The First Year

This article was contributed by Larry Kennedy for the newsletter in 2005. At the
time Larry was the Chorus Historian, and due to his excellent research we have this early history of the chorus. Thanks Larry!


As I promised (or was it “threatened”) in the last article, today
 we talk about the first year of the High Country Chorus. Fortunately for me, there are not too many “facts” from previous articles that require “readjustment.”

Records show that the first meeting of
our chorus took place on 18 April, 2000. The catalyst for this new chorus was, of course, Doc Dockendorf. The early practices were held at First American Title, across from Charlie Clark’s, and the first was attended by a total of ten folks. Included on the first attendance roster were a few familiar names, Lloyd Lange, Keith Gore, Jim Morrow, John Welker, Everett Peterson, Ivan Mahaydik, and, of course, Doc. In early May they were joined by Jim Porter, with Tom Pennel joining later in the month. George Slone signed on in August. There were quite a few others, but these are the folks we are familiar with.

The first sing out performed by the High Country Chorus that I could find was at the Navajo County Park in Overgaard on 16 June, 2000, where the crowd was treated to a variety of old songs, including “Down Our Way,” “In the Good Old Summertime,” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Things change all over the world. By mid-June, the chorus was practicing in our current venue, the Episcopal Church of Our Savior. Some other things in life change as well. According to information found in the June 22, 2000 issue of the Apache and Navajo County “Observer,” the “Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America” was formed in 1938 by a gentleman named O.C. Cash. He was a lawyer, but I suppose we can forgive him for that. The name of the Society, the acronym of which was SPEBSQSA, was chosen as a spoof on all the government programs which had sprouted during the Depression; WPA, CCC, etc. And SPEBSQSA is the name I remember from when my Dad took me to my first Barbershop concert fifty two years ago in Wausau, Wisconsin. Today it all has been changed to “The Barbershop Harmony Society,” which is a bit of a shame. As “the Old Gunny” used to say back in Marine Corps days, “All progress requires change, but all change ain’t necessarily progress.”

But I digress. This was not supposed to be an OpEd piece. The High Country Chorus continued a busy schedule through the fall and early winter. 14 September found them singing at the Navajo County Fair. September was also when the chorus applied formally to the SPEBSQSA to form an official chapter in the White Mountains. In October, they sang for the White Mountain Christian Women’s Club, treating them to a variety of old songs, as well as “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “Love at Home.” In December, the chorus started its tradition of peforming Christmas shows at Wal Mart, and the Infinia Nursing Home, then known as Pueblo Norte.

Other familiar names showed up on the High Country roster during this time, folks such as Bert Van Bebber, Gene Vogt, Alan Beste, Steve Dygert, and Charlie Lovett.

As for quartets, “Hook, Line, and Sinker” was still around at this time. And I found a quartet called “High Country,” which was a bit puzzling at first. Then I found out that this had been the original name chosen by “The Pine Tones.” When the quartet applied to the Society for chartering, they were told that “High Country” had been already chosen by an outfit from Prescott, so they opted for “Pine Tones.” Danged inconsiderate of the Prescott guys, I would say. But again, I digress.

That about wraps it up for 2000. It appears to have been a very productive year, considering that it was a formative time for the chorus. Membership in the chorus had more than doubled from its start. A new and, it would appear, more permanent practice venue was located and put into use. And most important of all, Barbershop music had returned to the White Mountains!