Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall Barbershop Convention, Part I: Friday…

What a weekend!! Full of excitement, surprises, and a minor, semi-disappointment or two. As usual, my blog of the weekend will be a few entries as I recall the details day-by-day. If you get bored with it and don't want to read the whole damned saga, no worries. These recounts of my barbershopping escapades are generally for my own edification and posterity anyway...

Having blogged about barbershop conventions several times so far, I'll spare you the explanations of the terminology and practices I've covered before. If you need some explanation, check my blogs from previous Octobers & Aprils.

Here we go…

Friday is always a busy day getting packed and gathered: making sure I have all of my costume pieces, stage makeup, toiletries, etc. This year was a bit different, though, as I was planning on getting there extra early because my quartet was competing for the first time. Usually I arrive late Friday night, just after the quartet prelims are finishing up, so I can be ready for my chorus's performance in the morning.

My sister Valerie and wife Sonya were making vests for my quartet to wear on stage and they took it down to the wire. Valerie, being the go-to gal all of her friends call on when they need costumes and dresses, was kind of bogged down with obligations to a laundry list of friends. Sonya, meanwhile, was trying to get the kids' costumes assembled while trying to make time to get her own elaborate costume together. I dropped Liam at school and went to Valerie's house to put the buttons on the other guys' vests – a mundane, yet important detail she didn't have time to get to. She set up her machine so I could do it fairly quickly and easily…once I figured the damned gizmo-laden thing out, that is.

After finishing those, I went home to find Sonya finishing up my vest and the bow ties. I run to JoAnne's Fabrics for the last couple sundries and Sonya finishes the final touches. They all looked fabulous. Now I just had to pray they'd fit, as we didn't have time for a proper fitting for the guys. The pattern only went up to XL and 3 of us are somewhat beyond that (to say the least), so Valerie used her expertise to guestimate the sizes when cutting the fabric, based solely on my vague descriptions.

I gather the last of my things and pile them into the car to head to my bass's house, only about ½ hour later than planned. Sonya bid me an unusually friendly farewell as I got behind the wheel. It's often a bit of a chore to get out for convention, involving justified grumbling and eventual grudging complacency from Sonya as I desert her and the kids for the weekend. Not so this time, and I was a bit suspicious. I later found out why (don't worry, it was a good thing).

I hop in the car and head to Big Dave's house in Livonia to carpool with him to the convention in Kalamazoo. I get there and find he's tied up on hold on the phone with some bureaucratic mess he had to straighten out. He gets things settled (sorta) and we hit the road in his comfy minivan, with me behind the wheel.

We made remarkable time and check in at the K-zoo Raddison. After checking in and unloading our stuff in our room, I head to the registration desk and peruse the "Barbershop Shop", selling things like music ties, Society ware, pitch pipes and such. My voice is worrying me a bit, so I grab a bottle of voice spray for my cough-worn throat. We then all head to the lobby to meet up with the rest of the quartet for an early dinner before getting suited up and ready for the contest. As the Daves and I wait for Lou, our lead, to get settled in, I glance across the lobby and see someone who remarkably resembles my dad. My first thought dismisses the resemblance, but as I looked closer, I couldn't believe my eyes – my dad had driven clear from KANSAS to see me compete in my first quartet contest! I shout across the lobby and run and give him a HUGE hug! He was hoping to surprise me after the contest, but got the reaction he was hoping for, nonetheless. Sonya had apparently been aware of this planed trip for 3 weekd and managed to keep it a secret. She has, by far, a stronger wil than I.

We all head out to find a place to eat - my quartet, one wife, one girlfriend, and my dad. After a wonderful meal and a drink or two at a (slightly overpriced) British pub & grille, we head to our rooms to get the stage makeup, tuxes, new vests (which fit perfectly) and our signature Hi-top Chucks (each in matching color to our vests). We get to the warm-up room a bit early, put on the bow ties and sing a couple of tunes to warm up. My dad is standing in the corner listening to us critique ourselves and beaming with pride. Meanwhile, I'm squirting that voice spray like it was crack in hopes my voice would hold out through the contest.

After a bit of confusion about where we were supposed to be and when, we hit the contest stage. Lou's voice showed signs of nerves, forcing his tone a bit, but projecting well. Mine held out well enough, but lacked my usual power and sparkle. But hey, I was just grateful I was able to get the notes out at all! Dave Beamer rang his bari part with his usual admirable precision. Dave "Big Dave" Conrad went a tad sharp a time or two and could have used a bit more volume at times, but was nonetheless, spectacular.

We placed 12 out of 17 overall and 10th of the district competition quartets of 14. Not a bad place for first-time quartet. Once we got the score sheets, we found that we just missed making the finals show as mic testers by a mere 13 points (or 1.1 points for those of you used to a 1-100 point scale). Regardless, we made a good impression and got a lot of great compliments from friends and strangers alike. It helped that we were easily identifiable by out bright colored shoes.

From there we went to judging evaluations ('critique' for you band/drum corps geeks out there). We got 45 minutes of some GREAT advice and coaching from some very knowledgeable people in the activity, and have some good ideas for boosting our score the next time we compete.

I grab the DVD of our performance, reconnect with my quartet, and we go to our evaluation & assessment sessions for some advice from the judges. Beamer's wife comes along and takes some notes as we get some great coaching. The first comment out of EVERY judge's mouth as we enter their hotel rooms is, "LOVE the shoes!" I get a bit of a smile out of that, as the coodinating colored Hi-top Chucks were my idea. The only critique about the shoes we received was that it sets up a comedic air and we really didn't do much comedy. We planned to, but didn't have time to rehearse it. Oh well, noted for next contest.

After that, we head to my room to debrief. We watch the DVD of our performance, cringing every once in a while at a chord or two, becoming our own worst critics. Given what I heard, I was beginning to be a bit surprised we placed as well as we did. Not BAD, but not our best - every minor flub festering in my mind like a splinter. Beamer's wife runs down her notes from the judges and we discuss them as a quartet. She's a helluva quartet secretary, and got almost every word every judge said!

After that Lou and I hit the hotel bar with Ian (a buddy from the Mt. Pleasant Mountaintown Chorus). We had a beer and a bite before calling it a day. We had a LONG day ahead, between chorus contest, quartet finals (as spectators, unfortunately), and the highlight of the evening, the afterglow and hospitality rooms!

My quartet met our goals: we went out there, didn't suck, and didn't come in last.

Coming up next:
Fall Barbershop Convention, Part II: Saturday - the FUN part…

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