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Wichita foursome wins BHS International NextGen contest

 Date Posted: Mon, Jan 15 2024
Wichita Northwest High School's quartet highkey! was named the 2024 International Next Generation Barbershop Junior Quartet Champion Jan. 11 at the 2024 Midwinter Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society in New York. Highkey! represented the Central States District in competition with 14 other quartets.

Singing "You Can't Stop the Sun," the quartet tied Boysen Blue of Portage (Mich.) Northern High School with a total score of 59.4. The tie was broken by singing scores, with highkey! scoring 20.4 to Boysen Blue's 19.8.

With three judges officiating, highkey!'s other scores were 18.6 for music and 20.4 for performance. In addition to gold medals, highkey! also earned an Outstanding rating at the festival and won first place for the Audience Favorite Award. The quartet also was invited to sing on the Saturday night show, Jan. 13 at Midwinter.

Quartet members are tenor Maggie Vogt, lead Ayah Gharbi, baritone Cam Roberts and bass Lea'cher Kennedy. Their teacher is Michael Mays, choral music director at Wichita Northwest. Mays also is associate director of the SmorgasChorus Barbershop Chorus of South Central Kansas.

Ayah and Lea'cher were members of the Cleftomaniacs quartet, which won 12th Grade Gold Medals at the 2023 Harmony Explosion!, the youth barbershop clinic sponsored by the Heart of America Chorus.

Harmony Explosion Director Jerry Meier said highkey! would be invited to sing at 2024 Harmony Explosion! on Feb. 17 at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe. Meier said he also would invite highkey! and Harmony Explosion! quartets to perform on HOA's annual show, April 6 at City House in Independence.

Let's share our experiences with more guys singing

 Date Posted: Sun, Jan 14 2024
By President Mike Schumacher
We all have lives outside the barbershop realm. But there are guys who have made time to make sure the Kansas City Chapter functions and functions very well. I know we try our very best and will continue to do so.

We will strive to find new opportunities to involve the chorus in new ways to reach out to our surrounding communities. And hopefully keep building the membership. Why? Not just because I want a bigger chorus, but because I want more guys to have the experiences we all have singing for others -- in shows, in flash mobs, visiting senior centers and more.

It’s a continuing opportunity to learn. Carter and the Music Team have some great ideas for this year and some wonderful learning opportunities ahead of us. WE have to do our part!!

My mother was a singer under contract to sing in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre when she met my dad in 1941. And years later (I was about 13), I remember standing next to the organ in our living room when she tried to teach me to be a better singer but I was too pig-headed to listen. So, my New Year’s resolution: I promise to learn as much as I can, every chance I get, to be a better leader and a better singer.

I expect to have and will work toward a great new year and I know the board will, too. And, I hope YOU will, too.

Chapter members voted these guys to serve on the HOA Board this year: Steve Keisker, operations; Don Fuson, chapter development; Chris Walker, public relations; Jerry Meier, program; John Braden, music & performance; Tom Hadley, secretary; Harvey Shapiro, treasurer. I thank them for agreeing to serve. This year we have Danny Anderson as our executive VP and he will be working closely with the chapter at large board members -- Kerry Rawlins, Marlin Weidler, Vince Perry IV and Tony O’Brien -- as the eyes and ears of the entire chapter.

All these guys need your help. They will be instructed to reach out to all of the members to join in the activities that they have to accomplish. I truly hope you say yes when you’re asked to help. Why? Because this is your chapter, your chorus as much as it is ours.

In closing I want to present something I have saved for several years and read to myself quite often. I don’t know who wrote it, but it had to be a teacher, and I think it is appropriate for all of us:

Why music?

Music is science, music is math, music is a foreign language, music is history, music is physical education. It develops insight, it demands research, it demands practice. But most of all, music is art!

Music is spoken around the world. Music is therapeutic.

That’s why we teach music. Not because we expect you to major in music, not because we expect you to play or sing all your life. (But you can!) But, so you will be human, so you will recognize beauty, so you will have something to cling to. So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good.

In short, music gives you more life!
 

High recidivism: Most of Big Schu Mob returns to HOA Board

 Date Posted: Sat, Jan 13 2024
By John Braden
"Hanging Judge" the Hon. John Erwine returned to the Heart of America Chorus Installation and Awards Banquet, Jan. 6, 2024, checking up on his 2023 "sentencing" of the Big Schu Mob to a year of service as HOA Board members.

What he found was a high rate of recidivism, installing 10 of the 14 2023 board members to another year's sentence and adding four new gang members to the board.


Erwine stepped down from the bench to call the newly elected 2024 officers forward and task them with their specific responsibilities, noting "everything else is details." Fifty Kansas City Chapter members and family met at Joe's KC Barbecue's 180 Room in Olathe for installation of officers, annual awards and a bit of singing.


Board members inaugurated were:

President Mike Schumacher
Immediate Past President Charles Ramirez
Secretary Tom Hadley
Treasurer Harvey Shapiro
Executive VP Danny Anderson
Public Relations VP Chris Walker
Chapter Development VP Don Fuson
Music & Performance VP John Braden
Operations VP Steve Keisker
Program VP Jerry Meier
Members at Large Tony O'Brien, Vince Perry IV, Kerry Rawlins, Marlin Weidler.

Big thank yous went to departing Executive VP Rick Foreman, Marketing VP Ted Simon, Music VP Bob Velazquez and Member at Large Tom Riedel. And another thank you to Program VP and the evening's master of ceremonies, Jerry Meier, for securing the venue and its great barbecue buffet.

Returning President Mike Schumacher said he wants to find new opportunities for the chorus to reach out to our communities so other men can experience our joy of singing for others. He urged chapter members to step up when asked for help by board members because the chapter belongs to all members.

HOA Director Carter Combs thanked the spouses and significant others in the audience for letting our boys come out and play. He gave a quick rundown of the history of music/performance delivery technology. It seems our competition started with Thomas Edison in 1877 and culminated (so far) with 3G phones that let people hear and see performances any time without having to hear and see live performers. He said, because the public has infinite entertainment options in their pockets, our options are: 1. Figure out how to entice them to come to us or 2. Take our art to them.

John Braden acknowledged the passing of the five HOA members who joined the "Chapter Eternal" in 2023: Jordan Weber, Larry Poisner, Wendell Shaffer, Ron Abel and Jack Bussell.

Barry Sanders was named the 2023 Barbershopper of the Year. Barry is a 35-year chapter member, sometimes quartetter, former HOA president, bass in New Harmony Handful, an organizer of Singing Valentines, HOA's Holiday Harmony Spectacular chairman for several years, and, as John Braden put it, "a relentlessly positive presence in our chapter."

KC Common, with baritone Rick Foreman standing in for Paul Camarata, kicked off the singing. With tenor Marlin Weidler, lead Danny Anderson and bass Steve Keisker, KC Common sang "Let It Snow" and "Lullaby in Ragtime."

Bringing up the rear was Swing Shift, with tenor Carter Combs, lead John Braden, baritone Charlie Hill and bass Eric Weber singing "Count Your Blessings" and "Walkin' My Baby Back Home."


Photos by Don Fuson, Elizabeth Braden, Martin Oldehoeft.

Caroling Caravan: New verse to an old song

 Date Posted: Wed, Dec 20 2023
Nearly two dozen singers representing the Heart of America Chorus transformed into the Boys on the Bus for HOA's annual Caroling Caravan, Dec. 16, 2023, bringing holiday cheer to residents of a half-dozen retirement centers while raising funds for a good cause.

This year that old song had a new verse. After decades of collecting donations for the Salvation Army, the chorus passed the hat for the first time for the Fox4 Love Fund for Children. HOA President Mike Schumacher told audiences the chorus changed its primary beneficiary organization this year but would continue to welcome and deliver any contributions made to the Salvation Army as well.

New Caravan organizers Ted Simon and Tony O'Brien were joined at a couple of stops by Love Fund Executive Director Dionne Pleasant to explain about the Love Fund's mission. Initiated by former WDAF-TV 4 anchor Cynthia Smith, the Fox4 Love Fund is dedicated to fulfilling unmet needs of children in the Kansas City area. The non-profit organization helps provide therapeutic tools, medical equipment, eye exams, clothing, shoes, bedding and other needed items.

KC Common quartet provided some variety to the proceedings inserting a couple of numbers between chorus songs. Additionally, John Braden took a turn as soloist with the chorus on gospel number "Amen."

Also returning with the singers was Director Carter Combs' sister, Carla Weisz, as Jingles the Elf, who Carter said preferred to be referred to as a "Subordinate Claus."

Stops on the 10 a.m.-4 p.m. route included Meadowbrook Retirement and Claridge Court in Prairie Village; The Forum, Tallgrass Creek and Brookdale in Overland Park; and Silvercrest College View in Lenexa.

Thanks to Mike and Linda Schumacher for organizing sack lunch makers and to Gordon and Marilou Coleman for paying for the school bus.
 

Love Fund fundraiser features KC Common

 Date Posted: Tue, Dec 19 2023
KC Common quartet represented the Heart of America Chorus, performing Dec. 14, 2023, at "Cocktails with Kris Kringle," a fundraiser for the Fox 4 Love Fund.

The invitation-only event drew more than 150 people to the fundraising raffle at the Zephyr Bourbon Bar, just off the main lobby of the Overland Park Marriott hotel. Raffle participants, many in holiday attire, competed for a number of prizes and visited special vendor booths.

Introduced as representing HOA, tenor Marlin Weidler, lead Danny Anderson, bari Paul Camarata and bass Steve Keisker provided festive background music to the drinks, snacks and conversation.

Ol' Kris Kringle sat nearby and jingled his bells during "Jingle Bells." He and Mrs. Claus (uh, Kringle) also sat for photos with participants.

The Fox4 Love Fund is dedicated to fulfilling unmet needs of children in the Kansas City area. The non-profit organization helps provide therapeutic tools, medical equipment, eye exams, clothing, shoes, bedding and other needed items.

 

HOA, KCC celebrate holiday silver anniversary with a Zing!

 Date Posted: Mon, Dec 18 2023
The 25th annual Holiday Harmony Spectacular on Dec. 2, 2023, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Kansas City Chorus of Sweet Adelines and the 85th anniversary of the Heart of America Chorus with audiences of friends and family.

The combined choruses, headliner 2010 Sweet Adelines International Champion Zing!, a children's chorus and eight chapter quartets entertained a full house at 1 p.m. and a respectable-sized crowd at 5 p.m. at City House in Independence.

In a script by Kimi Ruder, the combined choruses reprised favorite songs and gags from many holiday shows past. The first half featured the joint choruses in holiday garb singing favorites including two from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer -- "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold," which featured soloist Mark Fortino.

The second half led off with Zing!, the 2010 Sweet Adeline quartet champion, featuring Kansas City Chorus Director Michelle Hunget on tenor, plus lead Susan Ives of Topeka Acappella Unlimited Chorus, baritone Mary Rhea of OK City Chorus, and bass Melynnie Williams of Wichita Chorus. The champs were followed by a Children's Chorus leading off the combined choruses' finale in full formal dress. The show ended with the traditional "Joy to the World," "Silent Night/Angels from Heaven" and "O Holy Night."

Sprinkled throughout the program were performances by HOA quartets Homeward Bound, Swing Shift and KC Common and Kansas City Chorus quartets 4's Company, Lucky Day, EarBuds, Sensation and Sassaphras.

HOA President Mike Schumacher thanked musical directors Michelle Hunget and Carter Combs for their planning and encouragement.

"And thank you to the entire HHS Committee, headed by Carol Schumacher and Barry Sanders, who worked endless hours leading to a show that has received overwhelming appreciation from all the people I had at the show (and I know everyone else has received the same feedback)," Schumacher said.

"I'd say the whole day was purdy durn great!" Combs said. "Everyone pulled together and presented a spectacular 25th anniversary show! I am so grateful for all the efforts, large and small, that went into it."

The front of the City House stage was piled with toys, which were collected for Toys for Tots by two front-row Marines at the evening performance -- an annual tradition of the holiday show.

The evening wrapped up with an Afterglow at nearby Apex Aleworks, where the players got to eat and drink and hear as many quartets as were willing.


Photos by Walt Snyder.

 

Swing Shift reps HOA at Fox4 Love Fund event

 Date Posted: Fri, Nov 17 2023
On behalf of the Heart of America Barbershop Chorus, the quartet Swing Shift performed Nov. 15, 2023, for a neighborhood holiday benefit organized by the Fox4 Love Fund.

The quartet performed Christmas carols for an early Thanksgiving dinner for 22 families with about 40 children at Banneker Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan. Volunteers served a dinner of pan-fried chicken and fixin's donated by Strouds Restaurants as Swing Shift sang its holiday package.

Then the youngsters moved to the next room, where Santa Claus awaited to hear their Christmas wishes. To help fulfill those wishes, families went home that night with Thanksgiving dinner food boxes as well as winter coats, hats and gloves. HOA's Ted Simon and Tony O'Brien delivered a donation of 20 new bicycles provided by Walmart.

Initiated by former WDAF-TV 4 anchor Cynthia Smith, the Fox4 Love Fund is dedicated to fulfilling unmet needs of children in the Kansas City area. The non-profit organization helps provide therapeutic tools, medical equipment, eye exams, clothing, shoes, bedding and other needed items.
 

HOA quartets had a good time, and improved

 Date Posted: Fri, Nov 3 2023
"Sitting in the Lied Center, I was mesmerized by the quality of the quartet contest," HOA President Mike Schumacher said of the quartet contests at the CSD Fall Convention, Oct. 13-14 in Lawrence.

"As I listened, I realized there was an example of every concept of Barbershop we have tried to work on," he added. "What I took from watching every quartet was how the quality of the contest has increased every year."

Chris Walker, the new tenor with 2013 CSD Senior Quartet champion Homeward Bound, was blown away by his new experience with singers Carl Turlin, Don Fuson and Alex Tate. (Homeward Bound currently has eight members, with those four tapped to compete in the quartet semi-finals.)

