Saturday, July 15, 2017

Looking Back on the 2017 International Contest and Convention, Las Vegas

Amazing numbers of current and former members of the Alexandria Chapter were at the 79th annual BHS International Convention and Contest in Las Vegas NV, July 2-9, 2016. Although the Harmonizers did not compete this year, and none of our quartets were able to compete, the Alexandria crowd was there to sing, work and volunteer, attend meetings, cheer for our friends from M-AD, meet old friends and hang out with each other.

Early arrivals volunteered at the convention such as Alan Wile and Keith Jones. Some folks came on to Vegas from a convention trip such as Jack Pitzer and Bruce Roehm.  And some guys came later in the week to join in the fun such as Craig Kujawa and Ken Rub.

The quartet gold was won by MAIN STREET with one of our chapter’s great coaches, Tony DeRosa, as their lead.  SIGNATURE quartet from FL who has been here in Alexandria a couple times to help us promote singing for youth was second. Third was AFTER HOURS from Bloomington, IL, who had won a collegiate contest some years ago.  Fourth was THROWBACK with former Harmonizer Sean Devine as lead.

The chorus gold was won by the Masters of Harmony, having scored 96.4% over the Dallas Vocal Majority who scored 96.2%. Central Standard was third. Toronto Northern Lights was fourth.  And our fellow M-AD friends from Hershey PA, Parkside chorus, won the fifth place medal with a 92% and Hell’s Kitchen from M-AD placed tenth with a score of 87.8%.

The contest venue was the Axis Theater in Planet Hollywood where Britney Spears appears.    .  It was a great place for the contest audience members. Attendees were mostly staying in Planet Hollywood, Bally’s and Paris hotels as the three are all connected.  The temperatures outside were over 110 degrees every day, so folks were glad to be inside.   A major water main inside Planet Hollywood burst on Saturday just before the grand spectacular and finals session.  It closed many paths to the venue and to the stage but it all worked out.  YeEd saw Sam McFarland leading some of the group singing as we waited for permission to go into the venue after security had to close parts of the place.

The contest judging panel included former coach Steve Tramack and our former director Richard Lewellen who was named head of the singing category of judges during meetings at the convention.  His wife, Christina, was present to represent Harmony Inc. as she is their president.

The contest and judging committee honored former member David Binetti for his work on new scoring software and our chapter secretary Chris Buechler was given an award of excellence by the C&J Committee for his career-long support and dedicated service on behalf of the judging program.  It is the highest award given by that committee.

Several former members sang in competing quartets in the contest: Scott Disney in ROUTE 1; David Ellis in THE HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER 4; Sean Devine in THROWBACK; and Mark Rodda in ZERO HOUR.

Several current members and many former members sang with one of the 30 competing choruses. Two current members sang in Hershey Parkside Chorus – Michael Vlcej and Pookie
Dingle along with former members Sean Devine, Jay Butterfield, Scott Disney, Ed Schubel, Kenny Toula and Fred Womer. Members Sam McFarland and John Adams sang with the Carolina Vocal Express chorus and former member Mark Rodda did also. The following former members sang in the chorus contest: Michael Gilmore sang with the Alliance chorus from OH; Joe Kane and Lynn Hineman sang with the Harolds of Harmony from FL; TJ Donohue and Kevin Kaiser sang with the Colorado Sound of the Rockies (Kevin was even in the front row!); Lou Bergner sang with Toronto Northern Lights; Ray Johnson and Jim Haggerty sang with the Masters of Harmony;  Ben Luttge sang with the Men of Independence from IN;  Ken Potter was director of the Northwest Sound from WA; Spencer Wight sang with the Voices of Gotham; and Jack Stevens sang with the chorus mic testers The Marcsmen from TX.

Former member Jay Butterfield served on the judging panel for the Youth Quartet contest (formerly called the Collegiate Quartet Contest). John Santora was contest administrator for that event.  As part of the convention (actually mic testers for the second half of the chorus contest), a reunion chorus of youth quartet participants sang and former Harmonizers Joe Eckert and Ed Schubel  were on the risers. Ed, who sang with last year’s youth champ quartet PRATT STREET POWER from M-AD, also competed in the main quartet contest and placed 18th. One of Joe Cerutti’s major duties at the convention as a BHS staffer was the youth program and he sang with the reunion chorus as a former collegiate quartet contestant.  

The Saturday nite spectacular, which preceded the quartet finals, was awesome and featured a 350-man chorus of Ambassadors of Harmony and Dallas Vocal Majority, with quartet appearances with them in combined music from SPECTRUM and CROSSROADS, plus GQ, a popular SAI quartet from our area.

A major announcement at this convention was the roll-out of the new strategic vision – EVERYONE IN HARMONY.  You can access a video and details about it at It is exciting to see how well current efforts by our chapter fit into this new direction.

The BHS board meetings held early in the week saw our own John Santora elected as incoming treasurer. Several of our former members were at the convention as past BHS presidents including Daryl Flinn and Alan Lamson.

Terry Reynolds, John Santora and Jay Butterfield taught classes during the week as part of the Harmony University sessions during the convention. 

Gary Smith was present to receive his 50-year membership pin at a breakfast function hosted by Rick Taylor as emcee (and part of his duties as Harmony Foundation staff).  Mike Everard and Alan Kousen also were announced as 50-year members and Alan Wile accepted on their behalf.

Chapter president Randall Eliason attended the convention as did former presidents Dwain Chambers and Gary Plaag. Other current members in Vegas for the convention included Chuck Hunter, Ross Johnson, Tom Gannon, Jordan Haedtler, Eric Wallen and Mike Wallen.  Former members present included Jim Lake, Larry Silva, Steve Matuszewski, Dan Cook and Bob Hirsh. Associate members Ellen Dellert and Dixie Kennett attended too. Dixie was also a volunteer and helped with judges hospitality.

Thanks to Dixie and Alan for helping collect names of current and former members at the convention.

It is Great to Be a Harmonizer!

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 70th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)

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