Looking Back on the 2016 Harmonizers Events and Milestones
We began our 2016 year with the Presidents’ Award Banquet and board installation on January 9th at Fort Myer club. Randall Eliason was installed as chapter president for ’16 along with his board (a revised board structure per BHS bylaw options) Chris Buechler, secretary; Al Herman, treasurer; Mike Edison, Kevin McKenzie and Steve White, members-at-large; and Rick Wagner as immediate past president. A large operations team was also formed to take over the work for the chapter: Executive Director, Terry Reynolds; Music Director, Joe Cerutti; Communications Director, Scipio Garling; Contest Director, Craig Kujawa; Development Director, Josh Roots; Education Director, Vickie Dennis; Finance Director (BHS chapter), Carl Kauffmann; Finance Director (AH chapter), TBA, pending final 501(c)3 status; Membership Director, Rich Hewitt; Operations Director, Doug White; Director of Shows, Todd Ryktarsyk; Volunteer Activities Director, Robyn Murane; and Archivist/Historian, TBA.
The chapter also formed another 501(c)3 group called Alexandria Harmonizers, Inc. with Ken Fess as president, Clyde Crusenberry as vice president, Liz Birnbaum as secretary; Julie Rizzo as treasurer; Bruce Roehm, John Roots and Steve Sutton as board members; and Randall Eliason and Rick Wagner as representatives from the BHS chapter . This group concentrates on fundraising.
A major chapter change was the news that our traditional auxiliary group, FRIENDS IN HARMONY, decided not to reform for 2016. Much of their duties will be managed by the volunteer coordinator on the operations team, Robyn Murane.
Our Singing Valentines program continued with a plan of sending quartets to make public relations appearances in the Alexandria community. There were also some quartets who presented valentine messages for requested customers or for senior citizen facilities.
The Harmonizers hosted its third Aca Challenge at Lincoln Theater on U Street in DC Saturday, March 21st at 8 pm. The chapter invited DC area a cappella groups to audition and six were chosen to compete. The chapter awarded a $1,000 first prize to All Natural, alums of U of MD a cappella groups. They received their “big” check presented by last year’s winners Vox Pop. Judges were leaders in the DC a cappella community. Also the audience was invited to vote via text during the contest for their favorite. Emcee for the night was Tony Colosimo.
Shows vice president Nick Leiserson and Aca Challenge show producer Reed Livergood assembled a team of chapter and family members to make the event a success including an all-important house crew headed by Robyn Murane, who worked back stage and in the lobby and auditorium. The 80-man chorus sang “America,” “Yesterday,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “Friday Night in the Castro.” TBD also sang on the show.
A new event for this year was the University of Maryland Men’s Choral Invitational at the Memorial Chapel on campus, Saturday April 2nd. It was coordinated by Greg Graf from the U of MD. There were about 200 singers combined from the Harmonizers, U of MD Men’s Chorus, The Rock Creek Singers from the DC Gay Men’s Chorus, Towson Men’s Chorus, Washington Men’s Camerata, and Manner Musik. Each group sang and then the combined group sang three songs.
Our 8th annual Youth Harmony Festival was April 18th at Convergence Church with nearly 60 youth singers and 10 music educators. Bill Colosimo was coordinator with education director Vickie Dennis. Tony Colosimo and Vera Crosue were clinicians. THE NEW FANGLED FOUR and C’EST LA VIE were guest quartets to sing with the youth. This year’s festival was part of our CHOYCE (Comprehensive Harmonizer Outreach Youth Choral Education) program that was funded in part by a BHS grant. The Harmonizers sang on the evening show for parents and friends who came to hear the students perform. In February, SIGNATURE quartet from Florida also came to sing at schools in the DC area and help them discover choral music and invite them to the festival.
Also in April, president Randall lead the effort of the chapter and its many friends to raise over $20,000 in our first participation in Spring2ACTion in Alexandria.
