The barge left New Hope and headed upstream at three in the afternoon. On board were the Palmer Squares, the Plainfield Revelers, the Suburban Squires, and a group of singing wives who, later that evening, made their first appearance as the Opposite Sextet. Sixty-five people made that barge trip, a maximum load for the boat. In the barge’s front hold was a huge supply of ice and beer. The party was well underway by the time it arrived at its destination. On the way, some enthusiasts, inspired by the canal water, had swum a length or two, others jumped in, some might have been nudged. The barge was anchored in an isolated grove, and hamburgers, hot dogs, grills, and charcoal were taken ashore for a cookout.
Spring Sing Venues and Hosts Since The Barge in 1957 (details coming soon)
Hosted by the Suburban Squires, included the Squares, the Revelers and the Sextet back on the barge in a “return to the scene of our past triumphs!” One thing the Squires and Squares were known for was their showmanship. Their audience contact was a high point and indicative of their relaxed style. Opposite Sextet is official, and “Perfidia” returns.
Lake Carnegie, Princeton, NJ Spring Sing under a Tent
Attending were the Squares, Squires, and Revelers, plus the Roaring Twenty, the rst mixed group at Spring Sing. We also had our rst mystery group—this time the Nassoons from Princeton University; their performance was a big success. During the afternoon, the big entertainment was a softball game played between the tenors (4) and the basses (7).
A buffet supper was provided, catered by the Opposite Sextet. It was also the rst chance for us all to see the Squires’ new red jackets. Wow! Another rst found NBC’s Monitor staff auditing our concert. The following week, excerpts from the program were broadcast and we were (at least we wanted to believe we were) national gures.
New Hope, PA — Phillips Mill Inn
With the Revelers in charge, the site was Phillips Mill, north of New Hope. Returning were the Sextet, Squires, Squares, and the Roaring Twenty, plus two new groups, the Augmented Eight from Washington, and the Spare Parts from Hartford. The Augmented Eight has been a participant in Spring Sing ever since and
has brought enthusiasm, humor and a variety of music. The Spare Parts wowed everyone with their close harmony arrangements. In fact, they set a new standard of excellence for Spring Sing and opened our ears to what superb harmony could be. It was the begin- ning of the end for The Yale Song Book as a major resource for arrangements. Tommy Thomas and Ede astonished us with their yodeling in the courtyard, and Dick Barrett entertained on the guitar. One early guide-line, to avoid singing the same song in two Spring Sings, evolved at this time, as did the general agreement not to sing an arrangement introduced by another participating group. 1960 saw “uniforms” being adopted by each singing group; the result of those red jackets, no doubt.
1961 Roaring Twenty Andalusia, PA — The Barn The Roaring Twenty took over at the Barn in Andalusia, Pennsylvania. It was fun and the Squires, Squares, Sextet, Revelers, Augmented Eight, and Spare Parts all came back, but again some new faces appeared on the scene. The Clef Dwellers, an all-female group from Washington, became the second group to uphold the distaff side and did a super job. The Commuters (actually, the Commuters’ Singing Society of Lower Railroad Avenue!) wanted everyone to know that “the Squires and the Roaring Twenty aren’t the only groups in Philadelphia.” This year they started an attendance string that wasn’t interrupted for 15 years. At the Barn a new dimension was added. A two-record album was recorded and sold to all participants. We even had local Philadelphia disc jockey, Pat Landon, as MC. It seemed that Spring Sing had really arrived as an institution, and “Mack the Knife,” sung by the Squires, took the prize for the most fascinating song.
Andalusia, PA — The Barn The Commuters refused to let the music stop! They insisted on reviving Spring Sing at the Barn in Andalusia and invited the Squires, Squares, Sextet, Augmented Eight, Spare Parts, and the successors to the Roaring Twenty, the Counterparts. Oh, how we remember their skillful renditions of Swingle Singers tunes. For the first time, however, the Revelers did not appear. This was the first loss of a founding group. The Revelers disbanded for lack of first tenors. (It was ever thus.) The Sextet was on sabbatical. Spring Sing was back on the beam and was alive and kicking. But now we realized the importance of planning and gratefully acknowledged the efforts of the host group.
Alexandria, VA — Gadsby’s Tavern The Augmented Eight put on a fantastic show at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, a landmark in American history and a landmark for Spring Sing as well. Participating were the Clef Dwellers, who assisted the Augmented Eight with the arrangements, Squares, Squires, Spare Parts, Counterparts, and Commuters. Particularly memorable was the special female quartet called the Smoke Rings (also known as Fenno Heath’s harem—one member was his wife), who were mystery guests this year. We also recall Wes Oler’s R-rated jokes and his Y sweater (for Yeshiva University), the party at Gadsby’s Tavern inside, and a wonderful afterglow outside, held later in the evening in the garden. The high brick walls produced reverberations—it was like singing in the bathroom.
