A Brief History of

North Shore Chapter, SPEBSQSA


A dream to preserve the fellowship and good, clean fun of singing "the old songs" materialized in April 1938. Owen C. Cash, a prominent Tulsa, Oklahoma attorney, did not want to see this original American pastime from the late 1800s and early 1900s disappear from the American scene. So he organized an evening of singing and invited a group of friends, thus initiating the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Today there are over 35,000 barbershoppers in the United States and Canada in more than 780 chapters, and the hobby has spread to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.

In 1944 Don Beeler of Winnetka began organization of a North Shore Chapter, meeting first at the Winnetka Community House and, later, at the Kenilworth Club. There it was chartered in 1945 with 16 members, under the sponsorship of the 1942 International Champion Quartet, the Elastic Four. The first Musical Director was Joe Elliff, also of Winnetka.

After the early years, North Shore's scene of regular meetings shifted from the Winnetka-Wilmette area to Evanston. Except for brief sojourns in Wilmette, Glenview, and Niles, the chapter's homes for the past 50 years have been: the Evanston American Legion Post, the Knights of Columbus Hall, the Evanston Elks Lodge, the University Club, the Evanston Salvation Army Post, Lake Street Church (formerly First Baptist Church) of Evanston, and, most recently, the Presbyterian Home.

Following in Joe Elliff's footsteps, some fine directors have led our music: former Evanstonian Art Watson and former Wilmetter Tom McCracken, each for a decade or more, followed by Tom Parrish and Ed Jensen--then Jay Giallombardo and Hank Brandt (baritone and lead, respectively, of the 1979 International Champion Quartet, Grandma's Boys). Dick Yanow of Skokie has ably served as our Musical Director since 1990. Under his leadership, our Shoreliner Chorus won the Illinois District Most Improved Chorus Award in 1993.

North Shore has had its share of quartet accomplishment, too. The Imperial Four represented Illinois in the International Competitions in 1960, 1961, and 1962; and the Gold Coast Four took the district championship in 1964. It was not until 1968, however, when four young men from New Trier High School combined their great talents in a quartet called Grandma's Boys, that things really began to happen. In the fall of that year, with half of their membership still in New Trier, and with only four months' experience as a quartet, Grandma's Boys took the district championship--and in the summer of 1979 their impressive string of accomplishments culminated with the international championship.

The chapter is also proud of The Key Ingredient and Four Crying Out Loud, quartets who won the district novice quartet championship. Currently, North Shore Chapter members sing in the following registered quartets: Hospitality, North Shore Four, The Key Ingredient, and Goldenaires.

North Shore members who have gained distinction as recipients of the Illinois District ABE (Award for Barbershop Excellence) are Bill Gallagher, Dick Robbins, and the late Carl Mayer.

(updated February 1998)

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