Museum & History

1 Photographs - jump to Photos 
2 Past newsletters - jump to Newsletters 
3 Singout Reports - jump to Singout Reports 
4 Certificates of Appreciation - jump to Certificates 
5 Member's Personal Memoirs - jump to Memoirs 
6 Historical Docs Historical Docs- jump to Historical Documents


We would like to hear from current or past members about any missing information and / or pictures they may have to improve or add to this history.

Please contact our Archivist with details. Richard Brookton: 04 1636 9840,

The Formation of SydneySiders
1988 - 1990

In 1988 two things occurred. Doris Ward whilst in Brisbane during October 1988 for the Queensland Men's Tennis Championships where Max Ward (her husband) was one of the Umpires, went to a rehearsal of "The Banana Blenders", and was impressed with the sound that she heard.

At about the same time as Doris's Brisbane experience, a group of Wahroonga men at a District Rotary conference took part in a barbershop quartet competition. They won even though in their ignorance they sang to accompaniment. Ian Miller was the judge, and 2 of the group were Rob Fergusson and Phil Dean (who was the piano player.).

On arriving back in Sydney, Doris made enquiries from SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc.-now call Barbershop Harmony Society, as to how a chorus could be started in Sydney. David Russell, a member of Bathurst Men's Barbershop Chorus, later contacted Doris in reference to her enquiry. In March 1989 Doris advertised for to test the interest in starting a men's barbershop harmony group.

Having enquiries from several people (nine in all – and from the guys at Wahroonga Rotary), our first meeting was held on March 20, 1989 at Doris and Max Ward's house in Carlingford. The Northern District Times was contacted, and an article attracted more interested singers.

The name chosen was the "SydneySiders Men's Barbershop Chorus".

Rehearsals continued at which Doris acted as Musical Director for about six months until an American working in Australia, Dale Jergensen from the Chicago Chapter, came along and was pursuaded to take over this role. Practices moved to Wahroonga at the home of Phil Dean. In March 1990 we held our first Annual General Meeting of the Chorus where Phil Dean was elected President, and Dale Jergensen confirmed as Musical Director. At this time the annual subscriptions were $20.00 of which $7.50 was forwarded to AAMBS (Australian Association of Men Barbershop Singers Inc.).  

The first chorus to be formed in NSW was at Bathurst, three or four years before the Sydneysiders. Their base was the Music Department at the university campus at Bathurst. About the same year as the SydneySiders were formed other groups began in the Blue Mountains, Penrith and Gosford.

As the old hands, and most experienced group in the region, Bathurst hosted the first workshop in what later became the Eastern Region. This first weekend workshop was conducted at Karingal Conference Centre, Mt Panorama, Bathurst on May 5-6 1990, the educator for this workshop was Linc Abbott. A very worthwhile and informative weekend enjoyed by all.

During the year we held our first concert mainly entertaining our kith and kin. Sometime during 1990 we had a visit from Bruce Okley who had started the Perth Chorus some years earlier and was by then regarded as one of the maestros in Australian barbershop. We rang many chords under Bruce's coaching. It was also during 1990 that the Central Coast Chorus invited us to participate in their first concert. They had invited Link Abbott down from the Gold Coast to MC it and conduct a grand chorus which included us.

Here is a photo of the sing-out at a Rotary event, under the direction of Dale Jergensen.

Dale Jergensen had to return to the United States and at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting on December 12 1990; Ian Miller accepted the position of Musical Director.

1991 - 1996
The Chorus Grows and Blossoms    

Here we are at a retirement village singout with Ian Miller as Musical Director.

1991 was an historic year in barbershopping in Australia as it marked the first Australian Barbershop Convention, which was held at the Gold Coast. The SydneySiders quickly decided they were going to participate and Ian set to work to get us up to speed on a couple of songs - 'There'll Always be an Ireland' was definitely one of them, and the other was 'Paddlin 'Madeline Home' the first song for which we developed choreography as we canoed our way down the river with Madeline. The judging quartet was The Ritz who had won the International Championship in 1990 and after the convention The Ritz toured Australia coaching choruses. They made many friends whilst in Australia.

Also this year our Annual Concerts became more formal affairs held at increasingly larger venues with the intention of attracting an increasingly larger audience and thereby hopefully attracting more members to our group. Some of the venues we used were Knox Grammar School Hall - possibly twice - and the Mosman Town Hall, before starting our long association with Abbotsleigh, although initially we used the smaller concert chamber there, not the big hall which later became our regular venue.

