Monday, June 18, 2007

The Continuing Saga of “The Quest for the 4th”

This seems to go on forever. Every time we find a final piece to my quartet, something goes wrong.

First, we bid a friendly farewell to our current bass and bair, in order to reform a more cohesive and progressive quartet.

Next, we replace our bass with a guy with a vocal music pedagogy degree. He's enthusiastic, knowledgeable, talented, and helpful. He's awesome. He stuck. He's here. We got him. Bass or bari, he's in.

The trick has been finding the 4th and final piece to the puzzle.

First, we find a lead with enthusiasm and a great voice willing to try bari, but no ear for the part. He tried. For 2 weeks, he read music, pounded away on his keyboard, and listened to recordings…but just didn't think he could make it. He thanks me for the opportunity, but gracefully says goodbye.


Next, we get a seasoned bari, a veteran of this quartet, who sings bari regularly with the quartet at Greenfield Village. The rehearsal goes well, he picks things up quickly, and his personality fits like a glove. Unfortunately, he was also insanely busy and lived ½ hour away. He bowed out after one rehearsal, citing schedule conflicts.

DOUBLE damn!

Next, we move aforementioned pedagogue to bari (where the folks with great and trained ears should be) and insert another veteran of the quartet and close friend of mine to bass. He is also enthusiastic and has a track record of learning quickly, when he puts the time and his mind to it. After 3 weeks, however, there is some, but little progress. The gauntlet is thrown.

I am now given several names and options for other basses that already know many of the songs and who have, presumably, sung them for years. This leaves me with several quandaries:

  1. My friend has a GREAT sound and range for the part. His personality and enthusiasm could not be a better match for the group. He is humble (almost to a fault) and INCREDIBLY willing to learn, but can he learn quickly enough? Will he get the notes memorized and accurate enough to be good in time? Does he have the time to work enough on the material to get to where we need him?

  2. One of the names suggested is in our chorus. We are in the dark as to his availability, indeed, even his WILLINGNESS to join a quartet, but if he were amenable, we would have a quartet entirely from the chorus. That gives us an instant and sizable repertoire. His voice is a bit on the quiet side and not exactly what I would want, but he is a nice guy with a lot of experience. There are several 'X' factors with this guy we're not aware of yet, as he is rather quiet and reserved in the chorus. He is, however, prolific in his performances with our own and other choruses and even some short-lived amateur quartets. Further research needs to be done, clearly.

  3. A second name mentioned as a possibility is a complete unknown to me, but comes HIGHLY recommended by our membership chairman (who undoubtedly has the ulterior motive of roping him into the chorus). My initial reluctance to add him is that I thought his affiliation was with the Macomb Chapter, the same as our former bass and bari. The main reason we decided to start again was to find guys closer together, preferably within a few miles of each other or in our chorus, to provide more and easier chances to get together and practice. Taking on this gentleman would open the door to the possibility of "bad blood" with our former quartet mates, by going back on the initial reason for their dismissal. I truly don't want this, as our split was fairly amicable – even friendly – and I would rather not burn any unnecessary bridges. Turns out, he is with the Langsfor Men's Chorus, comprised largely of members of my old university glee club. Hmmmmm...

I want the best quartet I can get, and grow impatient waiting for it to even gel enough to sing for close friends or family. My friend is aware of the pressure at this point. I made it clear before the last rehearsal. I WANT him to work out. He's talented, proven his ability to me, and is a genuinely great guy…but this quartet is a democracy and I have to put the quartet first, here. Thankfully, he's a very grounded individual, aware of his own limitations and my responsibilities to the other 3 in the group. I didn't choose him because of friendship or loyalty, but on his ability and talent – and will not keep or dismiss him on any different criteria. Besides, he's gonna be a rock star. A barbershop quartet won't necessarily be a shining star on his résumé.

So, once again, Coda Honor is again in a state of flux, inching (however slowly) toward stability and greatness. We should have a bass chosen by the end of next week (God willing), and be able to focus on our already booked gigs, possible new gigs, the ever-anticipated Slamka Harmony Hideaway, and hopefully the District Convention this fall.

I hate floundering – I wanna SING!

The worst part is, I know several great basses I'd love to get in this quartet. Unfortunately, they all live impractically far away - from an hour's drive all the way to Topeka, Kansas.

...Yes, YOU!

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