Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Back on March 17th Chapter Meeting

Looking Back on March 17th Chapter Meeting

(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 members. —Ye Ed.)

Actually there was no official meeting of the chapter tonite.

However, here is a thorough report from Alan Wile – thanks reporter Alan!

About 60 of us gathered at the Scottish Rite Temple on Braddock Road on Tuesday to go sing in NYC again. Dick Newton and Roger Day were on hand to wish us well and to see us off. Thanks, guys -- your presence meant a lot! Fifty-two left for NY and Hotel Pennsylvania by bus at about 7:30 p.m. Mike Kelly and Matt Kahn each took four others by van and Bill DePuy and Bob Blair took the Harmo-truck. Chuck Hunter was detained at work ... and didn't make it until mid-day on Wednesday.

Ah, Hotel Penn (of Pennsylvania 6-5000 fame - the oldest continuous telephone number in NYC). Saying that it's seen better days may resonate with some but, at a minimum, it's a bit tired. While there are many stories about the length of the line at the registration desk, the amount of time it took to check in, room assignments, room size, bed numbers and sizes, sleeping arrangements, etc., Josh Roots found the ceiling of his bathroom on the floor. But by 2:00 a.m. all were housed ... if not bedded. Oh, my!

Oh, and did I mention that because it was St. Patrick's Day the local pubs were doing a landslide business, contributing to some visibly unstable "green" here and there.

On Wednesday morning we compared notes re the previous evening and found breakfast at the hotel (Lindy's) and elsewhere in the neighborhood (there's no lack of food in NYC, believe me!). The first meeting was in the hotel lobby, dressed in our travel outfits. It took some time to obtain a rehearsal space but Prez Brad and/or VP-Ops K-12 negotiated for a large room in the hotel. Twenty-four hardy Harmonizers schlepped the risers from the truck and set 'em up on the room's small stage. While we organized ourselves, an encouraging letter from the Big Apple Chorus was distributed to each member.

Because the stage was expected to be rather confining, a decision was made to arrange us in six rows, with row "2" on the floor, in front of the risers. After Assistant Director Tony warmed us up, Director Joe and Presentation guru Gary rehearsed us until 11:00 a.m. Periodically as we rehearsed, Assistant Director Mike (and others) pulled loud and physical pranks to steel us against reacting ... should any such events occur during our 90 second performance. Before heading off for lunch, we struck the risers and loaded them back on the truck so that Bill/Bob could deliver them to the venue (the "Manhattan Center" theater only about three blocks from the hotel). We took an hour for lunch, reconvening at noon for sectionals and more work at 1:00 p.m.

Mark Lubart, a Manhattan Chapter representative, briefly addressed the chorus, wished us well, and presented each member a "Big Apple" pin -- another very nice gesture. After a while, Joe's twin joined us, too ... and I don't think he left until well after our performance later on. (I checked with Alan – he means Joe’s dad, Joe Cerutti!) It should be mentioned, too, that DanO had his video camera at the ready while Ike and Ron were actively recording the event with their digital still cameras.

At 2:00 p.m. we dispersed to our rooms to dress and apply makeup. And, like clockwork, we were back in the lobby by 2:55 p.m. to make our way to the theater. A 15-passenger van was available for those who chose not to make the trip on foot. Fortunately, the weather was quite nice (for March) and we made the march without incident ... although we did get a few questioning looks and comments en route.

We've all experienced "hurry up and wait" but nothing compared to our experience from the time we got to the theater until we were officially released ... about 9:00 p.m. We waited (patiently and quietly, I might add). First it was outside the theater. There was some filming there and we were instructed to file in ... and back out … so that some entrance shots could be obtained. Finally we were invited to actually enter the building.

The show team conducted performer interviews in the same room. At one point a woman in charge thanked us for our behavior saying, "Over there are 65 men in tails who are really quiet. I could kiss you all!" [promises, promises....]

Eventually box lunches and soft drinks and water were available.

We were then told we could go to the third balcony (up quite a few steps). It was considerably cooler there. Very shortly after we repositioned, the stage hands brought five sections of our risers out ... but clearly didn't have a clue how they were to be assembled or connected. So a six man "assist team" was dispatched and succeeded in getting them up and placed ... with some help from the worker-bees. Although our riser skirts were provided, only the first riser was draped.

Shortly thereafter we were summoned to the back stage area. Yes, the walk down was considerably easier than the walk up to the third balcony. Back stage we were first herded into small waiting area and, after 15 minutes or so, to another area behind the back stage curtain where we stood among various drum sets and other paraphernalia to get a final pep talk from Joe and do some final preparatory singing. Video cameras were evident throughout our time at the Center and back stage was no exception. In fact, it was here that Joe was interviewed, surrounded by Harmonizers. Just about every time he began to answer a question, the audience erupted in sustained applause, cheers, and screams as the host (or someone) warmed them up. Yes, this disrupted the process but, eventually, the organizers seemed satisfied.

For two men, this was their first performance with the Harmonizers: Drew Dias and our newest member, Ryan Griffith. Congratulations, guys, and welcome. You are now seasoned veterans of the corps.

Finally (at about 7:15) we were summoned to the stage. We clustered around Joe, Tony and Craig "at the big X on the floor" while Joe answered a few questions from the show officials. Mainly it was "who are you, where are you from, what do you do, what's the size of your organization, what's the age range, etc. Ben Nelson and Gerry Levine were identified as the age bookends. Once satisfied that they had the necessary basic information, we took our places on the risers ... and let 'em have it with a much-shortened version of "New York, New York." Once done, again we came to the front of the stage for some follow-up questions and comments before being dismissed.

Done? Not so fast. Next each man was asked to complete a per diem supporting document ... but there weren't a sufficient number of forms for which about 20 of us waited in line for about 20 minutes. Once completed, Brad had to authenticate each one and each name had to be checked off on the organizers' master list. So we waited some more.

Finally, as we left, Scott had taken custody of the per diem envelopes for the entire chorus with Brad having signed for each one individually. So, under Harmo-escort, he returned to the Hotel Penn. Harmonizers changed, washed make up off, packed and headed for the bus and/or one of the vans (the Kelly van did not leave until Thursday morning) and headed for home. Speaking from personal experience, at least a couple of us didn't get home until 4:00 a.m.

In all, it was a most memorable 24+ hours and, despite the long (and painful) waits, all had a wonderful time! Thanks to Brad, Joe, K-12 and each man for making it so!!!

In other chapter news back home in Virginia, I got a call from Dick Hall that Don Thompson had a stroke not long ago and is not doing too well.

Also heard that Rick Loveland’s widow, Terri, died recently. Bob Bates and Randy Lazear, who sang in a quartet with Rick for a long time, confirmed that Terri, 52, reportedly died after heart failure. Her family has come to stay with the sons until school is out and then help them relocate.

And Chuck Hunter alerted me to the obit in the paper for Warren Zitzman. He was an enthusiastic singer from 1966-2005.

Until next time – editorjack!