Looking Back on the May 17th Retreat and WWII Tribute
What an important day in the history of the Alexandria chapter of the BHS! We worked all day and evening, at First Baptist Church on King Street in Alexandria, on our music and performance package for the trip to Normandy, France and the 70th anniversary of the DDay Landing. In the afternoon, we offered tribute in song and story to a large group of WWII Veterans and many fellow citizens there to help us honor them.
We began early with a rehearsal retreat coordinated by Chuck McKeever with lots of leadership by the music and performance vp Steve White, director Joe Cerutti, choreographer Carlos Barillo, president Terry Reynolds, and associate director Tony Colosimo.
Chuck treated us to OJ and fresh donuts to go with the coffee at 8:30 or so. He also loaded in a huge supply of bottled water for the singers.
Tony started the day at 9am with warm ups and turned things over to Joe to get right to work at singing.
Joe welcomed Special Forces guys who are singing with us in France and were with us for the weekend – Fr. Joe Witmer from Ohio, Jay Butterfield from Lancaster, PA; John Santora from Bel Air, MD; Don Johnson from Alexandria, and Alan Lamson and Jim Kew from Manchester, CT. Assistant director Will Cox did the warm ups for the evening show.
Of course there were many announcements during the day; there was a good break for some more donuts; and then a lunch break and time to change into our black suits with new red/white/blue tie for the afternoon WWII Tribute show.
During the warm up for the show we learned that this was the first performance with the Harmonizers for Peelee Clark, John Santora, Alan Lamson, Jim McConnell and Jim Kew.
The hall at First Baptist, where we always have the holiday dinner show, was set in concert style with over 250 seats facing the stage. The risers, set with “flat” sections in the center, stretched across the front of the stage – both to accommodate more audience seats and the large number of chorus singers.
For historical purposes, here is the thank you note WWII Tribute chairman, Randall Eliason, sent to the chapter. (His leadership and attention to detail and skill to involve other members made the tribute a huge success.) It records the many, many tasks needed to pull off such an important event in the history of the Alexandria Harmonizers. Many folks are already talking about something like this being an annual event
Note From Randall: What a fantastic experience yesterday performing in our veterans tribute show! It was a great success, an emotional and moving experience for both us and our guests. I was proud to be a part of it with all of you.
I have many people to thank. I'm sure I will forget someone - if so, please forgive me (my brain is still a little fried) and know how much I appreciated everyone's help:
Steve White - who first came up with the concept of this show as a way to kick off our Normandy tour, asked me to produce it, and supported me throughout. Putting this show together was simply an execution of Steve's vision. Oh - and he also arranged for the printing of the programs (designed by Noah), which looked great!
Sandy Stamps and the other members of FRIENDS IN HARMONY - including Debbie Corder, Kathie Kauffmann, Sandi Ulibarri, Carol Dangel, Janet Cerutti, Catherine Colosimo, Ninamarie Maragiolglio, Lydia Golden, Peggy Wagner, Gail Felker, Robyn McQueen, Ellen Dellert, Judy Huber, Mary Blair, Christina Ammerman and Ina Berkey -- who helped out in various ways. They not only decorated the hall, arranged and maintained the cookie plates, staffed the various tables at the show, and carried out countless other tasks -- they also paid for most of the decorations out of the FIH budget. The success of the show owes a great deal to their support.
Noah Van Gilder - for his PR work and for designing a flyer and a show program that were powerful and professional -- even though it kept him up until 2:00 am!
Chris Huber - also in the PR department, who worked tirelessly (and successfully!) to get us some coverage by the local TV stations.
Greg Tepe - for being house manager, manning the follow spot, and for all of his sage advice on how to produce a show.
Nick Leiserson - for serving as our dignitary "handler," helping manage the house, and for his similarly sage advice on producing a show.
Rich Hewitt - who spent most of his waking hours in the past week scouring the Internet for pictures and creating the beautiful and moving PowerPoint slide shows, which were a huge hit with the audience.
