Looking Back on the 2015 International Retreat May 29-30 Westminster MD
This year’s retreat was a huge success from every aspect. There were 119 singers on the 11 sets of risers.
Coaches David Wright and Brandon Guyton were top-notch and taught us all so much more to do in making our performance exciting. We also learned more about our arrangements and the music we sing and how to use our instruments to produce the best barbershop harmony. Our songs, for the record, are “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll & Hyde” and arranged by Steve Tramack; and “Me Ol’ Bamboo” from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and arranged by Clay Hine.
Supporting these coaches was our top-notch in-house crew: director Joe Cerutti, associate director Tony Colosimo, assistant director Terry Reynolds, choreographer Carlos Barillo, riser coach Chuck McKeever, section leaders Rick Savage, Josh DesPortes, Reed Livergood, Andrew Havens, Jim Lake.
Retreat chairman Chuck McKeever and his team made it all run so smoothly. The staff at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, was a great help too in setting up breaks, preparing for our arrival in the dorms and having the cafeteria open early each meal . We stayed in air conditioned dorms this year vs the suites where we had stayed in recent years. There was plenty of food for sure.
Chuck’s crew included a sound/AV team of Doug White, Mike Kelly and Dennis Ritchey who worked hard all weekend to mic the coaches, film the weekend and help show videos. Several non-singers were there to help with admin details including Sam McFarland and Keith Jones. John Pence did work to produce the weekend printed program. Howard Nestlerode collected our registration fees. Chuck’s logistics team also included Len Dornberger, Jack Cameron and Rich Hewitt. Drew Fuller was Harmo van driver and Bob Blair and many other guys helped unload and reload the truck with risers and all of our other equipment. This meant getting things set up Friday afternoon for the early rehearsals.
Friday nite, about 50 guys accepted the invite to come up early to get settled in and prepared to start first thing on Saturday. A large contingent of guys ate at the Irish pub in town and then as the evening rolled on and more and more guys arrived there was a nice gathering of guys in the dorm to socialize. However, the front row had committed to all be there at 8 pm and they worked for two hours on their routine.
Speaking of commitment, there have been some great stories emerge about our guys making the extra effort to attend – such as Peter Hubbard taking the bus up from Atlanta where he has moved in the last few weeks, guys who drive from Delaware like Len Dornberger and Mike Fasano; Gene Swartz who drives from Roanoke to Richmond and rides the rest of the way with Craig Odell and Mike Geipel and then they meet guys in Fredericksburg; Alan Lamson (who had to miss the retreat because of a back problem that happened on Thursday) who flies to DC from his home in Connecticut; and TJ Donahue who flew in from Denver.
Saturday morning’s kick off at 8:30 am following a continental breakfast in the hall with started with welcome remarks from Chuck. Then Tony did a long and solid warm up session for us before turning things over to an excited Joe who proudly welcomed our coaches and told the newer guys more about the barbershop backgrounds of David and Brandon.
After that it was solid singing and working on making improvements all day. There were some mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks, and lunch of course. Often there were meetings of small groups such as the front row, or the Class of 2015 (that is the guys singing with us in Pittsburgh who have never sung with the Harmonizers at an International – which means some are brand new barbershop singers and some have earned medals with other chapters and are new to our chapter). Their president this year is Spencer Wight.
The official class list is Peelee Clark, Mike Edison, Marvin Evans, Mike Fasano, Ross Felker, Alvin Figer, Garrett Garner, Tommy Garner, David Jarzen, Alan Lamson, Reed Livergood, Jim McConnell, Mike Moncibaiz, Chris Odell, Rusty Orvik, Rich Payton, Ron Precup, Elliot Roseman, Todd Ryktarsyk, John Santora, Aaron Simoneau, Gene Swartz, Spencer Wight, and Kris Zinkievich.
President Terry Reynolds served as emcee for the weekend and coordinated announcements during the weekend. Pittsburgh coordinator Craig Kujawa announced that Frank Fedarko would be photo sales chair at International (see him to make your reservations starting on Tuesday nite); Randall Eliason will be distributing the free tickets to any Harmonizer who wants to attend the Togetherness breakfast in Pittsburgh; Steve Murane is selling the $30 tickets for any guests a member will bring to that breakfast. Tickets distribution began at the retreat and will continue on Tuesday nite. Craig also had handouts from the Pittsburgh convention bureau for each of us.