A major musical experience for the Harmonizers was singing two performances of “I Am Harvey Milk” at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic; Kristin Chenoweth, well known for her role in “Wicked;” and Andrew Lippa, creator of the oratorio. We rehearsed on this choral piece in tenor one, tenor two, baritone and bass sections starting in January leading up to the April 23-24 shows. There were 12 works in the piece. There were 110 singers – we were joined by a dozen men who auditioned to sing with us for this event. We worked with Strathmore executive producer Rolando Sanz in the weeks leading up to the performance, along with, Joel Fram, musical director for the performance, and a Broadway choreographer. Our music team worked hard to help us prepare with dedication and inspiration from director Joe Cerutti, learning materials prepared by Tony Colosimo, and choreography preparation by Carlos Barillo.
In May we held our third Armed Forces Show - at Fort Meyer Memorial Chapel this year -where we used our patriotic package. Bill Colosimo was emcee. We also did a patriotic package for the City of Alexandria’s Sept. 11th Remembrance Ceremony at Market Square; a package at the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria to raise monies for Wounded Warriors; and our annual sing at Oakton Elementary School on November 11th.
The chapter held a charter night celebration June 28th in honor of our 68th year. Many long-time members were present for the brief celebration, refreshments and then rehearsal for contest.
Our appearance at the International in Nashville was a major event for the year. Our chorus of 103 men earned 89.6% and ranked sixth! It was our 25th time to compete at international. Our songs were “Yesterday” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” arranged by David Harrington. This package allowed us to honor our director Emeritus Scott Werner who appeared on stage with us. Our coaches for the contest cycle were David Wright, Tony DeRosa and Cindy Hansen. Chorus Riser Coach Chuck McKeever headed up the team to manage our annual pre-international retreat at Westminster, MD. There were 24 guys in the class of ’16 and Casey Belzer was class president. There were a number of ‘special forces’ guys who joined us for this contest. Craig Kujawa was Nashville chairman for our events that week. The traditional Hideaway was available for all of us to enjoy. In the quartet contest, DA CAPO ranked 10th, and LAST MEN STANDING ranked 30th. Our sendoff event at Providence Presbyterian Church in June included sharing the stage with barbershop friends from Germany.
In the summer we did our usual summer “caroling” at INOVA Alexandria Hospital and the summer outdoor concert at Market Square. TBD sang many shows in the DC metro area and appeared with the chorus on most major shows or concerts. Reed Livergood is the musical coordinator for TBD. One of our other major paid jobs was for the Asbury Methodist Village Foundation in MD. Over 65 of us had great fun at the annual sing with other local chapters at Dog Days hosted by the Prince William Chapter.
Our “fall” show October 15th, at Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center on NOVA Alexandria campus, was another major musical effort for the chapter. Todd Ryktarsyk was producer. The show theme was Revolution – a musical celebration of the art of change. The first half of the show featured all Beatles songs including our contest package and an audience sing-a-long with a guest pianist/entertainer, fellow barbershopper from Pittsburgh, Drew Tepe. Some songs were sung by TBD, some by DA CAPO, our guest quartet for the show. The second half featured a portion of the songs from “I Am Harvey Milk” with soloist Larry Freidman and accompanist, former Harmonizer, Allan Weber.
The chorus did not sing at the 2016 M-AD contest having announced our plan to not compete until 2019. But there were over 50 of us there for meetings, and to cheer on DA CAPO who won the district quartet championship! Other Harmonizer quartets included PRATT STREET FOUR that placed second; BOURBEN STREET FOUR that placed fourth, and HERSHEY TRANSIT COMPANY that placed eight. YOUTH RECLAMATION PROJECT placed seventeenth and HANDSOME REWARD placed twenty-second. John Santora was elected to the district Hall of Honor for his service to M-AD. Dennis Ritchey was elected president of the district and Bob Eckman was elected executive vice president.
The annual holiday show in December, with three shows at Harris Theater on campus of GMU, December 15-16, presented “A Family Christmas.” It featured the chorus singing several new songs with other artists on the show including a high school quartet of quadruplets from WI, VINTAGE MIX; and the Reen Family Singers including their four sons who sing some songs as a quartet. TBD sang on the show too. Mick Stamps was show producer. There was a silent auction too.
Also in December we sang holiday music as we strolled from restaurant to restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, sang on a benefit concert, and sang for a ladies luncheon at Fairfax Country Club, .
Membership at the end of the year was over 225. Three Harmonizers died during the year – Burt Stueve, Jim Stockton and Michael Organ.
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 68th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd