Scholarship (in honor of Jack
Shields who was a community organizer for the chapter from 1984-92). It
went to music educators or students to recognize their efforts to further
singing of barbershop harmony in their educational institution.
The Harmonizers first website was created in 1996. Also during the ‘90s the chorus abandoned the
printed version of the HarmoGram – a
weekly publication of the rehearsal schedule and upcoming events - in favor of
a weekly email. In recent years, the electronic publication was produced weekly
by Steve White. The current publisher is Dave Branstetter. Plus by
the 2000s, the need for the physical ‘mailboxes’ for each member (used to pass
out music, announcements, and forms) were gone and the color-coded milk crates
and matching folders for each man were discontinued.
In 2008 the Harmonizer Facebook page was created to help
manage external communications with the public, quickly becoming one of the
most popular chapter pages in the BHS. Its use of meaningful and newsworthy
posts, and event pages and photo albums has made it the chapter’s best tool for
outreach to patrons and prospective members.
The chapter’s YouTube page has become very popular for sharing videos of
performances, shows, and contest appearances.
The chapter’s innovation in the digital era of marketing
earned a special award from the BHS for Scipio
Garling in 2010, and later a BHS Harmonizer
magazine article about our success in using technology.
Similar technology changes have developed in the vocal
review process moving us from cassette tapes to digital devices. Also we added
digital cameras to record stage presence and then distribute it to members for
their self-review of their progress.
Our music distribution is about 100 percent paperless these
days – members get their music via the ‘members-only’ section of the
Groupanizer website. And members also
indicate their attendance plans there.
No more telephone-tree system as in the 1960s and 1970s to notify
members of meeting plan changes or emergency messages – instead we use email or
text messages. Skip Coburn made
individual learning cassette tapes for each member as the chapter’s earliest
use of technology for education. He also was the early adopter of using video
recordings for performance reviews.
Currently, Chuck McKeever
records chorus rehearsals and coaching sessions and shares them with members
for their personal review of their performance.
In 2014,e HeIn 20143, In Mike Kelly was named to head up
technology for musical efforts in the chapter as part of the chapter musical
leadership team. Using donated funds, he upgraded the audio equipment allowing
our smaller groups to perform with individual handheld microphones, and the chorus
to record its first CD in a decade.
The chapter has always had fun events during the year such
as singing with our fellow barbershoppers as part of a ‘dog days of summer’
gathering hosted by the Prince William County, VA chapter every August. From
its earliest years the chorus did holiday caroling in Alexandria and especially
at local hospitals. Some years we also sang at the hospital in July. Currently
we do a walk-around in Old Town Alexandria one night during the holiday season
to sing at restaurants. We also have provided summer concerts for the City of
Alexandria, and have sung the National Anthem for professional soccer, baseball
and football games in DC stadiums. One
time we did the half-time show for a Redskins game. Fun, fellowship, songs, laughter and
All-American-Patriotism were the result of the inaugural Alexandria – Hershey
BHS Softball Classic and Cookout in August, 2017.
A chapter auxiliary started out as The Harmonettes in 1966 with Lucile
Rodda as president. She was followed
by Linda Werner and she was followed
by Ginger Jordan. The group’s name
was changed to FRIENDS IN HARMONY a
few years ago. The most recent presidents were Sandy Stamps and Christina
Ammerman. In 2016 the auxiliary did
not regroup and the chapter decided to appoint a director of volunteers, Robyn Murane to manage the many
projects and service opportunities the auxiliary used to manage.
We began our 70th year with the 44th
annual Presidents’ Award Banquet where we installed our new officers and board
members for the chapter; and we presented our six major recognition awards: the
Harmonizer Memorial Award, Oz Newgard Memorial Award, Harmonizer Honor Award,
Ibbianne and Wilbur Sparks Award, Dick Hall Spirit of Harmony Award, and the
New Note of the Year Award.
Shawn Tallant was
installed as president of the Alexandria Harmonizers BHS Chapter along with his
board of directors Chris Buechler,
secretary; Al Herman, treasurer; Dave Branstetter, Clyde Crusenberry and Matthew Doniger, members at large; and Randall Eliason, immediate past
A larger team performs the
operational work for the chapter: Terry Reynolds, executive director; Joe
Cerutti, artistic director; Steve Murane, communications director; Craig
Kujawa, contest director; Johan
Westberg, development director; Mike Edison, operations director; Dave
Kohls, membership director; Joe Cerutti, Sr., shows director; Robyn
Murane, volunteer activities director; education/outreach director, position
open; Dave Welter, BHS finance director; Carl
Kauffmann , AH, Inc. finance director; archivist/historian,
The nine-member board of the chapter’s other 501(c)3 group
which concentrates on fundraising, Alexandria Harmonizers, Inc., is headed by Liz Birnbaum; Clyde Crusenberry, vice president; Bruce Roehm, secretary; Julie
Rizzo, treasurer; with Bob Faherty,
Pat Miller, Ken Fess, Shawn Tallant, and Randall Eliason.
Probably one of the best ways to describe what it means to
be an Alexandria Harmonizer lies in the story behind the song, “A Place on the
Risers for You.” Bob Bates wrote the words in 1981 based on the departure of bass
section leader Bill Cody for a new
military assignment. John Hohl wrote the music. Bob
wrote that he thought “the song belonged to all Harmonizers who come together
in friendship to raise their voices in song and have fun.” Whenever a man
leaves or departs the area, we sing this song to him!
“There will always be a place on the risers for you,
There will always be a place in our hearts for you too;
For the songs that we sang and the chords that we rang,
Have made you forever a part of our gang.”
This brief and much consolidated Harmonizer
history expands our chapter story following the details in our 50th anniversary
book, Breathless Moments published in
1998-99 by an editorial team of John
Hanna, Wilbur Sparks, and Gary Smith
who was overall chairman for the publishing effort. The 50th anniversary book followed
an important 35-year chapter history written by Ted Fitch, “Thru the Years with the Harmonizers.”
As always, “it is great to be a Harmonizer!”
Compiled by Jack Pitzer with Martin Banks Chris
Buechler, Joe Cerutti Randall
Eliason Mike Everard, Terry Jordan,
Dixie Kennett, Terry Reynolds, Bob Sutton, Alan Wile, and Steve White, Edited
by Steve Murane. (Corrections
welcome – send to Jack Pitzer- email@example.com)