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April 11, 1986
Friday (Specials)

Banks of the Wabash music Makers

    The Banks of the Wabash Chorus that takes the stage at Rose-Hulman on Tuesday isn't the same one which performed in the area five years ago. There are still many of the same members in the 70-voice group, but they have a new attitude - a winner's attitude.

    "About five years ago we really started to work hard." said Dick Pierard, editor of the chapter's newsletter, "Ripples". "We started to really work for quality. We were rehearsing twice a week. Now we're really thinking big."

    In the grand scheme of barbershop choral work, "big" is the international competition for barbershop choruses conducted annually in Salt Lake City. Until now, this competition has eluded the Terre Haute group. But on Oct. 5, 1985, the group won the district competition in Indianapolis, making it eligible to compete in Salt Lake City in July.

    "We're really in the big leagues for the first time in our lives," Pierard said.
    In addition to that victory, Sound Decision, a quartet drawn from the main chorus, recently won the right to perform in the same international competition. Comprised of Bob Montgomery, John Rector, David Keith, and Terry Wence, Sound Decision advanced to the Salt Lake City event by winning a regional competition April 6 in Mitchell, Kentucky.

    Those BOWC accomplishments come on the heels of the group's trip to Warmick, England last year to be the future attraction at the annual convention of the British Association of Barber Shoppers(BABS).

    The Banks of the Wabash Chorus holds the membership in the Cardinal District (Indiana and Kentucky) of the larger Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA). Organized in 1938 in Tulsa, Okla., the Society has a approximately 37,000 members nationwide, and about 500 chapters. Terre Haute's group currently has 99 members. Generally only about 70 singers perform during Chorus concerts due to scheduling considerations.

    The BOWC originated in Terre Haute during the 1940s. First known as the Elk's Chanters, the male-only singers performed with piano accompaniment. Carl C. Jones served as director until his death in 1953.

    "It was during the years with Carl C. Jones (in the late 1940s) that the group became aware of barbershop harmony," said Donn Jones (no relation to Carl). "They had been singing mostly glee club arrangements and that type of music, but they became interested in barbershop, and through Jones' influence they were almost completely into that style."

    In the following years after Carl C. Jones' death, from 1953-1965, Donn Jones explained, there was no action in the chapter. When it resumed in 1965, it took on the new name of Banks of the Wabash Chorus.

    The Current Director Myke Lucas who has lived in Terre Haute for 10 years and directed the chorus for seven years.

    Strictly a voluntary, a vocational organization, the chorus meet regularly once a week to rehearse. Members pay annual dues, and aren't required to audition.

    "People who can't really sing usually don't want to belong," Pierard said. "When somebody new comes in, he is usually recommended or sponsored by another member. We put him in the section where we think he will fit. If he can't do the job, he usually drops out."

    On occasion, Pierard continued, a person who can't necessarily sing that well will be determined enough to work and practice hard and learn how to sing better.

    "We're a comfortable, loose group," Jones said. "We just want to promote and encourage barbershop singing and quartet singing."

  Quartets are formed by any four members who like to singing together and get along well. Currently the quartets are The Music Mart, Sound Decision, Shades of Gray, Spare Change and the Four Flushers. Lucas said that chorus is honored to be playing the Hulman Show.

    "We'll be doing a variety of things, probably a show package to open, interspersed with other slections and quartet numbers."

-- Judy Hazlett