Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Looking Back on the 2011 Chorus Contest Retreat, June 4-5

The Harmonizers traveled into rural Western Maryland for their annual pre-International chorus contest retreat on June 4-5 at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. It was about 2 hours for the guys from around the DC Metro area.

Actually a bunch, maybe 30 or so, of the guys went up Friday evening, June 3. Many left home so as to beat the weekend traffic and check in; then gathered for chow and drinks at the O’Lourdan Irish pub in town. Music team members and visual team members met over dinner too to be prepared for the work sessions on Saturday.

Chuck McKeever did his usual terrific job in organizing the retreat. He had a team of helpers to make it easy for all of the rest of us to check in, find our way on campus (even during all of the graduation events all weekend), and to set up the risers and rehearsal room. Bob Blair drove the Harmo truck up and then after the “boxes” for the contest set were unloaded, he tackled the job of repainting them so they matched the chorus outfits. Dennis Ritchey and Scott Kahler set up all of the sound equipment needed for the weekend. Terry Reynolds, as usual, took notes all weekend to record suggestions and ideas from our coach.

The work crew included Bob Blair, Will Mudd-Simmons, Bob Eckman, Keith Jones, John Pence, Len Dornberger and Howard Nestlerode.

Director Joe met our coach, Tony DeRoso, [YeEd will use Tony D for the rest of this article] at the airport and brought him to the retreat. The printed program for the weekend included Tony D’s bio (plus letters of encouragement to the members from chapter president Steve Murane and Director Joe). Tony D lives in FL where he is musical director of the Voices of Liberty at EPCOT, and is director of the Toast of the Town show chorus of the Sweet Adelines. He has three gold medals as a BHS quartet champ – 1992 with KEEPSAKE, 2000 with PLATINUM and in 2007 with MAX Q. He and his wife, Jody, have four children. The Harmonizers appreciate the family letting him come help us improve.

And improve we did!

Saturday morning started early for many guys: for those who waited to drive up from home, or for those who wanted some breakfast, or for those who went for a job or run like Ken Rub. The rehearsal hall opened about 8 am and guys started to assemble for some coffee, juice, fruit and sweets. The chapter also provided bottled water for the whole weekend. And the guys were sporting all sorts of barbershop logo shirts! And the old-timers had their comfortable shoes.
At the kick off, retreat chairman, Chuck, revealed his 2011 motivational t-shirt – “Golden Chances” with Disney cartoon characters.

Tony Colosimo conducted the warm up exercises. Chorus manager, Mark Klostermeyer, reminded the 97 chorus members on the risers to give the men up front silence and attention. Only two guys didn’t make it this year to retreat. This was the first time all five of our special forces guys were able to be on the risers – Jay Butterfield, Pete Frank, Bill Colosimo, Mike Wallen and Bob Wilson.

We were ready to start. Joe formally introduced Tony D and the chorus did a full run thru of the contest package. Then Joe and Tony D adjourned, with music and performance vp, Terry Reynolds, to solidify their plan of attack. While they were out of the room, Craig Kujawa, on behalf of the visual team, did a thorough review of focals, and general attitudes needed for the package. It particularly unified moves and focal with the front row and the riser singers.

This period used a new technique for us – a quartet of guys [Steve White, Rick Savage, Frank Fedarko, Ken Ives] sang the song and the chorus was able to hear cues given by Craig as they did their moves. Tony C directed. It worked well and the chorus was ready to go.

When Joe and Tony D came back, the hard work started and continued right up til a mid morning break. Klostermeyer conducted the announcement period: Keith Jones is selling the Rah Rah pins for all to wear; extra International convention registrations were announced; tickets for the Togetherness breakfast in Kansas City are available for each member to get his free one and to buy one for a guest; Bob Eckman is taking orders for Hyatt Scrip cards (the chapter makes about $9 per $100 when members buy these cards and use then to pay for their convention housing; Jack Cameron had convention photo order forms out; and the Class of 2011 announced a meeting during lunch.

Their announcement prompted the first check of their blue bandanas. Everyone had his on display. Good job 2011 class! The class includes Adam Bradley, Jay Butterfield, Clark Chesser, Chris Clark, Bill Colosimo, Clyde Crusenberry, Thom Faircloth, Jacob George, Michael Gilmore, Kevin Kaiser, Dave Kohls and Nick Leiserson. (These are current singers who have not previously sung with the Alexandria Harmonizers on an International stage.)

During the weekend, there were some guests to observe the coaching and work sessions including members of the Pride of Baltimore. YeEd, Keith Jones and Craig Odell, all former stage presence/presentation judges, were present to provide help with the visual program, as well as help provide support for the coach and directors.

Then the chorus worked with Tony D until lunch time.

Before going off to the cafeteria, Victor Hills was invited to make remarks about being a Harmonizer. Victor is headed for West Point in a few days and can’t be with us at International. Just a couple years ago, he came to a retreat to see what the Harmonizers were all about. He joined and soon was in the front row. He is our youngest member. His remarks were strong and reminded us all about the value of friendships we have on the risers.

