Madeira’s musical traditions reaching next generation

Despite a snowstorm, the 4 Star Edition Quartet rehearsed March 9 and sang with their usual gusto. From left are Mark Bowman, tenor; Bob Lessel, lead; Dan Henke, bass; and Russell DeMar, baritone.

By Regina Villiers. Originally published March 24, 1999 in The Suburban life, added March 13, 2019.

    Music has always flowed through the souls of Madeira’s DeMar family.  They’ve always amused and entertained themselves without cable TV, which is amazing.

     In the late 1800’s more than 100 years ago, the Madeira Cornet Band entertained around the area.  The heart of the band consisted of DeMar family names-George, Clason, Clint, Clyde, and Zachary Taylor.  Their succeeding generations also became musicians, such as Cliff, son of Clint.  Cliff became well known in music circles.

     Russell, the only DeMar living in Madeira, is keeping the DeMar tradition in music alive.  He is one fourth of the 4 Star Edition, a quartet that is becoming more and more popular in the Cincinnati area.

     The 4 Star Edition started back in 1979 when four members of the Delta Kings became a bit dissatisfied and decided to go out on their own.  They called themselves the Chester Park Quartet for about six years.  They reorganized in 1985 and became the 4 Star Edition.

     The personnel have changed over the years, but two of the original members are still with the quartet, and both are lifetime Madeira residents.

     Russell DeMar has lived in Madeira all his life, as did his parents, Howard and Nora, and his grandparents before them.  The DeMar name in Madeira is a distinguished tradition.  Russ is an original member of the quartet and sings baritone with them.

     Dan Henke also is an original member of the group and is a lifetime Madeira resident.  Dan is a retired teacher and administrator at Sycamore High School.  He also coached basketball there for 17 years.  Dan sings bass with the group.

     When the quartet reorganized in 1985 and became the 4 Star Edition, they took in a new member, Bob Lessel.

     Though Bob now lives in Loveland, he grew up in Madeira, on Dee Street, and graduated from Madeira High School in the early 1970s where he was an integral part of the band and everything musical.

Bob sings lead for the quartet and does a superb performance on solo parts, such as in the Ray Stevens’ novelty song, “Mississippi Squirrel.”

     Mark Bowman is the newest member of the 4 Star Edition, since 1996, and he’s described by the others as the “musician” of the group.  He has a good deal of musical experience and was a member of the May Festival Chorus.  He sings tenor with the quartet and adds his musical expertise.

     Mark lives in Blue Ash, but is building a new home in the Mason area. 

     Though they sing without accompaniment, the 4 Star Edition is not a true barbershop quartet in the traditional sense.  The two young members, Bob and Mark, keep them current.  They do novelty songs and lots of music from the 1960s, such as music of the Beach Boys.  They also do a lot of 1940s and 1950s music.

     Their repertoire is extensive, and they can sing for three hours without repeating themselves.

     As did the Madeira Cornet Band over a hundred years ago, they meet each week in each other’s homes and sometimes, at the Madeira Presbyterian Church.  The recent March 9 snowstorm did not deter them.  All showed up that night for rehearsal, where they ran through such songs as “I Can Dream, Can’t I?,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and “Mississippi Squirrel.”

     And as did the Madeira Cornet Band the quartet also entertains around the area and gets paid for it, making them professional musicians.

     They sound professional, too.  They are good.

     Last year, they made about 35 appearances in the Tri-State.  They entertain at parades, political rallies, corporate banquets, company picnics, and other events in Central Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southern Indiana.  They have become a mainstay of the Taste of Blue Ash and the Blue Ash Memorial Day Parade.

     Last year, at the WGUC studios, they recorded a jingle for Jim Tarbell’s Broadway Commons baseball stadium campaign.  The jingle was played on local radio stations.

     Christmas is always their busiest season.  They did about 11 Christmas shows last December.

     This year’s schedule is growing and shows them to be even busier.

     One opening day for the Reds, April 5, the quartet will be singing ‘ballgame” songs in the Atrium downtown, which they also did last year.  That night they will entertain at a corporate dinner in Newport.

     April 9 will find them at Cincinnati Gardens to sing the National Anthem before the Mighty Ducks hockey game.

     May 6, they will entertain at a Kenwood Country Club golf outing.  And on May 31, they will do a repeat performance at the Blue Ash Memorial Day Parade, where they’ll again ride and sing in a red Saab convertible.

     They’ll go to Vandalia in June, and on August 27-28, they’ll again sing, as wandering strollers, in the afternoons at the Taste of Blue Ash.

     These are only a few of the events on their calendar for this year.  Life gets busier and more fun for the guys all the time.

     And maybe the music will just keep on going and will never die.

     Though they no longer live in this area, new DeMars are coming on.  Russell’s son and grandchildren are very much into music.

     And at almost every rehearsal, Mark Bowman’s son, Stewart 5, comes along, too.  He’s growing up with the music and has begun to sing “tag” lines with the group at rehearsals.

     Here’s hoping the music keeps going round and round forever, and that it comes out here.