Harford County Chapter History
The Harford County Chapter was formed in 1978 when its sponsoring chapter, The Chorus of the Chesapeake from Dundalk, Maryland, held an event at the Bel Air Fire Hall. The new chapter was chartered in 1978. One of the first orders of business for the Harford County Members was to come up with a name for its chorus. Many names were floated including The Susquehanna Flats and, jokingly, The Sons of Pitches but these names didn’t seem to fit the character of the chorus. The consensus was that we wanted a name that represented the polished organization that the new foundling chorus hoped to be and yet include a touch of our heritage. Thus the name Bay Country Gentlemen came to be.
The Chorus of the Chesapeake was everything that any host chapter could be and more. As the Bay Country Gentlemen prepared for our first contest in 1979 we didn’t even have a uniform to wear on stage. Not a problem as the Dundalk chapter provided us with gold tuxes that they were no longer using. On other occasions at contest we didn’t have ties so as the Dundalk members walked off the contest stage they handed ties to Harford County members to wear on stage. To help us get started many of the Chorus of the Chesapeake members took on dual memberships thus bolstering the ranks of Harford County until we could stand on our own. That amazing partnership of so many years ago still continues today as several members of Harford County are dual members with the Chorus of the Chesapeake.
Under the directorship of our first paid director, Joseph Mannherz Jr., the chapter flourished and grew. With the growth came excitement and new ideas and Harford County became the first chapter to host a barbershop show at the newly built Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. That show featured the 1978 International Champion Quartet Bluegrass Student Union and of course had a touch of Dundalk with our emcee that evening the wonderful and talented Mr. Fred King. The show was a great success!
In 1983 the Bay Country Gentlemen reached another milestone by winning its first Western Division Contest. Two more overall Western Division Titles would follow shortly there after in 1985 and 1986. In later years the chapter would also win the Intermediate Chorus title once and the Small Chorus contest on two other occasions.
Through the years many talented men would lead the Bay Country Gentlemen as music director. Joe Mannherz Jr. had the most longevity by conducting from 1978 through 1990. The very talented Jim Crouse would take over the helm and direct the BCG from 1991 until 1992 when he lead the chorus to its only Intermediate Chorus Title. Jim would then move on to find success directing the Chorus of the Chesapeake. Next on the seen was Dave Forslind for the years of 1993 and 1994. Dave would help the chorus to capture its first Small Chorus Title in 1994. In 1995 John Markel, who sang with R.J.’s All-stars stepped in to take the chorus to contest. He was followed by John Foley in 1996 and Neil Ellis who directed the chorus from 1997 through early 2000.
In November of 2000 the BCG hired a former charter member, who had been 17 years old at the time of the charter back in 1978. Bill Eberius would step in with the hopes of rebuilding the chorus to its former greatness. By 2003 the chapter had doubled in size and was financially stable again. On June 5, 2004 the Bay Country Gentlemen scored in the B range at the Western Division Contest for the first time in many years. The excitement continues as the Bay Country Gentlemen moved from their long time rehearsal location at South Hampton Middle School to the beautiful facility at the Lorien Health Systems Building.
In 2006 the Bay Country Gentlemen began a new chapter. They hired the young and talented Janine Herd as their first female chorus director. Janine’s excitement and energy could be felt at every rehearsal and her smile brought the chorus to life. Unfortunately, a job change caused her to leave us in 2008. In 2009 the chorus was able to attract an experienced and very talented director, Kathy Kurek, who also brought energy and a smile to the chorus.
2010 brought back a familiar face to direct the chorus. Bill Eberius was thrilled to return to the position after 5 years of exploring other barbershop opportunities. It is his goal to grow the chorus again and take the chorus down a path of musical excellence. The fun has begun and the excitement is growing along with the chorus. The Bay Country Gentlemen have enjoyed a rich history, but we are looking forward to making a lot more great moments in the future. We hope you will be a part of that history with us.
Our program has been assisted by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council
and the Harford County Government through the Harford Cultural Arts Board.