"Wow! As a first-timer in a quartet performance, you've been coached, not only for the best rendering of all those judging sheet categories that (Director) Carter (Combs) discussed with us on subsequent weeks, but also by your co-singers, about getting on and off the stage, and exuding total confidence in the process," Walker said.

"You stroll out to your position and look out at the -- audience? All that exists there are bright spotlights in your face! And then the pitchpipe, and you're playing off your quartet colleagues, because that's all you've got -- and should have at that point -- making it all work together.

"I'm pumped. Let's do it again!"

The last time Homeward Bound competed at district was in 2015. This time out they scored 65.5, besting their 2015 score by more than 13 points.

Danny Anderson, lead of KC Common, noted scoring consistently shows the quality of Central States District quartets and choruses is much higher than in his previous experience in the Northeastern District. As a result, the competition is tougher.

"KC Common entered this year’s contest with two new quartet members (Marlin Weidler and Paul Camarata – plus Steve Keisker) and two new songs," Anderson said. "Marlin was the last to join and we only had a handful of rehearsals together. Our goal was to show improvement over last year’s performance."

Anderson noted the quartet raised its overall score by 10.6 points from the 2022 CSD Fall contest, to 61.1, which was a tremendous improvement.

"Needless to say, we were pleased with our performance," he said. "During the evaluations period, our standing positions were changed. We were instructed in volume control and the importance of each voice making the complete sound, with one voice not having to be too prominent."

When the quartet sang the contest set again, they could hear the improved sound, Anderson said. "Marlin’s statement was 'Wow.' Paul said he 'was pumped.'"

Swing Shift noted a similar improvement in its score in all categories from Spring 2023, up 6 points to 63.3. And, of course, they had a good time performing.

Of its two Nashville songs, the quartet found "Hey, Good Lookin'" scored a little better than "Crazy." Judge-evaluator Kevin Keller said the erratic melody line of "Crazy" made it a tougher song -- mainly requiring more work. You don't get better scores from singing more complicated songs unless you put more work into the execution, lead John Braden concluded.

Braden, Carter Combs, Charlie Hill and Eric Weber said they appreciated the feedback they received -- the lead singing, in effect, to a microphone instead of the back wall, while the bass drives the quartet, leaving the lead to concentrate on storytelling. All four had fun in a "party on stage" exercise in which, standing in a square, Braden would change off singing eye-to-eye with the other quartet members, trading singing (and visual expression) partners every few phrases.
 

Heart of America improves scores at district contest

 Date Posted: Thu, Oct 26 2023
The Heart of America Chorus faced a tougher field in the Central States District Fall Convention Oct. 13-14 than it had faced in the previous CSD Spring convention in the small chorus contest. Yet the chorus bettered its spring score, making strides in Musicality and Singing categories of judging.

"I said when I started directing HOA that as long as we are making progress, then I am happy," Director Carter Combs said. "After this weekend, I am ecstatic!"

With 30 men on stage at the Lawrence fall contest, HOA was able to compete in the larger Plateau III Chorus Championships for choruses of 30 and larger. HOA came in ninth with a total average of 68.2 points.

On March 18, in a smaller field at spring contest in Iowa City, Iowa, with only 23 on stage, HOA had scored an overall average of 66.2 to come in second overall and win the Plateau II Chorus Championship for choruses of between 20 and 29 singers on stage.

Combs said he was more than thrilled by HOA's improved scores. The Musicality score increased nearly 7 points, to 68.8 from 62 in the spring, while the Singing score increased more than 4 points to 68.3 from 64 in the spring. Only Performance scores dipped, from (a surprising) 72.5 in the spring to 67.5 in the fall. Chorus members did not catch on to the fall visual plan as quickly as hoped.

Combs said when the chorus left the stage after its set, he knew it had accomplished much of what they were trying to do.

"It takes concentrated effort and dedication to raise scores as much as we did, especially in the short six months since our last contest, and our chorus stepped up and proved we are motivated to continue to improve," he said.

Chapter President Mike Schumacher said he had really looked forward to the chorus contest on Saturday.

"I knew we had some serious competition but all I wanted was our opportunity to show the district how much HOA has grown in personnel and in our musical performance," he said.

As in years past, Schumacher said, the time on stage went by too fast.

"However, I enjoyed myself and felt less stressed about our performance than I have felt in a long time," he added. "This was my first contest singing tenor on both songs. All I have to do now is sing baritone next year and the cycle of all four parts would be complete -- probably not going to happen."

Combs said the Friday night practice Schumacher led (while Combs was in quartet evaluations) was effective in preparing the chorus.

"We had a brief set of warm-up exercises and then we talked through both songs reviewing the choreography," Schumacher said. "Reminders were given about where we were going to start soft so we could grow in intensity and volume but not getting out of control."