Quartet photos like the one below began to appear in local newspapers to advertise our New Members Night.  This proved to be a successful way of attracting new members to the chorus.  The photo features from left to right; James Meares (Lead), Col Goddard (Baritone), Stever Rorke (Bass) and Barry Lovegrove (Tenor)

In 1992, our President that year Bruce Magnussan, wrote about the many singouts which included two Eisteddfods one at Sydney Town Hall and one at Willoughby Town Hall, Queen Victoria Building, Opening of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, Warringah Mall, Sydney Jazz Festival, Darling Harbour, Lane Cover River Park, and Concert Time at Mosman Town Hall. Then we did seven more singouts in December. Wow what a year!
Back Row: W Butterfield, F Kirby-Brown, W Taylor, M Ward, E Riddle, E Phillips, J White
Second Row: B Magnusson, D Enoch, M Stevens, M Suthers, I Miller, G Dunn, C Felthan, T Phillips, R Smith
Front Row: T Tinworth, J Rabe, G Blundell, R Furguson, W Collins, P Dean, S Taylor, J Harrison


1993 was again the biennial convention year and occurred in Perth, the origin of the Australian Association of Men's Barbershop Singers (AAMBS). Singouts were plentiful and memorable. 1993 was the year we got our famous multi-coloured uniform affectionately known as 'dog's breakfast!' This year we were privileged to attend the Harmony Club of Canberra's weekend workshop attended by a great American Barbershopper, educator and arranger extraordinaire, Tom Gentry. What he doesn't know about barbershopping isn't worth knowing. Tom also came to our chorus practice which was a great inspiration.
By 1995 the SydneySiders were a well-established group who had been singing for many years. The September concert went exceptionally well and we were able to give a sizable donation to Westmead Childrens' Hospital, Oncology Unit. Every Barbershop Chorus or Chapter chooses a charity it supports and we have been supporting the Oncology Unit for many years.

Although we were again disappointed we didn't do better at the Annual Convention held that year in Canberra, we were singing the best we had ever sung, and considered ourselves much improved.
Above is our Convention photo dressed in our famous multi-coloured gear with our MD Ian Miller, and below we're in one of our concert outfits.

1996 was a big year for SydneySiders because, at the 1995 Convention our invitation to host the 1997 Convention had been accepted. 1996 was the year in which most of the planning took place. George and Mary Walker acted as the secretariat for the Convention, with Mary doing most of the work.  George has now sent us a memoir of his times with SydneySiders so check out the top of this page and use the link to Memoirs page.

The President's Report comments on the big changes, which took place such as the extremely successful recruitment drive led by VP Membership Ross Smith where the chorus grew to its largest size. For a short time there were approximately 70 members, however at the end of the year several of the longer serving members left for various reasons. Rob Strickland and Rob Dyer left to start a new chorus in Annandale, called Harbour City Harmony.

1997 - 2000
Hosting the Convention – and Chorus Reorganisation 

1997 Over the last few years different philosophies were being formed within the chorus which eventually resulted in a split occurring early in 1997. A group led by Ian Miller and Doug Moran formed a much more competitive driven chorus called Broadway, later called Sydney Harmony after merging with Harbour City Harmony.

The SydneySiders Chorus owes much to Ian Miller, who as Music Director over many years was pivotal in our development of our barbershop singing. Ian worked tirelessly from Dec 1990 after Dale Jergensen returned to US, to 1996 when he left to form Broadway.

Brian Johnson was requested to take on the position of Acting Music Director whilst we looked for a replacement for Ian Millar. This year the Convention, held at Darling Harbour, was a great success, and firmly established Barbershop singing as a major form of musical expression in Sydney. The American Quartet that came over to act as Judges and educators was called FRED and added all the expertise and excite that we expected plus their own brand of humour.

In Oct 1997 Dick Costin felt that a chorus in Parramatta NSW could be a viable group, and together with John Unsworth and Brian Johnson (as MD) started Harmony Express Men's Barbershop Chorus.  Brian continued to be MD for both choruses - some feat!

1998 Brian Johnson was confirmed as Music Director of Sydneysiders Men's Barbershop Chorus and Ron Quarmby Assistant Music Director.

Again another busy year with the annual Weekend Workshop held at Bathurst in May.  A Harmony College held in September with US educators and quartet "Accoustix". 

Our show "Old Time Music Variety Show" in November was a hit from all points of view.

The "dog's breakfast" costume was in short supply and we had to commission and English manufacturer to copy our pattern and produce a 'bolt' of it for us. All research and credit go to Bruce Page our costume manager.

Harmony Express grew quickly to about 22 men - pic below is at the 1997 convention.

