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The Monterey Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society began meeting in 1955 at the Naval Air Facility attached to the Naval Postgraduate School. Its founder, Captain Paul Spangler, a navy surgeon, had previously chartered chapters in Portland, Oregon and Corpus Christi, Texas. Before the year was over, twenty-eight men filed a petition with the Society Headquarters in Detroit, to become the Monterey Chapter of SPEBSQSA. On January 9, 1956, their petition was approved.
The chorus' first director was Peggy Farlinger, Director of the Naval Postgraduate School Choir. She prepared the men for their first show, which took place on the evening of January 3, 1956. However, when she learned that it was against Society policy for a woman to direct a chorus in contest, she bowed out gracefully and charter member Jimmy Griffin, a navy pilot and former Fred Waring Glee Club member, took over the baton. Since then, twelve chorus directors have succeeded Mr. Griffin.
The first name of the chorus was the Paisano Chorus in reference to Monterey's large Sicilian population; the backbone of the region's fishing industry. Later it was felt that it might be a bad omen to connect the chorus to a declining industry, so when Jimmy Griffin took over as director, the name was changed to the Monterey Chorus. In 1960 when Buck Williams became director, the group became known as the Monterey Peninsula Chorus. Ten years later, under Neil Keefer's direction, we existed for a few months as the Cannery Row Rogues. Finally, in 1971, the chapter board sought a new name by conducting a contest. Cypressaires was the winning entry and Cypressaires it has been for the past thirty-four years.
Since 1956, the Monterey Chapter has produced nearly fifty annual shows. The majority have been parade-type productions, where a parade of songs related to a particular theme is performed by chapter and guest quartets and the chorus. In recent years, many shows have been scripted, which involves a little more preparation since chorus members must learn speaking lines. This type of show has been very popular with our audiences.
Over the years, members of the Monterey Chapter have entertained at convalescent hospitals, churches, service clubs, community celebrations and charitable fund-raisers. They've participated in Fourth of July parades in Seaside and Monterey and have helped the Salvation Army with its bell-ringing and food distribution operations. They've made many cash contributions to school music programs and to national and local charities. Throughout the life of the chapter, the Cypressaires have considered community service no less important than spreading the joy of barbershop harmony.
Sam Kier, Chapter Secretary