Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pioneer District Barbershop Convention (the Verse & Chorus)


Up at 7am, we discover the rehearsal isn't until 9, so we sleep another hour. From 8-8:45, were running around the room frantically showering, shaving, getting our tuxes on, stage make-up on, fumbling with cuff links and registration badges, and grabbing a quick coffee and a bite at the Concierge Lounge before running down to rehearse. I'm dragging, feeling the effects of a long day, a freezing band rehearsal, little sleep, and an oncoming cold. I run back to the room for my sinus meds and vitamin C. Next thing I know, I'm rerrin' ta go!

We take the chorus picture and head up to perform. Aside from a few glitches in my own timing, and a few tuning problems adjusting to the acoustics, the performance went well. Not stellar, but well. We had a pretty reasonable expectation of coming in 3rd, given what we had heard of the new, young 'upstarts' in the district, the Mt. Pleasant "Mountain Top Singers" chorus. We knew we weren't going to beat Macomb and be the new district representatives to the International competition, but as long as we improved, that's all we cared about, really. That, and having fun singing.

After changing into my jeans and quartet shirt, I headed back down to the contest seating to watch the other 2 top choruses, the Mt. Pleasant and Macomb chapters. Lou made it quite clear that I would meet a slow, painful death if I missed Macomb. Mt. Pleasant went on before intermission. Their problem has never been singing, it's been stage presence and entertainment value. Well, they fixed that pretty damned well! Moves were well planned, coordinated and timed, facial expressions were consistent and sincere – not forced, and their sound, WOW! Precise cut-offs, phrases pushed to the end, words enunciated beautifully. I was TRULY impressed! I knew they would give Macomb a REAL run for their money!

Lou had been dropping hints about what Macomb was going to do, swearing me to secrecy about even the tiniest, vaguest hint he would give. I knew it was going to be a real crowd-pleaser. Trouble is with that kind of show, no matter the genre, the musical technique almost always takes a bit of a hit. Well the show WAS AMAZING! A Christmas theme, complete with Christmas trees, gifts, skating pond, ice fishing, snowball fights, pratfalls, Frosty, Santa, and all the reindeer! Absolute fun to watch! It sounded great, too, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be enough to beat Mt. Pleasant. I truly couldn't tell, as I was so enthralled by the production if it all, I wasn't doing my usual overly-analytical breakdown of the technique. Those of you than know me, know it takes a LOT to get me out of "music educator mode" and back into "fan mode"!

After Lou got changed, we headed to the hotel pub to grab a bite. We were set to have dinner with the chapter at 4, but since Lou got a $15 meal voucher for waiting 2 hours to check in, he figured it was the best time to use it. While we were eating, he told me he was reminded that he won the raffle at the last convention for a free room to this one! We finish our snack and head to the gift shop so Lou can find a new Kalamazoo shot glass. While he was shopping, I headed out to try and find a score sheet from the chorus competition. I grab a blue sheet and start strolling back to the gift shop while reading it. "Shit. He's gonna be impossible to live with after this."

Macomb won.

It's about this time I figure the guy could step in a pile of shit and come out with gold-plated loafers! He gets a free meal, a free upgrade, free drinks and snacks, a free room, and now he's going to International Convention in Denver in July! Meanwhile, I see that, indeed, the Detroit-Oakland Chapter, the chorus we're both in, came in 3rd – as expected.

Oh well. Being no worse off than I had expected, I decide to ride the coattails of his exuberance, and enjoy myself! We head to the chapter dinner, eat, and Lou heads off to get ready for Macomb's opening of the quartet finals show. I spend the remaining time between watching Star Trek in the hotel room, checking e-mail & MySpace in the Concierge Lounge, popping in for Macomb's 2nd performance, and watching a few quartets on the TV outside the auditorium. Lou joins me after his performance, I grab my ukulele, and we meander the lobby occasionally watching quartets on the tube.

After the quartet finals is when the fun begins…

Each chapter generally reserves a room as their "hospitality room" for after the quartet finals contest. Here they offer munchies and drinks to entice quartets and general members alike to socialize and celebrate a job well done for all.

As a registered and organized (well, sorta) quartet, Coda Honor planned to do the tour of the rooms. After Macomb's props, snowballs, trees and such had been loaded, Floyd, Mike, Lou and I got together and decided that we didn't want to diminish the other quartets by stepping on their toes or being too presumptuous, so we opted to simply perform for our own chorus's hospitality rooms. We started at Detroit-Oakland.

We did well, selling our best renditions of "I Been Workin' on the Railroad", "Where Is Love", and the ever overdone "Coney Island Baby". We sold it well and sounded good, despite the fact that my voice was on a downward spiral with the cold's steady encroachment on my entire being. I started to feel a bit lethargic, so grabbed some snacks, popped another vitamin C capsule, and bade the quartet to press on! Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead! I begin strumming my ukulele and croaking out a few tunes as we wander. We eventually pick up with a guy from Mt. Pleasant's chorus named Ian, a 1st year 'shopper, and hung with him on and off for most of the rest of the night.

We went to Macomb's room. Again, a decent performance. These guys had heard us more than Detroit-Oakland, but enjoyed it nonetheless. We need some new material, though. 13 songs – mostly polecats (standards every barbershopper knows) – is not a good repertoire for a quartet together a year-and-a-half.

From there we kinda split up a bit. Mike and Floyd were getting tired and were staying at another hotel, so they took off. Lou and I hung together pretty much the rest of the night. We stopped by Mt. Pleasant's room, which was small, sparsely populated…but they had beer. Domestic, but beer none the less. ;) We listened to a few members running through some of the chorus repertoire. They do some REAL stuff! I was very impressed – and they weren't even an organized quartet! Then Border Crossing came in and gave a great performance for the small group of about 7 or 8 of us. Then, it was off to the lobby.

As Lou and I moved around the hallways, I played a few tunes on the ol' uke, and we met up with Ian again. We sang songs and tags for hours on end. Ian, Lou and I talked for about a half hour about Weird Al, marching band, and other things that exemplify all things completely dorky.

From my spot on the main lobby floor, I noticed Andy Wickstrom and the bass and bari from Keynotes leaning over the 2nd floor railing surveying the scene and chatting. Barely having ANY voice left at that point and being on my 5th beer, I recalled that their tenor was in Las Vegas with his wife at the Sweet Adelines International Convention. I pointed at them, shouting, "You need a tenor!" I then darted up the escalator and began singing songs I knew and woodshedding ones I didn't. Oddly enough, I probably sounded the best of the night when my voice was at its worst.

After that, it was about 2:30. I had had a ridiculously full 2 days, the cold was finally catching up with me, and my voice was just plain done. As much as I would have loved to stay up all night singing, my voice, not to mention the rest of me, simply wouldn't handle it, so I headed to the room. Lou was just settling in, so I grabbed us each a final beer from the few I brought with me.

I drank half the beer, turned off the TV and drifted off to sleep on my adjustable Sleep Number bed in my Concierge Level room, thoroughly contented in a wonderful weekend of music, fraternity, fun, and immersing myself entirely in the 10th level of total and complete Geektitude.

Next – Pioneer District Barbershop Convention (the Tag)…

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