Thursday, November 1, 2007

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

I got a bit more sleep on Saturday morning this year than previous years. Usually my chorus tries to go on first, but this year we were 3rd from last in our performance order. I'm roused about 9:45 by my roommate and hit the shower. I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get the damned thing to switch from faucet to shower to no avail, so I take a bath. I hate baths – especially in hard water. It's hard enough to feel like you've rinsed thoroughly in a shower with hard water, but in a tub – forget it.

I de-slime myself from the bath, get my tux and stage makeup on (I hate having to wear stage makeup), and hit the lobby. I head to the Subway for a bite to eat and decide on just a Sprite and a yogurt, then head down to warm-ups.

My voice is still weak and sketchy around the full-voice/falsetto break, so I go back and grab my bottle of voice spray and start guzzling the stuff like it was beer at a frat party. Warm-ups, pictures, and the traditional "hurry up and wait" follow. Eventually we hit the stage and do a great job - one of our finest performances, from what I can tell. I know we won't win, but we nevertheless did a great performance. I hang around for a while in the lobby talking with dad, then head to my room to change. Dad, Ian (who will be going to International in Nashville with the new district reps, Mountaintown Chorus) and I hit the Peninsula for lunch.. We're eventually joined by Lou and his girlfriend Linda and have a great time just hanging out, talking and eating. After lunch, I decide to try and grab a quick power nap to let my voice rest and be ready for the quartet to hit the hospitality rooms after the quartet finals. On the way up to my room, I'm joined in the elevator by several kilt-clad folk with bagpipes. Hmm….?

I wake up just in time for the quartet finals show and head to the lobby. As the elevator descends, the sounds of pipes and drums grow louder. The door opens and the lobby is FLOODED with the sound of a pipe and drum corps playing on the second floor balcony of the lobby. Apparently there was a wedding in the hotel that they were hired for. Trouble was, they were loud as hell in that echoey lobby and right outside the hall the finals were in. Now, I'm all up for pipe and drum music, but when it gets in the way of barbershop – look out. Thankfully, they stopped right before the quartets hit the stage.

I enter the performance hall, looking around for my dad, when I hear a familiar riff whistled. My dad always used the same 5-note riff to whistle for my sister and I whenever it was time to come home. He can whistle pretty loud, so we could be called from blocks away. Funny – I'm 33 years old, and after all this time I still reflexively turn my head like a puppy when I hear that riff. We found each other in milliseconds and I join him to watch the show.

There were several quartets we should have beaten and several more that rightfully trounced the hell out of us. C'est la vie. It was a great show and I had a lot of fun whispering critiques back and fourth with my dad. We only get to see each other maybe once a year, and it was great to have him all to myself and bond with him in the medium we have most in common. We trade stories and barbershop related anecdotes – mine from the new school and his from the "old days". Once the scores are announced, rather than plan on driving the 2 ½ hours out and then back again to Detroit to see the rest of the family, he decided to head back to the hotel in Paw-Paw and call it a weekend. I record a quick video message from him for the kids on my camera, exchange big hugs, and we say our goodbyes. I am so grateful to have been able to do this with my dad there. Not only for support for my contests, but just to hang out and talk, and bond a bit. You're never too old to bond with your dad.

The quartet gathers in my room and Beamer has notes on some shtick and lyric changes to "Whiffenpoof" to poke a bit of fun at ourselves and our chorus's somewhat disappointing placement. Great, funny stuff, too! It was well received by our chapter, especially, as well as the couple other rooms we did the song at. We started at our own Detroit-Oakland chapter's room, and as is becoming tradition with me dragging my ukulele everywhere I go, they demanded a song on the uke before I left. I started into Rawhide, assuming I was starting a sing along. After the first verse, everyone seemed to forget the lyrics, so it died rather quickly from there.

We did the tour, hitting most of the chapter hospitality rooms before the "big" quartets were done with their evals and assessments. We heard some great quartets, got lots of free food and bottled water, but I held off on the beer until after we were nearly done singing. The last room we hit had one of my favorite quartets, Party of 4, waiting in the wings for us to finish. I love these guys. They're all around my age, former district champs, and have a fantastic sound, blend, and rapport with the audience, and are just great guys. Plus, they're one of the quartets to hang in the lobby until the wee hours, singing songs and tags with anyone with the stamina to stay up that late.

They sat and listened to us do our couple of songs, and being the last room of the night for us, I really wanted to do my arrangement of "Rainbow Connection". My voice was nearing the end for a good sound in a quartet environment, but I really wanted these guys to hear it. Beamer introduces the song as my arrangement (which I'm always reluctant to do – I do have a smidgeon of humility, on occasion), and we do a good job of it.

After we were done and bid goodnight to each other, I went to the lobby where Wally, Party of 4's bass, catches up with me and compliments me on the arrangement. He then asks me how much I'd want for it!

"YOU want to do MY arrangement?!"

Being the first time I have EVER been asked for an arrangement, I was a bit dumbfounded. I give him the heads up that I don't have copyright on it, so they perform it at their own risk. After giving the stipulation that they always mention my name when they perform it and never do it when they're sharing a venue with my quartet, I suggest a kind of "beer royalty". They should just buy me beer whenever they see me.

As if that weren't compliment enough, he asks me if I do much arranging because he has a few songs he'd like me to arrange for them.

ME?! Arrange for a district champ quartet?! Holy Pukin' Pitch Pipes, Batman!

Whether it happens or not, I'm on cloud nine from the compliment for the rest of the night (hell, I STILL am). I wander the lobby for the next 2 hours singing tags and songs, with the occasional foray to the hospitality rooms to snag a beer. After the events of this weekend and a few beers, I didn't even care that Mike, the bass from Moxxy and fixture of the late-night tagging, had us doing the "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" tag a bazillion times. I was just reveling in the high from the whole convention experience.

After about an hour's worth of attempts to hit the elevators and go to bed, each time being thwarted by another tag or song I wanted to sing, I finally hit the room about 3:30am. I write a quick blog and collapse on the bed with a huge smile on my face.

I'll say it again, "Best…convention…ever!!"

Coming up next: Fall Barbershop Convention, Part III: Sunday - the Wrap-up…

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