Looking Back on the 2013 Pre International Chorus Retreat
There has already been a lot chatter about the weekend – likely one of the most powerful retreats in Harmonizer history. (And how appropriate during our 65th year – which we celebrated Saturday nite with cake and a reflection of Harmonizer tradition.)
The change to start on Friday nite worked great – probably now a Harmo tradition! The music and admin teams were well organized. Coach David Wright was ready to teach, inspire, motivate and cajole from the first minute. It was so good to have him back with our Harmo family – he knows a lot of the guys by name and has fun with our chapter. And the 25 or so guys who had never worked with him were blown away too.
For sure, assistant director Terry Reynolds had every minute of rehearsal planned and well organized (And he took notes all weekend to share with the directors and the singers in follow-up. No surprise. YeEd discovered that the clip board Terry was using had all the words of each song on them and space for notes and suggestions. Thanks Terry!!)
Retreat chairman Chuck McKeever, and his team, were perfect hosts and also well organized so no details needed attention. Bob Blair and Gary Fuller drove the Harmo truck up and college students helped haul in the risers, front row props and av equipment so our guys could set them up in the rehearsal hall. Keith Jones, TJ Jones, Jack Cameron, Len Dornberger helped register our guys, pass out keys, take notes during the weekend, and assist Chuck with video work. Doug White was the sound guy for the weekend and was plenty busy with all the mics needed for coaches and musical leaders. Gotta add Jim Lake to the list as he was a mighty busy pitch-pipe man for the whole weekend. Phil Ashford was busy taking pixs all weekend too.
John Pence prepared the weekend’s printed agenda and retreat booklet. Thanks JP.
As usual the facility and staff at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, were great for us. Just a little over two hours away, the suites were clean and ready. The main hall for rehearsal was cool and comfortable and spacious, and convenient to all of our meals too. A good crowd of guys got to Westminster Fri. nite in time to get some chow on the local main street. All modes of transportation got over 100 guys there – cars, pickups, motorcycles, car pools, and one guy via rental car cause his car wouldn’t start after work in DC.
We had several visitors from the Pride of Baltimore SAI chorus and some family friends who came to watch our rehearsals.
And yes, the gold/orange bandanas of the Class of 2013 were everywhere with all 27 guys present and accounted for with bandanas!
The risers we full at 6:50 pm when the chimes rang out for the start Friday! Assistant director Will Cox did the vocal warm ups. There was a sign on the wall to indicate front row center – “It’s Showtime!” Obviously the work of ever-driving McKeever to help us get the focals correct!!
Director Joe Cerutti took over up front and first off welcomed all the guys to the “Anything Goes Retreat Weekend” and quickly welcomed and presented our coach David Wright.
We sang the set one time thru and turned David loose to help us. And help he did! We worked totally on the ballad Fri. nite. Mid evening, there was a break with brownies and cookies and sodas for all with time to sit and relax a bit.
As usual, there were announcements and other details for guys to take care of such as paying $32 for and picking up the new white shirt for Toronto from our hard-working uniform chair Tom Kern. Also guys could see Nick Murane to buy tickets for any family members and friends who will be in Toronto and attending the chapter Togetherness Meal (actually a luncheon this year, not the traditional breakfast, since we sing so late in the afternoon).
Breakfast on Sat. started at 7:30 am and we were on the risers for warm up at 8:30. There were a few sleepy eyes of guys who stayed up visiting, and some guys who came Sat. morning from DC because of work conflicts and such. Some of our guys worked in the rehearsal hall Fri. nite to modify the front row props, and they too got to bed late. YeEd heard that crew included TJ Donahue, Doug White, Craig Kujawa and Mike Vlcej.
Assistant director Will Cox did warm ups for Saturday morning. Terry announced that we had 108 of the 111 guys present who are expected to sing in Toronto. Mid morning there was another break with goodies while the first and second rows stayed on the risers to coordinate some uniform change efforts.
Joe announced his travel plans for Sat evening to get to Nashville for Wayne Grimmer’s wedding with plans to be back at midnite. Joe’s Dad, Joe Sr. was pressed into service to make the airport run Saturday noon.