A new plan began to evolve: the Spring Sing weekend. Many groups stayed over and discovered the joy of a late-night swimming party in the “closed” motel pool, as well as revival by means of a Bloody Mary on Sunday, and a Spring Sing reprise at the fascinating home of the Clark Cliffords.
The A-8 hosted Spring Sing in May of 1964 at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria. Because the Spare Parts had come from so far
away, and would be staying overnight, we organized a Sunday brunch at the home of Clark Clifford, advisor to many presidents and father of Dick Barrett’s wife, Joyce. (It was an optional affair for $5 extra cost.)
The Chapin School Palmer Square member, Pete Henderson, was headmaster of The Chapin School, so was able to arrange for this great venue for our gath- ering. This sing included the Squares, Squires, Sextet, Augmented Eight, and Spare Parts. Commuters, Counterparts, and Clef Dwellers “rested,” and we decided we needed to expand.
Goodspeed Opera House
The ninth was special. All active groups were back in good voice at the Goodspeed Opera House, a restored building on the Connecticut
River at East Haddam. One group planned to arrive by seaplane. The Spare Parts, our hosts, did a marvelous job of preparation, and the Squares, Squires, Sextet, Augmented Eight, Counterparts, and Commuters were joined this year by two new groups. The Off Sounders from Greenwich made their first appearance, and the fabulous new addition from way out west in Detroit, the Grunyons, brought the house down at their first performance. They opened with the quiet, “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” and ended with “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”
We remember three renditions of “Moon River” and the after-hours party at the Banner Lodge! The afterglow was sung on the Opera House grand staircase. A two-record album was made to commemorate the occasion. (Word has it that Tony Erdman still has 122 albums in his cellar awaiting eager buyers.)
The Squires were hosts for the second time. The Barn in Andalusia again was the setting with outdoor performances from the balcony. The Squares, Sextet, Spare Parts, Augmented Eight, Commuters, Grunyons, Off Sounders, and Coun- terparts attended, and this time two new groups made their debut. The Witherspooners (labeled the Private Parts, after an introduction got out of hand) were first-rate show people, accompanied by gut bucket, banjo, and guitar. The Windjam- mers turned up in 1967 and were enjoyed by all. Bob Tyson, super MC, kept us laughing. “Now I give you Jim Hickox, arranged by Barty Bartholomew.” Special memories include “Cherish” by the Squares and the pink beer goblets! An innovation of after-dinner dancing was introduced on this occasion, although most of the vocalists seemed to seek out distant corners for a few more songs.
By now, 10 years after the first barge ride, the biggest change seemed to be in the music— the arrangements—and the willingness to move away from Sigmund Spaeth and The Yale Song Book. Bill Gard, Wally Collins, Jim Buck, Riggy Sly, Johnny Newlands, Roo Brown, Don Williams, Sally Sword, and others all made their mark, not only on their own groups, but also inevitably on all
of the singers with their talented arrangements. In recent years, Rob Northrup, Jack Gilbert,
Bill Cline, John Knapp, James Winn, George Bassett, and Dave Robinson all helped their respective groups.
Detroit, MI — Players’ Club
In the Heart of Detroit, rated by many the greatest Spring Sing yet, this was the first full weekend affair. (It had to be if you went 600 miles to get there!) The Grunyons were hosts and the Squires, Squares, Spare Parts, Augmented Eight, Off Sounders, and Commuters all traveled to Detroit to spend the two-day weekend. Lost to Spring Sing were the Coun- terparts, who broke up, and whose mixed voice harmonies would be missed. The site of Spring Sing was the Players’ Playhouse on Saturday with brunch at the Parcells’ home on Sunday. Tyson: “I want to report a dandelion!” Highlight of the weekend: a truly mysterious group, which turned out to be the Arbors. Fantastic!
Memories come back of the double- decker, red London bus used for transportation, the pitch pipe tie clasps, the stags housed at the motel, couples hosted and housed all over the Detroit area by Grunyons and friends, the shell that made acoustics perfect for the singers in the Playhouse and, of course, the Arbors. It was the Detroit Spring Sing that gave birth to the great god Pan, who now toots his horn on the Spring Sing program every year. In 1968, a full stereo tape recording was made. Pan makes his first appearance.
Belle Haven Yacht Club
The Off Sounders were in charge and the Squires, Squares, Opposite Sextet, Spare Parts, Augmented Eight, Commuters, Grunyons, Windjammers, and Private Parts were all on hand with special guest, Barty Bartholomew. One advantage to introducing new groups is
the change of dimension it gives, the variety of ideas and arrangements contributing to the change. The Peddler’s Pack brought folk music arrangements and performed with humor. A new look and a new sound were added when the Grace Notes, 16 good-looking Greenwich gals, came aboard to become the newest participants. The Belle Haven Club, overlooking Long Island Sound, was a beautiful location. All participants received music books with arrange- ments contributed by each of the groups. The weekend format was repeated and the hosts and hostesses made the participants most wel- come. There was a smash rendition of “Wash- ington at Valley Forge” (Private Parts), George Stothoff’s hilarious ad lib comments, the first rendition (by the Grunyons) of “I Found Love,” and the Geist family singers who performed for the first time at Sunday Brunch.
