Birthdate of the Sarpy Serenaders

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Let's go back to 1987. I worked in Omaha but I lived in Lincoln where I was a member of the Lincoln Continentals Barbershop Chorus. I was also president of the Central states District of SPEBSQSA with 64 chapters and 2,500 members in the states of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. The biggest concern of the district president was membership.

The fastest way to increase membership is to start new chapters. A survey of the territory showed that the area with the largest population with the smallest number of active barbershoppers was the Omaha metropolitan area - 25 active barbershoppers in a population of approximately 500,000 people. I concluded that this area could probably support two barbershop chapters. With the help of Dick Kimball, a barbershopper who lived in Papillion, the county seat of Sarpy County, a meeting was set up to investigate the public's interest in a new singing group. This meeting was held in the Council Chamber at the Papillion City Hall on Monday, September 21, 1987. (How's that for a possible birthdate?)

About 20 men showed up for this first public meeting. Half of them were from the Omaha barbershop chapter who came to see what was going on. There was enough interest shown to conclude that a new chapter might have a chance of being organized in Papillion. Arrangements were made for a meeting room each Monday night at St. Paul's Methodist Church in Papillion. The first meeting in that location was held on September 28, 1987 (Another possible birthday). I would drive to Omaha to work on a Monday morning, go down to Papillion after work and finally get back home to Lincoln about midnight on chapter nights.

The first few months were deadly! I would go down to Papillion hoping there would be enough men at the meeting to cover the four voice parts. When the weather was bad, I almost hoped there wouldn't be so I could head for Lincoln early. That never happened. We could always sing even if there were only four or five men present. We didn't meet during the last two weeks of December because of the holidays and I almost felt the project was a lost cause. I wrote letters to prospective singers and we began to grow slowly in 1988. I moved to Papillion in 1988 because that is where my barbershop chapter was (the drive had nothin to do with it!).

To become affiliated with The Barbershop Society, SPEBSQSA, a new group had to apply for a license with twenty men paying a $5.00 license fee. After receiving a license, the group had six months to apply for a charter. Can you imagine the difficulty of recruiting 30 men for a brand new organization? We had to license two times and finally met the chartering requirements in January, 1990 when we submitted our chin'ret application with 31 charter members. Nine years later, twelve of these charter members were still on our roster: Jim Griffith, Dick Kimball, Bill Hutchison, Ron Frick, Jeff Lewis, Daryl Mouw, Craig Hanson, Tracy Osborne, Jim Bare, Jim Mathis, Ben Nelson and Earl Flora.

I served as Chorus Director from that first organization meeting until September, 1992 when I passed that responsibility into the very capable hands of Jim Mathis who was our leader until 2000. I also served as the chapter president from inception through 1990 - the first year we were chartered. Subsequent presidents have been Dick Kimball, Earl Flora, Bob McKee, Stan Chase and our almost "President for Life". Bill Crowell, who was first elected in 1995, took the job again in 1996 when President Stan Chase was reassigned by the Air Force, and was at the helm continually until January, 2000.

Officially, we are The Papillion Chapter, SPEBSQSA. Our chorus name is The Sarpy Serenaders. Very often we are introduced as The Sarpy County Serenaders. When we are out of our home territory, the common question we receive is "What is a Sarpy?" We have accomplished much in our short history. The Barbershop Society had an achievement award program where every chapter was rated for its activities - recruiting, retention, performances, board meetings, publishing a newsletter, etc. Chapters were grouped according to their size. Our chapter is the only chapter in the Society to be judged best in the Society three years in a row. We compete in district chorus contests and have been recognized as the most improved chorus twice. Our chapter newsletter, The Sarpy Serenader, was recognized as the best in the Central States District not long ago.

We meet every Monday night with the exception of, maybe, one or two holiday nights a year. The annual show is our big production of the year but we perform whenever and wherever we are asked. We try to schedule one nursing home performance each month on our Monday meeting night. We deliver singing Valentines in February, sing every Sunday morning in June, July and August in at least one church ,(more often - two), and, traditionally, open the annual Christmas carol concert at St. Columbkille each December and have our own annual Christmas Show held at Calvary Christian Church in Bellevue.

Am I glad I suffered through the birth pangs of the Sarpy Serenaders'? You bet! The barbershop society is the greatest fraternity in the world. It doesn't matter who you are, what you have or what you do for a living - these things are unimportant. The only thing that counts is how well you sing your part and how well you get along with your fellow singers. If you are a man who likes to sing, do yourself a favor - visit the Sarpy Serenaders on a Monday night at Ralston Church of Christ, 7638 Maywood, Ralston. You'll be glad you did!!

Griff