Since 1955 there
has been a new power in the Universe - its humble beginnings
fashioned by the hand of the great Dr. Walter Collins, who
believed that it was possible to build a vocal octet using
merriment and juvenile behavior to produce divine harmony.
Sinceriously, named for a prestigious U of M drinking society
of the 1900s, this crack squad of super crooners has been
bringing mirth and music to all mankind - from the Pizza
House to the White House, South University to South America
. Armed only with their eight golden pipes and a marked
propensity towards verve and vivacity, they ride through
time, laughing, singing, drinking. Wherever there is injustice,
they'll be there. Wherever there is sadness, they'll be
there. Wherever there is pizza and beer money, you can bet
they'll be there - seeking only to spread their sweet melodies
unto the four corners of the earth and preserve the cherished
and time-honored tradition of... The Friars .
IN THE BEGINNING...
But how did
this group know as the "Great Eight" come to be?
You see, friends, the idea of the Friars goes back long
before 1955. Once upon a time, in the early 1900's, the
University of Michigan was dedicated to revealing great
truths in the fields of art and science, utilizing academic
excellence and good ole' fashioned hard work. But in such
an atmosphere as this, one must contemplate just how one
could get through the long cold Midwest winters without
freezing their - ugh - mugs off. To combat the occasional
stress brought about by the top public University in the
USA, a group of guys from the Michigan Men's Glee and Mandolin
Club formed a society dedicated to putting the Glee Club's
three pillars: Tradition, Camaraderie, and Musical Excellence,
to good use at the local bars. Singing, eating and drinking,
this group soon began to flourish within the club, and a new
tradition was born. As with any close-knit society, the
guys wanted to have cool robes in which to dress. Borrowing a
few pages from history, the group started donning vestments
of monastic friars as depicted in plays, storybooks, and
paintings of yore. After a while, it seems that the old
slogan, "You are what you wear" (yeah, you know
you've heard that maxim before) just stuck. And so was the
name, "The Friars."
Glee Club continued to represent new levels of musical excellence
- touring the world and spreading song throughout the University
and the world. Ditching the mandolins, the choir of over
a hundred young men began to flourish and gain extreme notoriety
as a men's choir in the music community. The Tradition,
Camaraderie, and Musical Excellence of the Club only improved,
and the young men continued to take the values of fraternity
to new heights. As time passed, the small group known as
the Friars transformed into a much larger Glee Club tradition,
and the small group and its name were washed away into history.
But other small
groups were very alive and present in the club - this time
in the form of vocal quartets. In 1914, a small group called
the Varsity Quartette entertained people for a few numbers
at Glee Club Concerts until 1928. In 1925, a few guys developed
another group into the Midnight Sons (because they often
went and serenaded the local sorority ladies after the lights
were out). They enjoyed great success and also performed
small vignettes at the Glee Club's concerts. In the late
1940's another successful quartet was developed. Called
"The Novelaires," this group would also win the
hearts of audiences in and outside of the Glee Club. A fourth
group, the Key Changers, tried to develop in 1949-1950,
but - aside from a brief revival in 1963 - they were short
conductor of the Glee Club, Philip Duey, marshaled the young men of the Glee Club to great successes all over the world. During
the mid-1950's, Duey was able to lead the Glee Club to
many prestigious gigs - including singing in front of the
Queen of the Netherlands and on the Ed Sullivan Show. But
even Duey could not control the powerful event to happen
next. While Duey was on sabbatical in 1955, the Glee Club
brought in a young man by the name of Dr, Walter Collins,
a Yale-man, to lead the club in his absence. During this
time, the men of the Midnight Sons decided to double their
number and revive the name of the old Drinking Club...that's
right, the Friars. While at Yale, Dr. Collins had done quite
a bit of small group singing himself as a member of the
Whiffenpoofs - Yale's most prestigious a cappella group
and one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country.
