Looking Back on the May 20th Chapter Armed Forces Show and GospelFest
The Harmonizers were busy in their community on the May 20th weekend at Durant Recreation Center.
Our chapter was co-organizer of the local GospelFest which started Friday nite May 19th at 6 pm. The theme for this two-show event was “Music Through the Ages: Gospel and Barbershop.” Staff from the Alexandria Office of the Arts and our chapter leaders met months ago to start the idea and planning and that meeting put the GospelFest in motion. Thanks much to Cheryl Anne Colson for her leadership and to the staff at the Durant Center for set up (along with our usual riser crews and audio team).
Friday nite there were four groups who appeared: a student assemble from Jefferson Houston School Choir; girls chorus from George Washington Middle School Choir (directed by Harmonizer Casey Belzer); current and retired City of Alexandria Employee Choir; and My Father’s House Christian Church Praise Team made up of singers of all ages from their church. Emcee for the evening was John T. Chapman, councilman for the City of Alexandria and owner of Manumission Tour Company.
We brought Nashville’s Grammy winning THE FAIRFIELD FOUR to town for the weekend as part of our current efforts to delve into our roots as barbershop singers – all as part of the grant received from the Barbershop Harmony Society. On Friday morning the quartet made an appearance for students at the local Jefferson Houston School for the Arts next door to Durant. Then the quartet wrapped up the Friday nite show at Durant to a very enthusiastic crowd of musicians and local residents. Many Harmonizers were there to watch and help as needed. Mick Stamps was show organizer. Todd Ryktarsyk was sound guy (which was a busy job since each group had to use a number of mics and/or piano or other musical instruments). Special kudos to Mick and Todd for doing all of the substantial sound equipment set up on Friday nite.
The finale of the show was Anne D. Smith leading the audience in singing of “This Little Light of Mine.” She is teacher at Jefferson Houston and author of “Good News: Innovators and Originators of Gospel Music” which was the spark for the city to host its first GospelFest. She was also the host of the quartet’s appearance at the school on Friday morning.
President Randall Eliason artistic director Joe Cerutti served the guest quartet’s travel hosts for the weekend such as driving them to and from their various appearances which included a private tour of the U.S. Capital (thanks to Liz Birnbaum).
Then on Saturday the GospelFest continued and the Harmonizers arrived for their 10 am call. Early on director Joe Cerutti introduced us to THE FAIRFIELD FOUR and we got to review singing some of our songs with them – and for them. What a treat for all of us – and the quartet seemed really tickled by having us sing their songs for and with them.
Another special treat was our reuniting with our new buddies in the Alfred Street Baptist Male Chorus during warm up time to review the songs we taught each other in a recent gathering. Fun that fellow Harmonizer John Oswald Greene sings with both groups.
The 11 am GospelFest session on Saturday May 20th included appearances from the longstanding Shiloh Baptist Church and Third Street Baptist Church choirs, and The Alfred Street Male Chorus. The combined Harmonizer and Alfred Street singers sang “Down By The Riverside” and “Rock My Soul.” The Harmonizers sang “Summertime,” “There Must Be a City” and “All You Need is Love.” This was the first time singing with the chorus for Adam Afifi, a new baritone with lots of barbershop quartet experience. Phil Ashford was official photographer for the weekend. Great to see Pookie Dingle and Stephanie who stopped in to see the show while they were in the area.
THE FAIRFIELD FOUR sang with the Harmonizers and did their own set on this session of the GospelFest.
The GospelFest event was also a Spring Food Drive for the City of Alexandria working with ALIVE! and Hunger Free Alexandria, with singers patrons bringing non-perishable items.
In the afternoon, the chapter hosted its fourth Armed Forces Show – also in the main hall at Durant. It began at 3 pm, so the chorus was able to great a quick lunch or eat the goodies they brought. For the day, we wore black suit pants and the black camp shirt with the Harmo logo.
The chorus sang several patriotic songs for the nice sized audience including some former members and family members, several retired military folks and many folks who came back from having heard us at the GospelFest. We also invited THE FAIRFIELD FOUR to join us for one song.
Joe had invited formerly active members to join us for the “Armed Forces Medley” and “God Bless America” for this show and several attended including Joe Wagovich and Bob Wachter. It was great to have them on the risers with us.
The Sea Cadets from Alexandria posted the colors for the event. President Randall Eliason was emcee. A member of the American Legion spoke in recognition of Armed Forces Day. Several Harmonizers also spoke as formerly active military men – Shawn Tallant, Steve Murane, Bob Blair and Rusty Orvik.
Director of shows Mick Stamps coordinated the afternoon show too and Todd Ryktarsyk did the sound for the event. Several chapter volunteers worked to pass out programs during the shows for the day.
Before the show on Saturday there was a breakfast reception at Durant for performers and other fans to meet THE FAIRFIELD FOUR. The quartet had CDs for sale in the lobby after the shows on Saturday and were happy to autograph them.
It was a great treat for all of us to have THE FAIRFIELD FOUR here, to get to meet them and to hear them perform. They had a great time as well, and we are all looking forward to more singing together such as when they return to Alexandria for our fall show.
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 69th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd