Friday, February 29, 2008

Karma takes a "Super Energy Pill"...

The continuing stooooory of a quack, who's gone to the dogs....

So you remember me mentioning the impending evaporation of my current livelihood? You think that'll get ME down? Not this week, my furry friend! But first...

Monday was Liam's Cub Scout Blue & Gold banquet. The food was WONDERFUL, even if the program was a bit tedious and slow. He walked away with a PILE of patches and the Pinewood Derby Grand Champion trophy. I was immensely proud of him. I never won a trophy (for myself) in my life. The kids' been struttin' like a peacock all week whenever it's mentioned. Granted, Sonya and Jeremy did a lot of work on and research for it, but Liam deserves a lot of the credit. A big night for my boy, and I was thrilled for him!

As I mentioned a couple blogs ago, after hearing about the imminent demise of my current place of employment, I spoke with my friend and former lead, Brad, who's currently singing with the Greenfield Village Quartet. I was always a bit envious of him, being able to sing barbershop for a living (as opposed to occasionally for pay). He informed me that auditions were coming up, so I signed up, figuring I had little to lose in the attempt. Brad's only real advice was to be personable, outgoing, and chipper.

Umm - he DOES know who he's talking to, right?

Anyway, I brush up my barbershop résumé, find a couple decent head shots to throw with it, and head down to the audition on Tuesday after work. The audition material said they would be expecting a 1-minute song and a 1-minute monologue. I haven't done a stage audition in about 15 years, so my chops for this kinda thing were pretty rusty. I had no idea what to perform. Brad had mentioned that playing ukulele would be a bonus, so I did "Tonight, You Belong To Me", accompanying myself on ukulele. For the monologue, I chose the only thing I could think of and KNEW I had memorized completely: "Trouble" from the Music Man (go ahead, Dondero-ites, roll your eyes, but I've known that since I was 10). Yes, it's technically a song, but it's pretty much entirely spoken, so I figured it would do.

I arrive a bit early, check in, and fill out the necessary paperwork. This seems to be the full audition to cast parts for characters, singers, and other odd personnel for the season. The room's mostly filled with college kids looking for a fun summer job. Most are nervous wrecks, going in front of a bunch of "grown-ups" and strangers for the first time to try and look professional. I, however, am not resting my famously fragile ego on this, so I'm pretty cool, wishing each one luck with a big smile as they're called in. An old colleague of mine, Roger Smith (former band director-turned-vice-principal for Ferndale High) is accompanying his son to his audition. We exchange pleasantries and I wish his kid luck.

After about 1/2 hour or so, I'm called in. I march in with a big smile, exuberant tone, and a friendly handshake. I take the stage and begin strumming. After about 2 bars of intro....I completely blank on the lyrics. No biggie, the guy in charge of the quartet and ladies trio starts me off and aside from probably mixing up verses, I do fine. From there I do my usual energetic rendition of "Trouble" as well as I've ever done it. Then after telling them I was hoping for the quartet, I head down to the seats to try my hand at sight-reading a part. He opens a 60-year-old book of barbershop tunes. I mention I think I actually own that one, myself, and do a reasonable job sight-singing an arrangement of "Margie" I don't know.

Wednesday is a fairly busy day at work. Tubas to pack and ship, a warehouse to organize, marimbas to put away. Tiring, but my mood is resilient. I get a call from Sonya that I've been asked to the call-backs Thursday night! SCORE! I finish the day thinking about my call-back and the evening's quartet performance for Jay Bradley's Birthday Benefit for Gift of Life Michigan. This is usually where the other shoe will drop and something horrible will happen.

Wait for it....NOPE!

I head home from work and Sonya and Liam are busy putting together his 'about me' project for school. They're engrossed in the project, so I leave for the benefit ahead of Sonya to help with the ticket-taking that she signed up for until she can arrive. I get there and the rest of the quartet is there waiting for me. We immediately bust out a song or two and are approached by a member of the Grosse Point Chapter. We sing a tune with him and I return to my duties as ticket-taker.

Sonya and her brother Jeremy arrive just in time for me to head up on stage. We do our set to polite, yet enthusiastic encouragement. Most knew that barbershop was on the bill, but 1/2 hour set is usually a bit more than most 20-30somethings can take of it. Still, the crowd was very gracious and engaged throughout, and we had a blast performing, as always.
J Bradley's Birthday Benefit
Photo Courtesy of Valerie Keiser

It sounded very good. Not perfect, but very good. We leave the stage and after biding our baritone a fond farewell, commence to partying.

