Looking Back on International Convention, Anaheim July 2009
(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 with the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —Ye Ed.)
What a week for the Harmonizers! The 71st International Convention in Anaheim was another important milestone in Harmonizer history.
The chorus earned 2647 points in the contest (88.2%) and ranked 9th. We had 81 singers on stage. More points that 2008 but slipped one notch, but it is great to still be in the TOP TEN. Just wait til we add 20 or 30 more by next year.
Of course, the tough chorus competition at the medalist level was the big news. The upset victory by the Ambassadors of Harmony from St. Charles, (St. Louis) MO was the talk of the town. Dallas Vocal Majority earned a record score when they sang Friday morning only to have that record broken a few hours later when the Ambassadors overwhelmed the audience with a “76 Trombones” uptune complete with a surprise costume change into flashy band uniforms with feather topped hats! Our retreat coach David Wright was on stage with them.
1. St. Charles Ambassadors – 2926, 158 men
2. Dallas Vocal Majority – 2889, 142 men
3. Hilltop, MN – 2764, 86 men
4. Denver Mile High – 2744, 117 men
5. Toronto Northern Lights – 2706, 39 men
Other chorus rankings of interest include Alliance from Ohio in 6th place, new young-guy chorus from Stockholm, Sweden, zero8, in 7th; New Zealand chorus in 10th; Cincinnati in 11th; Atlanta in 12th, Greendale Midwest Vocal Express (the fish bowl guys) in 14th; Northbrook in 15th. Jordan Haedtler, one of our regular Harmonizer guests when he is on campus in DC, sang with Greg Lyne’s chorus, Voices of Harmony, who were 8th.
Our chorus had a busy rehearsal schedule starting Tuesday evening. Each session was just two hours. It is always a great feeling to see everyone who has arrived and gathered for the first time at contest. Tuesday nite was also the first chance for guys to see the new benches made by Dennis Ritchey and shipped to CA. The benches had a new color panel underneath to add some color and support when guys stood on them!
Kyle Blomgren welcomed his fellow chorus members to CA and his old stomping grounds on Tuesday nite. Gary Plaag and Tony Colosimo did warm ups. K12 shifted and coached the guys into windows. Director Joe expressed his sincere thanks to the guys for being there and making it to CA after so many weeks of work.
Then our coach Cindy Hansen spent time with the chorus mostly encouraging and building confidence in the ability to do the job at hand. She asked the men to dig deep into their emotions for the ballad.
Keith Jones shared his emotional story of trying his best to qualify and yet he did not pass the test. Then he gave his previously earned gold medal to 2009 class president Phil Ferguson to take on stage.
Continuing the scenario development work that had begun back in Alexandria, Bob Wachter gave his story of new love and romance and how it compared to the ballad. Joe followed that with the closed eye drill and then a final run of the set.
Before he let the men go to bed, Joe asked each one to pick up a piece of the cream colored paper and an envelope in the back of the rehearsal room. Each man was to come to the Wednesday morning rehearsal having written his Dream that he sings about in the ballad on that paper. They each sealed their envelopes and carried them all week.
The second rehearsal was Wednesday morning. The front row worked out more. Coach Steve Tramack was on hand to cheer for us. The usual work ethic continued. Phil Ferguson did the scenario story before the closed eye drill. Joe had each man hold his Dream envelope during the drill.
Wednesday afternoon was the third rehearsal with more of the same including a scenario story from Terry Reynolds and the Dream envelopes for the closed eye drill. Surprise guests at this session were Geri and Royal Geis. Joe invited her to say hello and she wished the gang the best. She was in town to help Northbrook.
Thursday morning session included some warning about the huge camera that sweeps across the stage and shows your face on the screen during a song. (Some of our men were featured with great looks during our time on stage.) Two former members, Ray Johnson and Bill Power, who sing with last year’s chorus champs, Masters of Harmony in CA, stopped in to present the chapter with a memento from their chorus to ours.
Ken White announced our congrats to the chapter quartet guys for their accomplishments in the quartet contest on Wednesday. Our chapter quartets fought through the tough competition: CRUNCH TIME (with Eric Wallen) was 25th and FULL TILT (with Ed Cazenas, Nick Aiuto, Pete Frank, Steve White) was 35th.
Other district quartets: ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT was 14th; BIGTIME! was 45th. Former Harmonizers who had qualified to sing in the quartet contest: Will Daniel Mudd-Simmons came in 28th place in 65 SOUTH; Mike Louque came in 29th in SKYLINE; and Harold Nantz came in 35th in ATTRACTION.
