Looking Back on the June 19th Jefferson Awards at Constitution Hall
The Harmonizers Chorus was a featured performer in historic DAR Constitution Hall on Tuesday, June 19th for the 40th Annual Jefferson Awards! The Jefferson Awards were founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and CEO Sam Beard. They are the "Nobel Prize" for Public Service in America and a veritable "Who's Who" of outstanding Americans. Past recipients include Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Bush, Henry Kissinger, Peyton Manning and Arthur Ashe.
The Harmonizers helped provide back-up music for parts of the award ceremony and then did their own set to conclude the show.
Here are reports from Alan Wile, Steve White and Bruce Lauther helping YeEd record this important event in our chapter’s history – YeEd.
First from Alan: The behind-the-scenes Harmonizer story began sometime before 10 am when Bob Blair and Howard Nestlerode picked up the Harmo-truck and drove it to the loading dock at DAR Constitution Hall. In addition, Greg Tepe, Ken Rub, Carlos Correa, Scott Kahler, and Alan Wile were on hand to unload but so were about a dozen Constitution Hall employees who, in fact, did most of the hauling, helped set up the riser, and “dress” the risers. We were done in less than an hour, although Greg and Scott remained to work out some details with the producer and the production crew.
That was it until about 5 pm when Harmonizers began to arrive. We had access to three dressing rooms with chairs, mirrors, sinks, and ceiling mounted pole racks for uniforms. Bottled water was provided by the caterers. We milled around for a bit and chorus manager Mark Klostermeyer (K-12) put out the word re: snacks: “eat ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.”
At 5:45 Will Cox conducted the warm-up in one of our narrow, rather confining, L-shaped dressing rooms. Then we lined up to go on stage ... but, typically in such productions, there was a great deal of hurry up and wait which continued most of the evening. Finally we made it to the stage. We stood while the producer and crew worked out some show details, some of which affected us. As expected there were a few changes to the script and to our portion of the program. We worked on our entrance through the hall (singing “Battle Hymn”) a couple of times, conducted a silent drill of “Great Day” choreo, but actually sang very little. Probably the major change for us was to switch from “oo-ing” to “words” on the tag of “Climb Every Mountain.” Don Dillingham worked his recitation; Tony Colosimo and Doug White were mic’d for their solo/duet in the “Jersey Boys Medley”; and Mike Kelly was also mic’d for his speaking part in “Jersey Boys.” All this time Greg, Scott, K-12 were out front coordinating with director Joe Cerutti.
There was a reporter/photographer from The Washington Post observing, photographing, and interviewing members all evening for an article which appear Monday, June 25th. Unfortunately the web link didn’t work properly so those who wanted to watch the evening proceedings online were disappointed.
By 7:45 pm the chorus was dressed and made up. The chorus (now feeling a bit like sweaty sardines) rehearsed with Joe in a small square room identified as the “Caterer’s Room.” The 12 “patter singers” (who backed up Jason Graae singing a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I Am A Very Model Of A Modern Major General”) rehearsed and later performed.
Sometime after 9 pm. we proceeded to the lobby and lined up for our grand entrance. Still much waiting, we actually didn’t enter the hall until about 9:50. We marched in through the center aisle and split at the front of the hall to enter the stage from right and left while singing “Battle Hymn.” Next, we hummed “Climb Every Mountain” (and broke into words for the tag) while the Howard University Chaplain spoke. Then we stood as General Petraeus was introduced and received his award. Then we gave a rousing performance of “Great Day” followed immediately by the “Jersey Boys Medley.” It was clear that the audience enjoyed our numbers – they even clapped in tempo to a portion of the medley. Lastly, after all the new and former Jefferson Award winners, Sam Beard, Lesley Stahl, the Board of Directors, etc. came to the stage, we led the entire room singing “God Bless America.”
That concluded the show and as soon as we were able we exited the stage, returned to our dressing rooms, and prepared to leave ... and tear down the risers and repack the truck. A fun but tiring day. And, I’m pleased to report that the parking garage at 1800 G Street remained open long enough for us who parked there to retrieve our cars.
Next from Steve: Director Joe had his wish come true and got his picture taken with Harry Connick, Jr. WOW, WOW, WOW, what a night at the 40th Annual Jefferson Awards!!! … a standing “O” from the audience after the “Jersey Boys Medley”. Harry and football legand Jim Kelly gave us a thumbs-up and said we were “awesome”, and we heard high praise and accolades from Leslie Stahl, Gen. Petraeus, co-founder Sam Beard and his family, show producer Rupert Hitzig, and many-many others. Keep your tails in good shape ‘cuz we may get more opportunities like this one again in the near furture. Well done, boyyyyyzzzz! And a big thanks to our producer Greg Tepe and, of course, Bruce Lauther for his work in getting us this performance.
Third from Bruce: I visited with the attendees at last evening's gala event as they exited the DAR Constitution Hall. I went by the lines forming to the buses whisking them back to further revelries at the Hyatt Regency. Locking eyeballs seemed to do the trick. Generally, over a dozen people stepped out of line, and spoke to me as I passed them by, still in sweaty tails and white tie, carrying a costume bag, en route to the parking garage.
Most frequently expressed words from those who reached out to grasp my arm or shake my hand in front of the venue: "You were AWESOME;" "AWESOME," You were...WOW; "AMAZING"; "...Took my breath away..."; "WONDERFUL"; "Where do you next appear? ... China?...No stuff. You are great"; "Absolutely Fantastic."; "Remarkable"; "Memorable"; "simple: "Thank you's"; etc.
Longtime Hamonizer and fan, Father Joe Witmer was there as a nice surprise last night. He will be going to China. We had an impromptu discussion of a future traveling package show to share the stage with the Hall of Fame Chorus in Canton, Ohio.
I loved the professionalism exhibited behind the scenes and on stage of our Master Music Director; Associate and Assistant Director(s); Producer Greg Tepe; Deputy to Producer Scott Kahler; Scipio Garling; Chuck McKeever; and the ever present, reassuring presence of Khorus Manager K-12. It doesn't get much more "fun-ner" than this, does it? I think not.
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 with the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)