This shindig was a blast! Catered hors d'oeuvres, great music (kudos, Paulie B., on bustin' All About the Fire's cherry in grand fashion!), and tons of good friends I haven't seen in eons, it seems. All tolled, the event raised over $1500 in ticket sales and donations, not including what the bar chipped in from the evening's sales. This was quite possibly the BEST way to celebrate my friend Jay's birthday and memory: good friends, good food, good drinks, good music, and all helping a GREAT cause! Plans are already in the works for next year's benefit. Mark your calendars for March 27th 2009, folks!

The next day, Thursday, I had a wonderful day at work. Asshat was gone, the other salesman was gone, so it was just "the help" (as Asshat so eloquently refers us). I had a handful of projects to complete, which I got done in the early part of the day. The rest of the day was largely spent chatting with my fellow underlings, doing some minor repairs, blogging, and thinking about my audition.

I leave work a bit early to make my 5:30 call time. Detroit rush hour, however, was looking to undermine my plans at every turn, and I arrived about 4 minutes late. The "Head Honcho" was already teaching parts. I walk in and he hands me the sheet music they were learning. It was (get this) Down Our Way. The same arrangement that's in the Barbershop Harmony Society's standard book of Polecat tunes that I have known for about 5 years. I politely set the music on the floor and start singing when I'm cued as he teaches the kids their parts.

And they WERE kids. Most of them obviously college students with vocal performance or theater majors. Most of them had no idea how to sing barbershop (over-enunciating, too much vibrato, etc.), but that doesn't necessarily seem to be a criteria for this guy. He wants guys that can sing the part without straining, and learn quickly. Correct genre style is secondary, if considered at all.

I was the only tenor there until one of the guys wanted to try it. All of the sudden, I was a bit worried. He hit the notes alright, but after 2 runs with rotating individuals on other parts, he begged me to step in and relieve him. It was obviously not his natural range and he apparently didn't understand that barbershop tenor is mostly falsetto.

After we're dismissed, I grab 3 of the guys and just have to teach a tag. I blow a 'C' on my ever-present pitch pipe and start teaching the "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" tag. Easy to learn and great suspensions. A bit modern for the era of Greenfield Village, but nonetheless, in a mater of about 2 minutes I have them ringing it like nobody's business. I only wish the "Head Honcho" was there to see it.

I did very well at the audition, but I'm still not putting all my eggs in this basket. The guy directing the quartet is obviously not a barbershopper, so while Greenfield Village always strives for historical authenticity, my knowledge of barbershop may be irrelevant. My only hope is that I didn't come off as too cocky, as I have a tendency to do with barbershop - I may have. If this guy has worries about control or is concerned I might try and usurp his authority, I may have unwittingly shot myself in the foot. I have NO intention of trying to run anything unless I'm asked. I'd just be thrilled to sing barbershop and get paid regularly for it! Of course, I'd be more than happy to offer my expertise, if asked.

For some reason, my answering machine isn't picking up at home today, so I hope I haven't missed a call from them, but keep your fingers crossed for me! If all goes well, I may have something to add to my performance
résumé soon!

God, please let these blessings continue for a while longer!


Lisa said...

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!! WAY TO GOOOOO!!! Paul, You RAWWWK! No doubt, if they have ANY smarts at all, You'll get it! Can't wait to hear.

ben loring said...

Wow. You SERIOUSLY have no idea why you didn't get the job?!?!? Read your own post back!!! Dropping your music on the floor just because you knew the song was MAJOR showing off and probably annoyed everyone to the nth degree. But that's only the beginning of everything you must have done wrong based on your blog. Must be nice to think you're so great and everyone else doesn't know a thing. I'm sure you won't post this, but I just felt compelled to write. Hope you continue to enjoy your complete lack of self-awareness and utter delusion.

Paul D. Keiser said...

Wow, I don't know why you're so angry, "Mr. Loring", but as i didn't get the job, it hardly seems like like flaming is in order. I happen to be good and knowledgeable in the style and am very proud of it. I "set" the music on the floor, because I knew it, there was no table to place it on, and there was no point in staring as a piece of music I have had memorized for 5 years. I didn't say the other kids didn't know a thing. They all know infinitely more about theater and classical singing than I, but I just happened to have more experience in barbershop.

Yes, I probably came off as cocky, but I don't understand why YOU'RE so upset with me. We all have areas in our lives we take pride in - our 'islands of adequacy', as my mother says. Genres, talents, or skills we excel in and take great pride in. It was not my intention to demean the kids auditioning, nor did I. I simply went out there, did my best in the way that I know how, and it seems the style I;m used to is what he was looking for.

This doesn't change my self-worth, nor should anyone's perception of my behavior change their own self-worth. Barbershop's an obscure genre. Having been in the Barbershop Harmony Society for several years, I've learned a thing or two about the style many others may not have been exposed to. Simple as that. I'm not any better than them for it, I just have more experience in that area.

They'd all likely kick my ass and tennis, though...