The Empire Statesmen
Gloversville-Johnstown Chapter of SPEBSQSA

Donated by Edward MacDonald

Please Note: Edward did his best to identify the members of the chorus in the following photos. However, there's always room for errors both in the identification and in the spelling of the member's names. There may also be other men who were members whom Edward does not recall. If you can help identify members of the chorus or have corrections or additions, please email the site coordinator!

 

SPEBSQSA: Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America
also known as the
Barbershop Harmony Society

 

July 4th 1960 International, Dallas Texas, 8th place


The Empire Statesmen
Francis O'Brian, director

Front Row (L to R): 1st Fran O’Brien [worked at Cowles & Brown on N. Main St Gloversville] - 2nd Michael Johnstone - 3rd Ronald Miller - 4th [unknown] - 5th Guy Jennings - 6th Richard LaFountain 7th Carl Luizzi [had a sowing machine repair business] - 8th Bernard Race [car sales in Johnstown] - 9th [unknown] - 10th Richard Hill - 11th [unknown]

2nd Row (L to R): 1st Albert Vaughn - 2nd Arthur Gibbons - 3rd Joe Daniels [later moved to Calif and became the lead singer in the Sidewinders quartet 1st place International champs 1964] - 4th Edward MacDonald [I worked for Stewarts Ice Cream in Gloversville then in Saratoga] - 5th Edward Perrone - 6th Peter Stewart [NY State Milk Inspector] - 7th [unknown] - 8th [unknown] - 9th Spencer Safford - 10th Kenneth Pickering [manager of a furniture store on S Main St Gloversville].

3rd Row (L to R): 1st [unknown] - 2nd Anthony Rossi [glove worker] - 3rd Forrest Howe - 4th Otis Durfee - 5th Joe Kumpan - 6th Bart Kelly - 7th Willaim Albin [Ast. Director ]- 8th Howard Saunders - 9th Rudolph Kumpan [CPA Johnstown] - 10th Ralph Dunning - 11th Howard Green - 12th Chester France

The pictures on this page were taken at the various contests, but because of sickness or sometimes job problems/conflicts not every member was at every event. Other members that Edward recalls that are not in this picture were John Heimer [had auto repair shop on S Main St Gloversville], David VanSlyke, Bruce Way, Demos MacDonald [district manager for Mohawk Finishing Amsterdam], Seward Featherstone and Robert Kumpan.

The Barbershop Chorus called the "The Empire Statesmen" competed in 3 International Chorus competitions within the SPEBSQSA, placing a respectable 6th in 1959, 8th in 1960 and 6th in 1961.

 

Memories of The Empire Statesmen
by Edward MacDonald

I joined the chorus in 1956 and the 1st director was Brown but I don’t remember his first name. We also had 3 quartets in the group that were in various compactions. We did have quartets that never competed and one [can't remember the name they used] with Fran O'Brian base, Guy Jennings tenor, Joe Daniels lead, the bari I can't recall. They got quite high in the NE district but never made the International level.

After Fran took over as chorus director there was not time for the quartet to practice 3 or 4 times a week. I have 2 of the "Sidewinders" recordings where Joe Daniels [lead] used some of the songs and arrangements that our chorus used. Everyone was in the chorus and we all sang in make-up quartets for fun but had no time to compete in both. It was so time consuming that there were family problems now and then.

[An online newsletter also mentions another quartet of the Empire Statesmen from the late 50's composed of Harry Fraysier lead, Jack Zonnevylle tenor, Vince Trinker bari, and Chuck Laiosa bass that competed, but "as Harry remembers it as more of a fun quartet experience."]

At first we had meetings in church basements but needed more room. Then we rented upstairs rooms in the 1st block of N Main St. Gloversville. When practicing a crowd would gather outside the open windows on Main ST. We paid the rent by putting in a refrigerator and stocking it with beer and cola, then donated $ .50 a beer in a cigar box for a beer or cola. We hired out to other shows in the area and put on shows of our own at Smallies Theater in Johnstown to build up a cash account for travel expenses. When we got more competitive we practiced 3 times a week and had to build sturdy risers to practice on and a tape recorder.

1958 Northeastern District 1st place
"With our home made outfits red jackets - gray pants - tan shoes I think.
Drove the wives mad making them." - Edward MacDonald


The Empire Statesmen

Front row (L to R): Carlton Luizzi - Peter Stewart - John Himer - Ronald Miller - Arthur Gibbons - Bernard Race - Chester France - Ralph Dunning - Bruce Way - Richard Hill

Back row (L to R): Anthony Rossi - [unknown] - Seward Featherstone - Edward MacDonald - Joseph Kumpan - Frederick Saunders - Bart Kelly - Guy Jennings - Howard Green - Kenneth Pickering - Spencer Safford

In 1957 we just missed being 1st in the NE District contest which could have qualified us to compete in the 1958 International. In 1958 we won the NE District Championship. At this point we needed better uniforms to get to the International, so we ran a lottery with a new car as 1st prize. Car pooling saved travel money within our NE District but we had to hire a charter bus for the trips to Chicago [1959] & Philadelphia [1961] and an old DC 6 charter plane to Dallas [1960] out of Albany.

In 1960 we put on a show and hired “The Buffalo Bills Quartet” [the Music Man movie stars] to pay for the charter flight. In 1962 I moved to Saratoga and drove back to Gloversville 3 times a week to practice. Work in Gloversville dropped off more and many of us had to look for jobs far from town. Soon the group got too small to compete and we disbanded. Many of the members joined the Saratoga Chapter and helped them to their successful contest records. I moved to Illinois in 1965 to find work and never saw any of them again.

July 4th 1959 International, Chicago IL, 6th Place


The Empire Statesmen

Front row (L to R): Bernard Race - Arthur Gibbons - Edward MacDonald - Peter Stewart - Ronald Miller - Francis O’Brien - Chester France - Guy Jennings - Robert Kumpan - Ralph Dunning - Richard Hill - Francis O’Brian

2nd row (L to R): Richard LaFountain - Edward Perrone - Albert Vaughn - Seward Featherstone - Demos MacDonald - Howard Saunders - David VanSlyke - Howard Green - Spencer Safford

3rd row (L to R): Carlton Luizzi - Forrest Howe - Frederick Saunders - Anthony Rossi - Michael Johnstone - Joseph Kumpan - William Albin - Ralph Kumpan - Bruce Way - Otis Durfee

We did put Gloversville-Johnstown on the map but as a side note we never turned away anyone. Seward Fetherstone couldn't sing a note on key, but was great with ideas and motivation. He whispered the words when we were on stage. Without him we would never have gotten the money to buy our 45 tux uniforms with top hats, make hotel reservation and transport uniforms all pressed at the theater at proper time.

When we got to the International's everything had to be perfect down to not moving our eyes off the director to look at our families in the audience. At one point I had lost a front tooth and I was moved from the front to the back row. Other chapters picked 50 or 60 men out of 100 members to take to International's but we decided that winning was not why we enjoyed Barbershopping.

My father was president of the North Eastern District at the time [circa 1960] and organized the Saratoga and other chapters for SPEBSQSA. I was 21 and living in Gloversville at the time.

Do you have other memories of this chorus that you'd like to send in?
If so, please mail the site coordinator.


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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:11:40 PDT