The quartet contest was won by CROSSROADS with Fred Farrell, Michael Slamka, Brandon Guyton and Jim Henry who is also director of the Ambassadors. (All four of these guys already have a gold medal from other quartets. Brandon was our retreat coach a few years ago.)
2. OLD SCHOOL - representing our Mid-Atlantic District
3. STORM FRONT
4. RING MASTERS from Sweden and STATE LINE GROCERY quartet with Tim Brooks as lead (he was at our send off) tied for fourth.
At this rehearsal session, Phil Ashford shared his moving story of romance built around life in our chapter. The Dream session and closed eye drill followed.
Thursday afternoon the guys came to work some more. Steve Jamison, arranger for “Clap Yo Hands” stopped in to say hi, have a listen. He was proud of how we were presenting his arrangement. Rik Johnson, a judge and coach we met at Southern Division back in May in Virginia, came over to offer some ideas of things for Joe and the guys to work on. Bill Colosimo brought greetings from the DC Chapter.
While Rik was talking to Joe out in the hall, we planned our usual surprise on the director. This year when we sang the ballad the first time, no one made a sound except Ken White who sang from the Broadway show opener. But there was to be more. When we sang the uptune the last time in this work session, the guys pulled out kazoos and did the song. Poor Joe is always so shocked when these gags happen and then this year he got hit twice. He is a great sport and it was another in a long line of chapter tradition.
Pete Frank told his scenario story of romance and that his Dream is going to take him to Erie, PA, and this was his last time to sing with us. We will all miss him! His story was followed by one more Dream session and closed eye drill.
To wrap up this session, we cheered for the M-AD collegiate quartet, NEXT STOP, who
came over to sing for us before they had to compete on Saturday morning. They ended up
17th place in the contest.
Friday started early for all of the Harmonizer family as it was the our annual Togetherness Breakfast. Guys were up early for coffee in the lobby in their teal shirts and casual uniform. Families and friends all joined too. Guests included district officials (mostly all our own guys), Tom Gentry, arranger of the Peter Pan medley; Steve Jamison and his wife; Steve Tramack and his wife; the original Joe Cerutti, Joe’s Dad; Ray Johnson from the Masters, Cindy Hansen and her husband; and BHS executive vice president Alan Lamson and his wife.
President Brad Jones was emcee. He pointed out that the trophy from the Masters was engraved – The Dream is Carried On. How appropriate for us. Our FRIENDS in HARMONY group had decorated the tables with Dream Catchers. They also presented each singer with a small Dream Catcher to carry on stage. Ina Berky, Tom’s wife, spoke on behalf of the FRIENDS and did a great job in offering motivation and support from them.
The program included remarks from Phil Ferguson who was president of the Class of 2009 that included Tom Hutton, Bob Mattes, Ryan Griffith, Josh Roots, Drew Dias, Edris Qarghah, Kellen Hertz, and Frank Fedarko. There was a bandana check at the breakfast and then, as tradition dictates, they were allowed to discard them before going on stage. Phil shared that their class would be proud to carry on the dream of the chapter.
Next was Ian Poulin who spoke about the generations of barbershopping in the chapter and his urge to join us so he could sing from the heart and not just for score or points. He called it heart-to-heart singing.
Gerry Levine also spoke about how he found us and why the experience of so many years has meant so much to him.
Cindy Hansen spoke of how the chorus had developed, how they were so willing to share their Dreams and how they had helped her with her Dream of better health and courage. She said, “You have made me happy!”
Director Joe was the last speaker and he extended his appreciation to all the admin and musical leaders who helped get us to this new level in our chapter growth. He shared a great story to show how what we do as an individual is so important to the whole; and how our attitude and work ethic make a big difference.
All of the speakers were terrific and you would have figured they had planned together what to say – all related to the task at hand of preparing the chorus for its appearance on stage in a few hours.
The Harmonizers sang 12th in the Friday morning session. There was an evening session too. The Harmo fans were excited and started a clapping routine way before the emcee mentioned the chapter. We kept applauding and the crowd joined us in screaming and welcoming the chorus to the stage. Dixie Kennett was backstage calling the video cues for our chorus and she had previously chosen the background lighting that brightened up the stage for us.
And take the stage they did!!! Just as they were trained. And as many, many folks told us, like the Harmonizers of the past. We were all proud. And then to ice the cake, the audience jumped to their feet for a Standing O. (And it was not our own family and friends, it was the folks in the hi priced seats up front who were on their feet first!)
Immediately after they left the stage, Joe and Terry were interviewed for the Internet audience. Accolades have come to the chapter including a nice note from former director Scott Werner with congrats for a job well done.
