66 Years of Barbershop Singing History in Colorado Springs
by Pete Tyree, 2013
The PIKES PEAK CHAPTER of the Society for the preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet
singing in America (Lately renamed the Barbershop Harmony Association) was founded and chartered on July 1,
1946 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Chapter in its early years was made up principally of choir members of
two churches, First Christian and First Methodist Churches with emphasis provided by music store owner Fred
Miller and the two close director- friends; Eugene McCleary and Bernard Vessey. Initially their meetings were
held in the basement of Miller Music Company, on Pikes Peak Avenue but soon there were 20 or more men
meeting in the little theatre at the City auditorium (Lon Chaney Theatre). McCleary later was elected Mayor of
Colorado Springs and served with distinction.
Quartet singing was somewhat limited in the beginning and arrangements were many times choral singing; that is
First Tenor, Second tenor, Baritone and Bass until Harry Sparrow came to town, retiring from an accounting
career in Parsons Kansas. He brought a lot of barbershop arrangements with him and became the source of much
of the music used in the chapter. He served as chorus director and president and was elected as the president of
the Central States District and was referred to as “Mr. Barbershopper” with good reason in those early years.
One of the early quartets formed and entertaining around town was “The Sunshine Boys” made up of four young
students from Colorado Springs High School but included as the baritone, Max Morath who went on to a career
playing ragtime piano as a one man show on Broadway. Max made the top of the charts and shared his fame with
his friends here from time to time with memorable visits.
There have been many quartets in this chapter that have formed, contested, reformed and gone on to greater
achievements in the Society. The Chapter itself can boast of two championship quartets that formed and were
successful in their contesting efforts. The first of these was “The Hi-Chords” who won the Central States District
Quartet championship in 1963. Somewhat later “The Rockies IV” became the Rocky Mountain District Senior
Quartet Champions and in the same sequence became the International Senior Quartet champions in the “mid-
winter” contest held in Corpus Christi in 1993.
One of the chapter’s memorable quartet efforts occurred in 1960 when they held a “pick-up quartet contest”
within the chapter. The emerging quartet from this contest called themselves “The Monument Valley Singing
Society and Social Group Four”. These four guys went overboard in their costuming with white tuxedo jackets,
black bow ties, white tux shirt, long black sox with black patent leather shoes ……and oh they forgot… no pants.
They obviously won the contest hands… or rather, pants down. Through the years the quartet name was used
over and over but the presentation of the original quartet in this contest was never successfully reproduced or
The Pikes Peak Chapter has maintained a chorus program through the years with several chorus names connected
with the effort (Highland Harmonizers and lately, The America the Beautiful Chorus) . They have been
contesting, first in the Central States District and then, after a redistricting effort, with the Rocky Mountain
District as the Society recognized the size of the west and created the new district. A little known fact is that the
Pikes Peak Chapter holds a District Championship award from 1957. The “rest of the story” is that there were
only three choruses in the contest and having the contest in Colorado Springs made a lot of excess travel for the
really good choruses in the Central States. An unlikely win for sure but the record is there.
For the last few years this chorus has been blessed with good musical leadership. Among the chorus directors
have been several International quartet and chorus figures that have instilled their knowledge to the membership
as the musical director. The latest of these is the dynamic lead singer of the 2010 International Champion Quartet
“Storm Front”, in the person of Jim Clark who has made a remarkable improvement in the singing quality of the
group in the two years he has been the musical leader. In 2011 the chorus won the, “Most Improved Chorus”
award at the District Fall convention.
The Chapter has met over the years at several locations in the city. Currently we meet on Tuesday nights at 7
O’clock at the Village Christian Church, 3113 Primrose Circle (NE of the shopping center at Fillmore and
Hancock). Join us for a lot of fun and good singing.
Notable events - Hits and misses
20 years ago when Denver International Airport (DIA) opened they were having a lot a trouble with the baggage system. It was new, it
was electronic and it didn't work all the time. We did a Spring Show which was a travelog featuring songs from across America
finishing with California Here I Come. When it came to the tag the stage was blacked out, the chorus their feet to simulate and
earthquake, while doing a quick costume change to western attire and the emcee calmed the audience. Lights went up and we finished
the song with "Open up that DIA, Colorado Here I come" complete with a broken suitcase thrown from the chorus onto the stage. The
crowd loved it.