Playhouse in the Park
This year’s Spring Sing became “singing in the round” since the performance was at the Playhouse in the Park next to Belmont Mansion, a landmark in the center of Philadelphia. The Commuters were second-time hosts and singing with them were the Squires, Spare Parts, Augmented Eight, Grunyons, Off Sounders, Peddler’s Pack, and the Windjammers.
This year the Private Parts and Opposite Sextet were taking sabbatical leave. The Palmer Squares had broken up and another founding Spring Sing group was lost.
Sunday saw a reprise of most groups singing at brunch and a continuance of the social fun. Over recent years, the biggest complaint has been about the lack of time to socialize with all the great people associated with Spring Sing. This continues to be an unfor- tunate shortcoming, but Sunday has helped.
The Augmented Eight took their second turn as hosts at the Potomac School in McLean, thanks to its headmaster, A-8 bass Lew Kimball. The program was a long one with two sets in the afternoon and one after supper. The Commuters, Opposite Sextet, Spare Parts, Grunyons, Off Sounders, Windjammers, Private Parts,
Peddler’s Pack, and Grace Notes were all on hand, plus two super additions. The Suburban Squires took a sabbatical. The new groups were: The Two By Fours, Boston’s claim to musical fame. Assured, enthusiastic, and melodious, they came on strong and became regulars immediately. All Good Children were something else: eight voices, four of them named Sly, five with pitch pipe experience, all soloists—and the sound! Potomac School auditorium broke into pandemonium when AGC conquered the crowd with “Come On In.” Their skilled harmonies set a new level of achievement. It was AGC’s first public performance and it was actually intended only as a one-time thing. The reception persuaded them to continue, which they did for three more years.
On a weekend in Washington, when massive demonstrations were going on downtown, Potomac School on Saturday and the Hanes’ home on Sunday were the essence of escapism—to song. Some memories of the weekend include the “instrumental” smash “Freddy Feel Good” by the Grunyons, “People” by the Geist family, 3:00 a.m. singing in the Key Bridge motel pool, and the gals of the Private Parts tap dancing in their hot pants to the tune of “I Want To Be Happy.”
The Hun School
The scene this year was the Hun School in Princeton with the Private Parts and the Opposite Sextet sharing the hosting duties. Opened
by a fabulous rendition of “Day by Day,” the program was a full one with the newcomers, the Foxheads of Baltimore, being introduced along with regulars: Squires, Augmented Eight, Spare Parts, Commuters, Grunyons, Off Sounders, Peddler’s Pack, Two By Fours, All Good Children, and the Grace Notes. Additional entertainment was provided by veteran University Glee Clubber, Jimmy James, aged 75, who sang his version of the great songs of the ’20s and ’30s. In the afternoon, the Squires showed they could throw Frisbees during their performance. In the evening, following an informal afterglow, there was dancing in the Hun School common room. Sunday brunch was a joy at Whip and Sally Buck’s lovely home. Remember Bess Bonnier on the piano and the “three-ring circus” of musical variety going on simultaneously? As a result of the ’71 and ’72 affairs, it was recognized that Spring Sing could easily get too big. Following the ’72 event, a steering committee was formed to attempt to deal with logistics, control of timetables, invitations to new groups, and, in general, to provide some overview and guidance to the planning groups of each successive host organization. Regular sabbaticals were instituted to help keep the Spring Sing a manageable size.
Held in the pouring rain, but it didn’t matter because we didn’t have any traveling to do. And yes, with a convention, the clowns were overhead…and in the elevators and hallways, adding another dimension to the space! The guests were Double Treble and the Heaths. There was lots and lots of woodshedding. The best, though, was simply that we were all in one place, for all meals, for all events, and the camaraderie was special, as evidenced by the recent marriage of Martha Gard, then director of Noteworthy, to Sam Stott of the Wizards!
Independence Seaport Museum
Welcomed to Philadelphia in historic party fashion by Ben Franklin and the Mummers. Friday night started with eight amazing alumni group performances, and Saturday featured cameo performances by many former singers. Newcomers were two outstanding high school guest groups: Shipley School’s Madriguys, and Marple Newtown’s Aleatoric—who got everyone up and dancing. Other highlights: walking down 35 years of Spring Sing memory lane, woodshedding in the atrium, and group sings aided by Wizards’ songbook.