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Emerald Coast Chorus

Fort Walton Beach, FL

A Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society


Driving home from a Barbership Harmony Society chapter meeting in Pensacola in 1978, Darrell James (present member) and Els Morey (former director) had to stop driving because of a rainstorm. As they sat there waiting, they made a decision to start a chapter closer to home. After running ads in the newspaper, the first meeting resulted in twenty men showing up for that meeting.

Later, on March 2, 1978, with help from our sponsoring chapter in Pensacola, we were granted our charter with 41 members, and we were known as the PLAYGROUND HARMONIZERS. Two of that chartering group are still active with our chapter after almost 35 years of singing! In 1980, our chapter was recognized by the Barbershop Harmony Society for achieving a membership of over 50.

In 1980, after only a year in operation, the chapter won a first place in the Sunshine District “Plateau 3 International Achievement Award!” Each year, the chapter has been among the top chapters in “Achievements.” From 1983 through 1987, the chapter was NUMBER ONE in the District! And in ’84 and ’87 it was NUMBER ONE in the SOCIETY! Each year the chapter earned a “Bronze Award” for contributions to the Society charity (Institute for Logopedics). In District competition, our chorus got a number 1 rating in our "plateau" (small chorus category) in 1994.

In 1984, the name was changed from the “Playground Harmonizers” to the “Emerald Coast Chorus” and shortly after, Emerald Coast Barbershop Singers (ECBS). In 2006, the name was changed back to the “Emerald Coast Chorus.”

The FWB Chapter takes great pride in its annual show. From the first one in 1979, we have played to near-capacity houses. The first show was held in the FWB Civic Auditorium (400 seats) and in succeeding years, as we outgrew the capacity of that facility, we moved to a new venue--the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at the Okaloosa Walton Community College--featuring an auditorium with a seating capacity of 1500. In response to requests from the public about 2010, we chose as our venue the Emerald Coast Conference Center, on Okaloosa Island. Its location is closer to home for many members of our audience than the college is, and the shorter drive is more convenient for them. More recently, as the conference center schedule became more crowded, we have used local churches as venues for our show. That decision has proven very effective and beneficial for the churches as well.

For several years our annual barbershop show was the largest draw on the gulf coast.


How the Barbershop Harmony Society Began

A tax lawyer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by the name of O. C. Cash, formally invited 15 friends for evening of harmonizing at the roof garden of the Tulsa Club on 11 April 1938. However, when word got around, 26 men showed up. This was the inconspicuous start of SPEBSQSA--a tongue-in-cheek acronym that was popular in the New Deal years of the 1930s. It stands for "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America." This was the official name of the Society until 2004, when the name was changed to "Barbershop Harmony Society".

Over the years, the Society has grown to over 33,000 members strong with over 850 Chapters worldwide. The Society is broken down into a number of districts. The Emerald Coast Chorus belongs to the Sunshine District.