General news about the convention would include a report of how we were bussed from the hotel to the Honda Center for all contest sessions. Some guys had cars and that made life a little easier, but the bussing operation was handled well. Our hotel, the Hilton, was just across the street from the Marriott (where we stayed 10 years ago when we were doing our swan-song year and performed 7 shows in one week including one with Dick Van Dyke at Disneyland) and across the parking lot from the Sheritan where Keith Jones had organized the terrific Togetherness breakfast. There were a lot of guys at Disneyland on Tuesday and again on Sunday.
The Harmo Hideaway was fun, had a great view especially at nite when the Disneyland fireworks show was going on, and was stocked well with things cold to drink and goodies to eat. Bill Stewart and Dennis Ritchey and their family members were hosts.
As is the tradition, many former members, families and friends stopped in to get a sneak preview of the chorus package and to lend their support. Chuck Hunter’s parents were there, as was Eric’s Dad, Mike Wallen; and Tony’s Dad, Bill Colosimo; and Joe’s Dad, Joe Sr. There was a continual group of family member in the room all week.
Harmonizers were everywhere all week. Alan Wile and Chris Buechler attended the BHS board meeting on Tuesday. Harmonizer family members were on the judging panels too – Dwain Chambers was chair; Mike Louque was presentation judge for chorus contest; coach Kirk Young was a music judge for quartet and chorus contest; and Chuck Harner was administrator for the collegiate quartet contest early Saturday morning.
As chair of the Society chorus director development committee, Joe was on stage to present a major BHS award during the chorus contest – the Joe Liles Lifetime Achievement Award to R. D. Mathey. Mathey was a choral director at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and has introduced barbershop quartet singing to his students for years. Terry Reynolds is a grad of that program (and Ye Ed thinks there may be another Harmonizer or two from there.).
The Masters of Harmony did their swan song performance at the end of the chorus contest, while judges were adding up the scores. During that time they sang a special song and used audio visual to honor Society icons. They included several folks close to the Harmonizers – two of our own, Wilbur Sparks and Bud Arberg; plus Fred King, Joe Liles, Cindy Hansen, David Wright and Ed Waesche.
Another big event on Saturday afternoon was the Harmony Foundation show. Wow! It included the VM, Ambassadors, Masters, a gold medal Sweet Adeline chorus Harbor Lites, and quartets VOCAL SPECTRUM, OC TIMES, MAX Q. The finale included the 400 plus chorus singers on risers set up on the floor in front of the stage (too much weight for that stage) with the quartets at mics on the stage. The huge chorus sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth” and the quartets sang “One Voice” with them. No dry eyes in the house after that!
In an attempt to continue the tradition Wilbur Sparks used to do in The Echo, here is a list of Harmonizers, past and present, we saw in Anaheim who were not in the 2009 chorus: Tim Emery who came in from San Diego on Friday, got to a rehearsal and bought a ticket to be in the hall to see the chorus sing. John Rettenmeyer, Ben Luttge, Bill Ward from FL, Dennis Malone, Jack Stevens, Larry Deters, Ross Johnson, Lynn Hineman, John Hohl, JT Price, Lew Klinge, Ron Rich, Joe Kane, Dave Binetti, Ray Johnson, Bill Power, Ron Rogers, Darryl Flinn, Terry Traylor, Jim Pyle, Bob Hirsh, Gary Smith, Keith Jones, Dick Newton.
Speaking of Dick Newton, he stepped in to be our convention week chairman when Carl Kauffman had to have his operation in the spring. He was great and really make it a smooth week for all. He and his team also made sure the new guys knew what to expect and met with them several times to keep them in the loop. Others helping Dick that are not mentioned in the article earlier are Bob Rhome who tackled the huge task of housing and registration for our large contingent, Mark Klostermeyer who is the chorus manager/traffic control officer for the week; Dixie Kennett and Chris Buechler also prepared the convention handbook that goes to each Harmonizer; Bob Blair handled transportation; and Jack Cameron handled chorus photos.
Ye Ed heard from a few guys about their trip and experiences. Sounds like John Pence just made it after a frightening ride in a shuttle bus. When the driver got back on the road and finally stopped, all the passengers got out and ran!
And this in from Dick Dangel: “Boy, based on my experience, I plan to take my new cane to the next International. It was unbelievable being whisked thru security without trauma, no waiting on lines, going on the bus first, all the sympathy and empathy. Anyhow, at the airport we had a VM guy come up and tell us we had a terrific performance and we paid him the same compliment. My survey of the Ambassadors we met in our hotel leads me to the conclusion that none live in St. Charles. A number of them drive 1.5 hrs to rehearsal. I gained 6 pounds trying to get my money’s worth from those $21 bufffets”
For sure it was a great week. Until next time – editorjack!