After an hour or so, Combs came in and took the chorus through both songs, working on key phrases and making sure they were ready.

"I was very thrilled that we surprised Carter with the way we were singing," Schumacher said.

Schumacher said the chorus' placement in the contest did not affect him at all.

"I was very proud of singing with all our guys and I am looking forward to all the singing opportunities we have coming up," he said.
 

HOA Golf Scramble 17: A double eagle celebration!

 Date Posted: Mon, Oct 16 2023
By John Erwine
Although under a high temperature weather alert, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, was truly a great day for the Heart of America Chorus’ 17th Golf Scramble! Sunshine, lots of golfers, a great course, plenty of volunteer help, good food, some tag singing, prizes, joking around, and Mulligans for additional help if needed.

This year we had major advancements to be proud of:
-- 22 foursomes – a record!
-- Net profit of $9,609.38 – a record!

So how did this all happen? Someone once said, “It takes a village.” Well, that village just happens to be HOA in spades, whether a golfer, volunteer, sponsor or someone who solicited sponsorships.

We owe a huge ‘thank you’ to all of our sponsors. Every cent of their funds goes to our bottom line to support, strengthen and share our singing passion. It also demonstrates their belief in what we do.

A huge recognition goes to: 

-- Double Eagle Sponsor: Bob and Jane Rutherford
-- Eagle Sponsor: Creative Planning
-- Birdie Sponsor: World Travel Services
-- Special Hole Sponsor: PBR Boys Barbershop Quartet
-- Hole Sponsors: Primarily HOA members or those solicited by them. These additional 17 sponsors donated no less than $100 each

We had a great talent pit of volunteers that came together, making this another successful fundraiser. This includes everyone in the chapter who pitched in to help whether asked or not. Volunteers to be especially recognized this year are Co-Chair Harvey Shapiro, Kerry Rawlins, Rich Huyck, Linda Schumacher, Marty Oldehoeft, Jim Bagby, Wally Thornton, Chris Walker, Mike Schumacher, Tony O’Brien, and Swing Shift (John Braden, Eric Weber, Charlie Hill, Carter Combs) who provided their usual much-enjoyed barbershop quartet singing.

To be fair, I must also include Tom Hadley, Aaron Platt, Charles Ramirez, and Bart Bartholomew. They had volunteered and were ready to go, but then life happens – vacation, work, health -- and so could not participate as planned this year.

And not least, the 87 golfers who signed up to play. Their registration fee not only guaranteed their place on the greens, but also a portion of it jumped down to our bottom line as well. Without them, I’ve yet to figure out how we could have a Scramble!

To conclude the day, we enjoyed a buffet dinner of barbecued beef and chicken, cheesy corn, baked beans and lemonade. As always, WinterStone Golf Club provided excellent playing conditions, attention to detail, and made this a most enjoyable day for all.

Players: Get ready for next year! Make a note with a big red ‘X’ for Thursday, Sept. 19, 2024. It is already penciled in and waiting.

Everyone: While fresh in your minds, it’s not too early to be putting a list together of potential players, sponsors (big and small), even volunteers to help make the next one another smooth-running event. Believe it or not, I think volunteers have about as much fun as those on the greens.
Photos by Rich Huyck

 

'Send-off' show to benefit Barbershop quartets, choruses

 Date Posted: Sat, May 20 2023
Several top Barbershop quartets and choruses in the Midwest will perform June 10, 2023, in Overland Park, Kan., in a fundraiser "send-off" show for groups who will compete at the 2023 International Barbershop Convention, July 2-9, in Louisville, Ky.

The Barbershop Harmony International Competitor Benefit Shows are scheduled at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 10 in The White Theatre of the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St., Overland Park. General admission tickets are $20 for one show or $30 for both.

Kansas City's Heart of America Barbershop Chorus is acting as a sponsor for the show, working with organizer Mark Fortino, a longtime HOA member and lead singer of one of the competing quartets, Harmonium.

Performers are to include a host of previous International competitors and district champions, including:
Harmonium of Kansas City;
Fleet Street of St. Charles, Mo., Lincoln, Neb., and Cincinnati, Ohio, and
Spitfire of St. Charles, Mo.

Also performing are competitors in the Next Generation Varsity Quartet contest at International:
Tofu Concern of St. Charles, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla;
Momento of St. Charles, Mo., and the Frank Thorne Chapter; and
Evening Glow of St. Louis, a young women's quartet, (at the 2 p.m. show).
 
Choruses performing include previous international competitors:
SmorgasChorus of South Central Kansas and
The Recruits youth mixed chorus of St. Charles, Mo.

Tickets are $20 for one show and $30 for both. Proceeds go toward the performers' travel expenses to the International Barbershop Convention July 2-9 in Louisville.

