The recent Annual General Meeting of The Westcoast Barbershop Harmony Club marked the end of an era, with Bruce Okely no longer accepting nomination as its Music Director. Following the election of Kim Sebbage as our Music Director, nominated by Bruce, Life Member John Christie moved that, in recognition of Bruce’s long standing service to the club, he be awarded the position of Music Director Emeritus. This motion was carried unanimously and with acclamation.
Bruce Okely opened the eyes and ears of Australian men to the enjoyment and satisfaction gained through singing four-part barbershop harmony. A talented singer and gifted music teacher, he formed Australia’s first men’s barbershop club, Perth’s Men in Harmony in 1985, becoming its inaugural Music Director. In his 13 years with the club, Men in Harmony won a gold and two silver medals at national conventions. At the national level, he was the AAMBS Founder, its inaugural Secretary 1985-1991 and is now a BHA Life Member. In 1998, Bruce left Men in Harmony to form a new club, with singers known as the Westcoast Chordsmen. The majority of this chorus were former members of Men in Harmony, many a little older than those who continued with Men in Harmony. For 19 years, the membership of the Westcoast Chordsmen has ranged from the low 30s to the high 40s, but as a predominantly seniors aged group, chose not to compete as a chorus in barbershop or other competitions.
During his 32 years in barbershop, Bruce has arranged many songs for singing in four-part barbershop harmony, arrangements which have now become a permanent part of the Australian barbershop repertoire. The position of Music Director Emeritus, a mark of distinguished service awarded on retirement, recognises Bruce Okely’s outstanding service to the club and allows him to continue to exercise some of the roles and duties of a Music Director.