Thanks to his experience as a Whiff, Collins was able to
get this new group on its feet by giving them some of his
old music. And so, on November 12th, 1955, the Friars
performed their very first concert (a joint concert with
the University of Michigan and University of Indiana Men's Glee Clubs). The group instantly won the hearts of their
audience...a tradition those eight men work diligently to
continue to this day.
When Duey returned
in the Fall of 1956, he was amazed at the great change that
occurred in his absence. As the Friars gained more and more
stride, the Novelaires began to drift into the shadows.
Fearing it may be the end of the Novelaires, Duey tried
his best to keep the group alive. Unfortunately, there was
no stopping the Friars. Not long after the Friars had started,
the Novelaires ceased to exist. The days of an abundance
of small groups within the Men's Glee Club were over, and
the Friars were the sole group to live on. Yes, there have
been other groups that have arisen between 1955 and the
present, but their lives have been short. This creation
of the late Dr. Walter Collins is now celebrating its 50th year in existence. Through an ever changing world, the
Friars have proven that they are here to stay.
the Friars have gone on to do many great things and take
the ideals of a cappella to new and exciting heights. Not
long after it began, the octet began experimenting with
humor in their shows. Adding a few light hearted antics
here and there in their songs quickly boosted the popularity
of the group - especially among the student population.
As the youth appreciation of choral music began to give
way to the newer and hipper styles of radio and Rock 'n'
Roll, the live a cappella scene began to fall into the realm
of the "slightly-less-popular," as we in the biz
like to put it.
their new masterpiece might be short lived, the Friars took
action. Heavily tailoring the amount of barbershop music
in their repertoire, the Friars began taking what they heard
on the radio, and making a cappella arrangements of the
hits. Singing the works of the Platters, the Big Bopper, and Buddy
Holly, the Friars quickly regained their foothold in the
hearts of the students on campus. Now all of the hits of
the radio could be heard a cappella style in a concert with
eight goofy guys singing and dancing on the local stage.
tradition into the Rock era of the 1960's, the Friars continued
to see their fan base grow. Branching out into the Ann Arbor
community, singing a set of tunes in local parks and the
occasional national anthem for Big House football games,
the Friars saw their notoriety soar.
In 1961, three
of the old Friars , Fredrick and Edward Farran, P. Scott
Herrick and his brother Tom decided to start a vocal quartet
called the Arbors after they graduated. Here is a brief
write up from the Chicago based "singerspotlight.com"
January 2001 edition web page:
among their peers as one of the finest vocal groups in existence,
The Arbors have maintained a 40 year involvement in the
entertainment industry. Two sets of brothers -- Tom and
Scott Herrick from East Lansing, MI and Ed and Fred Farran
from Grand Rapids, MI -- met at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor (hence their name came), and found they all
loved harmony singing in the manner of The Four Freshmen
and The Hi-Los. Their original sense was "let's see
where this will take us." And the Arbor's exquisite
harmonies lead to records, television, radio, commercials,
concerts and club dates. In short-they've done it all. The
Arbors were honored several years ago as charter members
in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Museum, and have been inducted
into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame."
(Singer Spotlight.com :: http://www.singerspotlight.com/singers/january01.html)
Sadly, the group
has since ended its run upon the recent death of Ed Farran
AND NOW, DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL...
From then on,
the Friars continued their wild ride through time, singing
and dancing and trying to make the ladies smile. They've
produced nearly twenty CD's (only some of our songs), and have
maintained an audience of over one thousand people, not
to mention a consistent appreciation and following by a
number even higher than that. There are many traditions
that have come and gone throughout the fifty years that
the Friars have been in existence, but perhaps the most
popular is the line they are introduced to each time they
sing: "And now, due to circumstances beyond my control,
I present to you, THE FRIARS!"
Thanks for reading about us. We hope to see you real soon.
We mean it. Honest engine.
A Friars Photo Album
A Complete Member Listing (1955-2013)