Tickets may be purchased at https://in-tuneproductions.com/featured-event or scan the QR code on the show flier or accompanying this article.

Afterglow benefit

A post-show Afterglow is scheduled, following the 7 p.m. show, at Minsky's Pizza, 13400 College Blvd. (College and Pflumm) in Lenexa, Kan. Minsky's also has offered to donate 20 percent of their profits for both Saturday and Sunday to the event. So, patrons could also eat at Minsky's over that weekend and benefit the competing quartets and choruses.
 
Attachment:

Harmony Explosion! 2023 -- Glad to be back in person

 Date Posted: Wed, Apr 12 2023
By Jerry Meier
Harmony Explosion! 2023 was held on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe, Kan. This venue proved once again to be a fantastic location to host Harmony Explosion.

The last time we held this event in person was three years ago in 2020. All of the students and teachers were very happy to resume in--person singing and performing this year. Eighty students from 10 local schools sang on stage in 19 quartets during the morning session. Fourteen of the quartets earned GOLD medals and performed in the afternoon Parade of Quartets Concert.

Harmonium (Micah Jeppesen, Mark Fortino, Michael Troyer, Marshall Crowl) was the featured quartet of the day ---- they taught the mixed chorus song and judged the quartet session with volunteers from the Kansas City Chorus of Sweet Adelines. Harmonium also entertained the audience with three performances throughout the day.

THANK YOU to the dozens of Heart of America and KCCSA and Olathe Trails West volunteers that worked to produce the event, along with the staff at Grace United Methodist Church. I think that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and had fun helping these students throughout the day.

I want to say THANK YOU to the vocal music teachers at these 10 schools for sending their students to Harmony Explosion:

Jason Cole -- St. James Academy (5 Quartets).
Michael Mays -- Wichita Northwest HS (2 Quartets).
Nicholas Franssen -- Augusta HS (2 Quartets).
Jessie Reimer -- Mill Valley (2 Quartets).
Robin Christie -- Bishop Miege HS (2 Quartets).
Pam Williamson -- Olathe Northwest HS (2 Quartets).

Dr. Dwayne Dunn -- Lawrence HS (1 Quartet).
David Davis -- Harmony Middle School (1 Quartet).
Beth Nelson -- Oregon Trail Middle School (1 Quartet).
Cassie Southerland -- California Trail Middle School (1 Quartet).

Medals were awarded to the following quartets (To see photos, click on the link below or go to News & Events, Harmony Explosion! on the HOA home page.):

8th Grade: GOLD Medal -- T-Birds (Harmony MS, Blue Valley)
8th Grade: SILVER Medal -- Misfits (California Trail MS, Olathe)
8th Grade: SILVER Medal -- Quarter Resters (Oregon Trail MS, Olathe)

10th Grade: SILVER Medal -- Heart Strings (St. James Academy)
10th Grade: SILVER Medal -- Quarter Bass (St. James Academy)

12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- The Swoops 'N Curls (Mill Valley)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- The All Naturals (Olathe Northwest)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Cleftomaniacs (Wichita Northwest)

12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Marvelous Melodies (St. James Academy)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Chicks with Kicks (Augusta)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- The Fox Trots (Mill Valley)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- The Looney Tones (Augusta)

12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Miege Mamas (Bishop Miege)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Ritz Crackers (Bishop Miege)

12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Thunderous Harmony (St. James Academy)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Randsom Notes (Wichita Northwest)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- The Accidentals (Olathe Northwest)
12th Grade: GOLD Medal -- Atune-Ah Fermata (Lawrence)
12th Grade: SILVER Medal -- The Crusaders (St. James Academy)

SAVE THE DATE -- Harmony Explosion! 2024 will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe. The featured quartet will be Harmonium. I can't wait to see you there next year!
 

National Barbershop Quartet Day was a 'Great Day' for KC

 Date Posted: Wed, Apr 12 2023
By John Braden
The Heart of America Chorus' own Swing Shift quartet celebrated National Barbershop Quartet Day, April 11, 2023, by appearing on WDAF-TV Fox 4's Great Day KC program.

Tenor Carter Combs told viewers how Tulsa businessmen O.C. Cash and Rupert Hall met by chance in the lobby of Kansas City's Muehlebach Hotel in 1938, found two more guys and spent the night singing good old barbershop songs. They returned home to Tulsa where they convened 26 men on April 11 and formed the first chapter of what is now the Barbershop Harmony Society. The Kansas City Chapter -- HOA -- was the second to form in June 1938.

Great Day KC hosts Toni Talley and Adriana Davalos also interviewed Combs, director of the Heart of America Chorus, about HOA legend Dan Henry, who was for many years a weatherman on their station, WDAF-TV Fox 4. The program ran video of Dan in front of his weather map as Carter told the tale. The hosts also told viewers how to visit and join HOA.