There were some guests during the weekend besides Keith and Sam including Walt Page, Joe Sawyer, Bill Sowers, Tom Griffith, the director of choral activities at McDaniel College and some family members of guys who came by. Great to have Michael Schwartz back singing with us.
Before dinner David refreshed the “Friends” tag that we would use at the end of the weekend. And we were reminded to wear our Pittsburgh costumes to the evening rehearsal.
It was fantastic to see all of the nifty outfits the member had created (with their wranglers). As we continued to work on the uptune, Carlos reviewed each man’s costume and offered suggestions to some to enhance or add color or the like.
About 8:30 pm on Saturday nite we took off the costumes and prepared for the annual party at our retreat. The college provided a good buffet of warm and cold things and plenty of liquid refreshments for all.
Terry kicked off the eve by inviting one of our chapter quartets, BRAVADO with Doug White, Kevin McKenzie, Chris Odell and Todd Ryktarsyk (recent fourth place quartet in the Southern Division contest) to sing. Then there was a new Pittsburgh logo shown – “Sing Softly & Carry a Big Stick” which included some rods of bamboo in the design – that is available to order on t-shirts and other items. Stay tuned for more details on how to do that from our website.
Joe remarked about the many wonderful highlights of being a Harmonizer to include our wonderful trip to France last year. Recently the folks in Les Ventes France sent a video to us thanking us again for coming to their village and inviting us to come again someday. Peter Hubbard did the translation and our av team added the subtitles.
Also our friend Peggy Harris (the widow of Billie D. Harris and who we sang to that day in France) sent a special greeting to the Harmonizers. (Chris Huber reports she will be 90 on June 25th.) Those two warm and emotional videos were shown for all to see.
Then Joe had us take a look at some videos of the Harmonizers progress from our last gold medal performance, to the first International with Joe as director and to our third place performance in Toronto. Then as comparison, a video of our Ambassadors of Harmony friends doing “76 Trombones.”
Then finally we got to see the much anticipated skit by the Class of 15! And it was fantastic!!! The funny script was written, YeEd hears, by their class president Spencer. Ron Precup was narrator in his best fake British accent. Marvin Evans did the commercial breaks. It was the evolution of the Harmonizers from cave man days til now. Many of the class had starring parts in the skit and some even sang!!
To wrap up the fun nite, Terry organized a game where the chorus formed ten teams of about 12 guys each and did a fun contest of singing B flat songs in three-quarter time (an idea stolen from Steve Delehanty). It was fun. David and Brandon were judges and declared the best barbershop song and best entertainment song. Of course those groups of guys are still gloating from their success(?).
But truthfully, the party continued back in the dorm.
Sunday morning, we turned in our keys to Chuck and Sam before entering the cafeteria for breakfast.
And then back on the risers at 8:30 to recap and continue to polish points that had been discovered on Saturday. Tony did another good warm up for the tired voices.
Chuck did some parting remarks and thank yous to crews who helped make the weekend flow.
President Terry took a vote on a show opportunity on Sunday June 13th in DC.
Then Terry began the wrap up remarks for the weekend including leading the applause for Chuck and his crew.
Joe pledged that we would work totally on the contest songs in June (plus “Happy” for the June 13th gig).
Someone encouraged each guy to spend 15 minutes each day in June on their performance for Pittsburgh.
Joe thanked our great coaches again and offered them a chance for parting remarks. David reminded us to be thankful that we could come together in this art form of barbershopping. He spoke highly of Joe’s musical leadership and reminded us, though, that the end result is up to us. The “power to make it even better is fun with the Harmonizers where the heart is in the right place.”
Brandon spoke too of the special attitude and love for this art form and for each other.
We concluded the session, locked arms, singing the “Friends” tag (that is for those who could sing it and not get too emotional doing so)!
Everyone pitched into haul the risers, av things, props and signs out to the truck. Then they headed to their homes – with some stops for chow or ice cream en route.
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 during the 67th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.