Off to lunch, then. New feature on campus these days – no trays in the cafeteria so you don’t take too much food. Not sure it really worked, as many guys made multiple trips! Sad to say, the ice cream machine was out of commission this year!

Reminders were made about the Supreme Court show on Monday nite and the World War II honors flight welcome gig on Monday morning. Secretary Buechler encouraged guys to come see him if they wanted Harmo apparel that we order from Lands End.

Work resumed after the extended lunch period. Then before dinner, Bob Blair was invited to speak about being a Harmonizer. He revealed his musical and stage background and how many Harmonizer moments have become milestones in his life.

After dinner the guys were outside on the lawn and patio just outside our rehearsal area. When the call to the risers came up at 6:15 pm there were no complaints. Guys were eager to continue the improvements and changes and growth opportunities. A few of those included a change in the sunglasses plan, a complete change in the non-singing visual intro for both songs, and a revised plan for the surprise element in the uptune.

Before adjournment, Jay Butterfield was invited to give remarks. He reinforced the notion that gold medals don’t make gold medal performances. He thanked all who helped him become a part of the chorus.

The Saturday nite rehearsal session ended about 8:45 pm.

At 9, the party and social period started. The university food service staff had moved in beer, sodas, sandwiches, chips, dip, cookies, and such. In typical Harmonizer style, the guys attacked the table with gusto.

Then after everyone got a handful of chow, party emcee, Lew Klinge, welcomed all to relax on the risers and introduced the 2011 Class president, Thom Faircloth. The class had prepared a skit and he was in charge of stalling so the guys could get their skit costumes on and ready. He stalled long enough for them to all go buy new costumes and come back!!!!!!

But as usual, the class made us all laugh and took a few stabs at some of the chapter characters, coaches, officers and even our best sneezing demonstration.

Lew thanked the class and introduced a Harmo Trivia contest. There were three teams composed five members: a team captain from the special forces class, a past president of the chapter, a member who joined in recent years, a 2011 class rep, and a guy the captain could choose from the guys on the risers who had gold medals in the past.

Jack Pitzer asked the questions. Keith Jones was timer and Terry Reynolds was score keeper on a score board which he continually displayed for all to see. Each correct answer by a team earned them a point. During the contest, the chorus kept their drinks refreshed.

Team #3 (Pete Frank, Ken Fess, Steve Lingo, Chris Clark and Mike Wallen) won with 42 points. They gained the lead by knowing all of the Harmonizers who have been named to the BHS Society Hall of Fame (Arberg, Snyder, Sparks, Latzko, Flinn). None of the teams knew all three of the father-son member combos (Wallen, Colosimo, Kahler).

The winning team gets recognized on the chapter web site!

In the midst of the contest, emcee Lew made one of his now-famous (pretend) calls to Ev Nau. It had us all laughing.

After the contest, the tag singing started and YeEd hears there were some guys still up at 3 am. Fun new gimmick for tag singers is the Ipad with tags to see. You can get more sung since you don’t have to teach the notes to new guys.

Sunday morning we all packed up and put our things in our cars, turned in our keys to retreat boss, Chuck, and had breakfast. Then back to the risers for review and more improvements. Will Cox did the Sunday morning warm ups and got the guys fired up and excited.

Tony D and Joe took the reins and went right to work on the contest package.

At the mid morning break, Craig Kujawa announced winners of the 7/11 Weight Loss Challenge. One team had all 7 of their guys who lost weight – Faircloth, Kauffmann, Rub, Golden, Stamps, O’Brien and E Wallen. Congrats to all. But for those who were not on diets, Kevin Kaiser brought out a couple plates of “blonde brownies” he made to share.

Secretary Buechler alerted members that he would be sending out a riser update and invited any guys to let him know if they had moved or changed contact info.

Riser crews for the Supreme Court show were confirmed. Uniform chairman, Tom Kern, distributed the official black suspenders for guys to wear in the contest set.

Then it was back to work on the music.

Just before the final downbeat, Director Joe offered encouraging remarks about the work by the chorus over the weekend. And he led the chapter in thanking Tony D for his enthusiastic work all weekend. For sure Tony D had made it fun during all the hard work.

Tony D gave the wrap up remarks for the weekend. He stressed the benefits of a solid work ethic. He actually said we had given him many things to take away from the weekend too, “I learned a lot this weekend,” he said.

As is our tradition, Joe invited our coach and new chorus friend, to direct our retreat closer – the “Friends” tag.

The guys were quick to offer Tony D their appreciation. Then everyone went to work on loading the truck with risers and sound equipment and props.

We were headed back to our homes and eager for Tuesday nite to build onto where we left the songs and package on Sunday morning.

Until next time – editorjack!

(This message is prepared for your review if you were there, for your information if you had to miss, and as a historical record of the great things going on each week at an Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter meeting. —YeEd.)

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