Swing Shift was joined by HOA's Marty Oldehoeft subbing on bass for Eric Weber to sing "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along." The station also prerecorded the quartet singing "A Wink and a Smile" and "Sweet and Lovely" for drop-ins during its hour-long show. Lead John Braden and bari Charlie Hill filled out the foursome.

You can see the performance on the attached Fox 4 video.
 

HOA 'Roaring '20s' show had two-year buildup

 Date Posted: Thu, Apr 6 2023
The Heart of America Barbershop Chorus sang in front of "People!" April 1 in its first annual show since outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 315 patrons attended the "Roaring '20s" barbershop show, nearly filling the venue at City House in Independence.

In addition to recognizing the 100th anniversary of the music of the 1920s, the barbershop show featured a parade of quartets of the Fortino family, an HOA mainstay since college boys John and Mark Fortino joined the chapter more than 30 years ago.

Headlining was Silver Medalist, Midtown, the 2022 second-place International quartet champion, featuring lead Anthony Fortino, followed by 2016 Central States District champ and International contender Harmonium, featuring lead Mark Fortino. First-time-out-of-the-box International contender Tapestry, featuring baritone Jonathan Fortino, came down from Des Moines for the family affair. Rounding out the bill was Fortino & Co., with Mark, sons Anthony and Matthew, and the "& Co.," bass Marshall Crowl of Harmonium.

Little did the HOA Music Team know in 2019 that their "Roaring '20s" show would be three years late in marking the 100th anniversary of the music of the 1920s. Thanks to COVID-19, 14 months of Zoom practices followed by more months of consumer reluctance to sit in performance halls, bumped the HOA annual show from 2020 to 2023.

Backstage with a huge grin, Harmonium tenor Micah Jeppesen exclaimed, "There are PEOPLE out there!"

As audience members entered the hall, chorus members began filtering onto the curtainless stage, which was set up to resemble a '20s speakeasy -- "Rupert Hall," a pun on the name of one of the Tulsa businessmen who planted the seed for the Barbershop Harmony Society at Kansas City's Muehlebach Hotel in 1938.

Foursomes from the Homeward Bound "very large quartet" sang Barbershop oldies around the speakeasy bar while the Gambler, the Mayor, the Judge, the Gangster and his Muscle took tables in front of the other customers.

Then, under direction of Carter Combs, the chorus of bar patrons took over, singing "Muskrat Ramble," "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover," "Sweet Georgia Brown" featuring vamp Jeffi Combs, "Ain't Misbehavin'" with waiter John Braden trying to make up with angry flapper Elizabeth Braden, and "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along."

The speakeasy scene was rounded out by KC Common singing "Has Anybody Seen My Girl?" and Swing Shift singing "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune" with a "Vo-do-deo-do" assist from the chorus.



Then came the parade of quartets including a surprise appearance by Swoops 'N Curls, a senior boys' quartet from Mill Valley High School and the highest scoring foursome at February's Harmony Explosion. Invited by Harmonium to sing on stage, Swoops 'N Curls performed "Java Jive" to a delighted audience.


The closing set featured HOA in full black-and-red tuxes performing "That's an Irish Lullaby" and, with the guest quartets, "When I Lift up My Head."

HOA President and Show Chairman Mike Schumacher said, "Every single person that came up to me whether I knew them or not, said they loved everything, chorus and quartets! How could they not? Awesome stuff."

Director Carter Combs added, "Gentlemen, to say I am proud to be part of HOA is a gross understatement. I am so gratified with what we have accomplished in the last few weeks." Combs said going from winning HOA's plateau at Central States District contest, and then putting on a wonderful show only two short weeks later made him quote Gen. George Patton after the Battle of the Bulge: "God, I'm proud of these men!"
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Kansas City wins District Plateau Championship

 Date Posted: Tue, Mar 21 2023
The Heart of America Chorus won the district barbershop championship of its size "plateau" at the Central States District Spring Barbershop Convention, March 18, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa.


Under direction of Carter Combs, HOA scored an overall average of 66.2, including a performance score of 72.5 to win the Plateau II Chorus Championship for choruses of between 20 and 29 singers on stage. HOA had 23 on stage.


Singing "That's an Irish Lullaby" and "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along," HOA also scored a 62 in the music category and 64 in the singing category.

The first spring chorus contest since the COVID-19 pandemic included only five choruses performing at the suburban Coralville, Iowa, Center for the Performing Arts. The district's smaller choruses compete in the spring, while larger choruses compete in a fall contest.

With 12 singers on stage, Vox Infinitus of Des Moines, Iowa, won the Plateau I championship for choruses of less than 20 members and the overall small chorus championship with a total score of 74.6.