When the chorus broke for lunch, the front row held one of the several extra rehearsals they had during the weekend for their visual routine. The hard working 15 men in the 2013 front row are Ben Roberts, Ken White, Scip Garling, Doug White, Randall Eliason, Peter Hubbard, Carlos Barillo, Steve White, Josh Roots, Ken Rub, Terry Reynolds, Chuck Hunter, Mike Vlcej, Craig Kujawa and Chris Clark
After lunch, the whole chorus was right back to work on the risers! David taught the “authorized” version of the “Friends” tag so we could all sing it on Sunday and then associate director Tony Colosimo took over director duties for the rest of Saturday.
We spent the rest of the day and evening rehearsal sessions on the uptune! That included many reps including huge amounts of dancing by the front row. Our in-house choreography team, including visual row leaders, facial coach and the front row captain, worked to improve accuracy and facial expressions all during the singing time. David never let up on that aspect. In fact he spent a lot of the weekend giving emphasis to both left brain and right brain efforts to make the package complete. He paid a special tribute to Carlos Barillo for the creative visual plan.
After dinner, we were issued the gold scarves for the uptune and Carlos helped us practice a few times at how to fold them and when to put them on. Doug White was in charge of distribution (and YeEd found out Doug actually did a lot of the sewing on them as part of the team with FRIENDS IN HARMONY who had measured all of us and made the scarves).
When the evening’s rehearsal concluded, Jack Pitzer gave a tribute for the 65th anniversary and we adjourned for a break from singing to relax in the hall with David presenting an abbreviated version of his now-famous “History of Barbershop” class from the BHS Harmony University. Then the spread of food and drinks arrived while we watched a video of the 5th place comedy chorus routine from last year’s contest in Portland.
And then it was time for the presentation by the Class of 2013. They had been challenged to show they could sing – so they helped us all prepare for our trip to Toronto and sang “O Canada” with class president Rick Hewitt as director.
Then for their skit, they created a stage for a Jeopardy game with contestants Tony Colosimo, chorus manager Mark Klostermeyer and Chuck McKeever. It was wildly funny and we all got into the act as the contestants tried to answer the questions – such as “what precise measure of tonal accuracy did David suggest during the weekend (answer – onion skins). They got worse after that!! And we all laughed when K12 couldn’t answer one of his questions about a substance that has the same name as a singing part – “lead” as in metal or paint! [Old timers suggest it will become the new “hark” that is yelled out each week and has been done so for many many years after Will forgot his line in a show – “hark”.] Good job by the 27 guys who will sing with us for the first time as a Harmonizer in an International chorus contest – the Class of 2013.
Sunday morning we were up early again and turned in our room keys to Chuck and his team as we entered the breakfast hall. We got on the risers with two more of the 111 guys who had made it in. Tony did the vocal warm ups using the suggested technique David had shown us earlier in the weekend.
Joe was back on campus and had a little time to be briefed by Terry (including a video of the skit from the nite before). Joe thanked Chuck, Terry, David and Tony for keeping things flowing.
We worked a couple hours Sun. on the package, including a fun chance for the chorus to demonstrate to Joe what we had done with the uptune. His facial expressions of pride and surprise were worth a million bucks to us singers on the risers.
At the end of our work session on Sun., Joe introduced and spoke a little about each of the seven 2013 Special Forces guys who are singing with us in Toronto and have made over-and-above efforts to be with us for preparation – Bruce Roehm, Sean Devine, Mike Wallen, Kevin McKenzie, Bob Wilson, Mike Geipel, and Dave Ellis.
Chuck thanked his team and the Class of 2013. Jack Cameron and Bob Blair presented the class a mascot trophy which they get to name and keep until the next class is named. Chapter president Alan Wile thanked all the chapter members who worked to make this weekend so successful and he invited David up front so we could express our cheers and long and loud applause of thanks. Music and performance vp Brad Jones officially thanked David and gave him a Terracotta Warrior statue from our chorus trip to China – where we sang some of David’s arrangements.
As is our tradition, we ended the retreat after David’s farewell challenge when the chorus locked arms on the risers and sang the “Friends” tag.
Everyone helped reload the Harmo truck and we all headed back to our homes, eager to get back at it on Tues. at Durant.
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 during the 65th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)