Shawn Tallant - who brought us the US Navy Sea Cadets Corps (who were terrific!), promoted the show through the American Legion and VFW, helped out with getting our guests of honor seated, and just generally was one of the show's biggest boosters.
Clyde Crusenberry - another big promoter of the show, who reached out to multiple retirement and veterans homes.
Dixie Kennett - for her skilled and professional job (as usual!) handling the lighting.
Joe Cerutti Sr. and Janet Cerutti - Janet for running the sound board and providing our pre- and post-show music; Joe for helping her out, for single-handedly arranging for about 6 of our WWII veterans to be at the show, and for helping with the seating of our guests of honor.
Doug White and Todd Ryktarsyk - for setting up and helping to run the sound the day of the show, and Mike Kelly for helping them figure out beforehand what would be required.
Jack Pitzer and his team of Kevin Kaiser, Alan Lamson and Jim Kew - for coordinating the coffee, lemonade, and other refreshments.
Ross Felker - for a beautiful and moving rendition of Taps (and that uniform looked pretty sharp, too).
Bob Blair - for managing the loading, unloading, and driving of the truck, all the other logistical support, and for outreach to the VFW.
Bob Rhome - for additional logistical support and for all the help coordinating with the church.
John Pence - for running the video camera (supplied by Chuck McKeever) and for
preparing song boards that were visible from the balcony!
Bill Colosimo - who, as emcee, was the consummate professional, and who took time away from a Division contest obligation, got up at 0-dark-30, and drove to DC so he could be with us.
Ken Fess - for providing me with tons of information and photos about Normandy and D-day, and for overall moral support.
Martin Banks - for setting up and maintaining the cool Harmonizer history board.
Ike Evans - for putting me in touch with the WWII re-enactors and for lots of other work behind the scenes to support the show.
Tom and Ina Berkey for lending us pictures for decorations.
The Friday Afternoon Set-up Crew - Jack Pitzer, Mick Stamps, Alan Lamson, Dick Newton, Bob Blair, Bob Rhome, Rich Hewitt, Austin Cotton, Clyde Crusenberry, Chuck McKeever, Martin Banks, Dean Rust, Dixie Kennett, Sandy Stamps, and Debbie Corder (I'm sure I missed someone here . . . )
and of course, Joe and Terry for their leadership and constant support.
Thanks, too, to everyone who promoted the show on Facebook, through e-mail, posted a flyer, or invited a vet.
This experience definitely gave me a new appreciation for just how many people it takes, pitching in and pulling together, to make something like this happen. Thanks again to all.
It's great to be a Harmonizer - on to Normandy!
The songs for the Tribute were emotional and brought the audience to their feet several times. Tony and Ken White sang solos on the show. Emcees for chorus songs during show were Gary Fuller, Don Dillingham and Elliott Roseman. Rick Wagner performed the show standing without crutches too!
The chapter was honored to have Congressman Jim Moran, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, and Lt. Gen. John B. Sylvester, US Army (Ret.) to bring remarks. Each of them thanked the chapter for their efforts in honoring the heroes from our community. Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Coates, US Navy Chaplain, delivered an invocation.
Two of the WWII Veterans were of special interest to the chapter – current member Paul Greiner was in the front row; and Kurt Latzko, brother of deceased member Walter Latzko, was present for the event too.
The audience included many family members and friends of the older WWII Veterans and it was a joy to see the young Cadets helping and saluting and being sharp. YeEd noticed many former singers in the audience too including Bob Hoffman, John Hohl, Bede Bender, Ross Johnson; as well as family members of the chorus.
After the tribute, we took time for dinner on our own and changed back into comfortable gear. We assembled back on the risers about 6:30pm. Joe worked on touch ups for some of the songs we had sung and talked about other songs. We are also working on music for the huge show on June 21st with our friends the Ambassadors of Harmony and their gold medal quartets. AND we will be starting soon on a new ballad for the contest this fall plus our American Icon Show in 2015.
The day ended with everyone chipping in to repack and reload the Harmo truck. It was a long day but a proud one for all of us.
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 during the 66th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)