They attended the Harmony College several successful singouts and conducted a concert in November at the Cumberland Hospital Hall, Parramatta.  They had been working hard on all of the songs for the concert, a substantial list of 14 songs.

At the 1999 convention Harmony Express one the small chorus award.

From left - 4th row, Dick Costin, Govin Patten, Sid Cave, Jim Gordon, Ronny Cook
3rd, Fred Miel, Mario Belizzi, John Unsworth, Warwick Plumridge, Alan Moore
2nd, Luke Luk, Jim Aurelius, Glenn Denny, Mark Velayuthen
1st, Brian Johnson, Barry Lovegrove, Brian Dickerson

During 2000, SydneySiders held discussions with two other choruses with the view of amalgamation. Harmony Express and SydneySiders were able to come to an agreement and later that year the amalgamation between these two choruses took place. A midway location was selected for rehearsal - Eastwood. The name chosen for the new chorus was derived from both original chorus names, and so SydneySiders Express was born.

That year we also held a successful biennial concert at Abbotsleigh with the assistance of The Circular Keys Sweet Adelines (ladies’ barbershop) chorus. Again, we had many sing outs, which included QVB, Garrison retirement Village, St Ives Shopping Centre, QVB, Wahroonga Fair. McDonalds Challenge.

Bob Swan proposed the "Chorus Member of the year" be awarded a Tom McManus trophy. In 2000 it was Tom's microphone and awarded to James Mears. 

2001 Onwards
Chorus Enhancement and Enrichment 

2001 was another busy year with singouts including QVB, Normanhurst Uniting Church, Ryde Eastwood Leagues, Wisteria Festival,

In memory of a great SydneySiders member, the Late Tom McManus, a perpetual trophy was created, to be awarded annually to a member of the chorus who has shown:

1. Extraordinary improvement in singing performance,
2. Outstanding commitment to the chorus in a broad range of activities
3. Inspiration and encouragement to other members

We were pleased that this year's award went to Peter Dustin.

For the first time since conventions started in Australia in 1991, we had to withdraw from the Melbourne Convention this year due to chorus imbalance. This was a very difficult decision as for most of us the convention is a big highlight. Many members still went to give support to other barbershoppers and to enjoy the get together and great camaraderie that exists in this great hobby.

Dave Rumsey outlined a new award for the Most Improved Quartet to be given next year

2002 saw us doing many quite different singouts such as Bridge climb singout, Beethoven Society G&S, Sydney Town Hall with Tommy Ticho, Royal Easter Show, Sing for the Danielle Wymark appeal, and in the photo below, Hornsby Hospital.

We performed another great concert

2003-2009 Anglicare Retirement Villages continue to ask us back each year and we are grateful to them for the assistance it gives our fund raising for our hobby and our charity. Other singouts help our fund raising and consist of private and commercial events. We prefer to entertain at events where the audience can really pay attention and listen to our harmony rather than be background music. Fortunately we now choose our singouts carefully.

Also continuing each year are our Quartet Workshops and Annual Handicapped Quartet Competition and both continue to be extremely popular.

During 2003 Brian Johnson our Music Director and our Assistant Music Directors Reg Hill and John Unsworth attended NZ workshops held by Dr Greg Lyne - Music Director of the great 'Masters of Harmony'. This was a great help to the chorus as many techniques from that workshop were adopted.

Voice coaching by Margi de Ferranti, and Jane Hennessy started in 2003 and continue to present but now by Chloe Charody with assistance from Eleanor Lyons.

We have had some outside help over the years with Choreography but currently it is developed by an inhouse team run by our member Tony Brown. Some years we've been fortunate to have US educators in the Barbershop craft and in 2003 Bob Brock made a visit.

To assist learning we purchased a second hand 4-track recorder, mikes etc, OHP and screen.
Col Goddard manufactured the necessary gantry to hold all mikes and his expertise in recording has proved extremely useful.

We held and attended several workshops this year for chorus blending and tuning, then the Eastern Region of our Australian Association's workshop at Amaroo. Education in barbershop technique was enhanced with the visit of Don Kahl for USA.

Our concert this year was the most successful so far in terms of funds raised and we able in December to give a large donation of $13,000. In the past our donations have ranged between $3,000 and $7,000.

This year we extended our costumes and introduced a black shirt with a long tie from our 'multi-coloured' material we use for the main costume.

This year Tom McManus Trophy was awarded to Colin Goddard.


This year Tom McManus Trophy was awarded to Bryan Dickerson

We attended the Gold Coast Convention