Other choruses competing were all from Iowa: The Music Men of Dubuque, Old Capitol of Iowa City, and Harmony Hawks Chorus of Cedar Rapids.
 

Caravan collects $21,577 for Salvation Army

 Date Posted: Mon, Mar 6 2023
By Mike Mathieu
With all donations finally in, the Heart of America Chorus' holiday Caroling Caravan collected a grand total of $21,577.03 for the Salvation Army. 

In just one day, more than two dozen Barbershoppers rode the bus to six area retirement homes on Dec. 17, 2022, caroling, bell-ringing and collecting donations for the Salvation Army. We had a lot of fun, we brought the holiday spirit to eager audiences, and we collected what looks like a record amount to help those in need in the Kansas City area.

After two down COVID years, in 2022 we performed mask free in all but one location. We picked up some of our better locations, and pretty much all increased their donations from 2021 for that grand $21,577.03. 

Special thanks to Tony O'Brien and Ted Simon. Those two were a great help and volunteered to take over the Caroling Caravan going forward. Special thanks also to Gordy and Marilou Coleman, who bailed us out a short time before the Caravan by offering to take care of the cost for the bus, which keeps us all together and on time.

Heart of America has supported the Salvation Army for three-quarters of a century, bellringing and singing on the streets and malls of the city. As mall space became scarce, the Caravan was born. All collections go to the Salvation Army, with all Caravan expenses absorbed by HOA and its members.

Thank you to all you wonderful singers and your wives who allow us to be gone all day the Saturday before Christmas. You helped perfect a crazy idea by two of your brothers and make it a musicality reality. 

            -----

Editor's note: HOA Director Emeritus Jim Bagby adds to Mike: "Thanks and congratulations for ALL the many years you have ramrodded this labor of love. The Caravan that you and Bob (the late Bob Burdick) dreamed up after the malls ran out of space for us was a brilliant idea. We can remember when we thought it was a success if we brought in a few hundred dollars on a looong Saturday of ringing and singing in one mall spot."


 

Big Schu Mob takes over at 2023 HOA Installation Banquet

 Date Posted: Wed, Jan 11 2023
"Hanging Judge" the Hon. John Erwine and Bailiff Martin Oldehoeft officiated in the indictment and installation of President Mike Schumacher and the Big Schu Mob as Board of Directors at the Heart of America Chorus Installation and Awards Banquet, Jan. 7, 2023, at RC's Restaurant in Martin City.

A jury of 45 Kansas City Chapter members and family put down their fried chicken long enough to shout "guilty" for the inauguration of:

President Mike Schumacher
Immediate Past President Charles Ramirez
Secretary Tom Hadley
Treasurer Harvey Shapiro
Executive VP Rick Foreman
Marketing VP Ted Simon
Chapter Development VP Don Fuson
Music & Performance VP Bob Velazquez
Operations VP Steve Keisker
Program VP Jerry Meier
Members at Large Danny Anderson, Vince Perry IV, Tom Riedel, Marlin Weidler.

The group ate RC's (World Famous) fried chicken and mashed potatoes family style and enjoyed the program lined up by Program VP Jerry Meier.

HOA Director Carter Combs said the chapter is getting back its balance of rehearsals and performances, post-COVID, and a balance of a "circle of life, circle of friends," with the deaths of eight chapter members this year and the welcoming of eight new members. President Mike Schumacher said he has two goals for the coming year: communication, in which the chapter "blows its own horn," and participation, in which every member finds a way to help the chapter grow.

Swing Shift "B," for baritone Bob Velazquez, performed "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune" and Swing Shift "C," for bari Charlie Hill, debuted "Hey, Good Lookin'."

John Braden acknowledged the passing of the eight HOA members who joined the "Chapter Eternal" in 2022: Brian Seydlitz, Fred Whisman, Dale Neuman, Ron McIntire, Dick Korek, Bruce Wenner, Harry Stewart and Jim Porter.

Don Fuson was named the 2022 Barbershopper of the Year, while Dave Hokanson was named winner of the Oz Newgard Award for outstanding musical service to the chapter and Rick Foreman received the John Cross Award for best attendance and willingness to take on unwanted jobs.



Photos by Rich Huyck
Front row: installing "Bailiff" Martin Oldehoeft and "Judge" John Erwine. The new board, left to right: Board Member Marlin Weidler, President Mike Schumacher, Immediate Past President Charles Ramirez, Executive VP Rick Foreman, Operations VP Steve Keisker, Treasurer Harvey Shapiro, Program VP Jerry Meier, Marketing VP Ted Simon, Board Member Tom Riedel, Board Member Vince Perry IV, Music and Performance VP Bob Velazquez, Secretary Tom Hadley, Chapter Development VP Don Fuson and Board Member Danny Anderson.