Saturday, July 10, 2010

Looking Back on International Convention, Philadelphia, July 2010

For weeks, our Director Joe Cerutti emphasized his goal of being “medal worthy” and challenged the 99-man chorus headed to Philly to work hard. The musical team provided lots of technology for learning. There were coaches and training tools and new learning methods. There were stage presence classes each Tuesday nite taught by Chuck McKeever. There were learning tracks and videos of visuals. There was a new system for submitting review tapes. Section leaders Rick Savage, Dan O’Brien, Tony Colosimo, Ken Ives, Will Cox and Mike Kelly [who work with the men on musical matters] and quad leaders Chuck Powell, Alan Wile, TJ Jones, Bob Blair [who work with the men on the visual plan] provided great support to Joe and to the singers. Music VP Terry Reynolds kept the musical ship running. The new uniform team (Tom Kern), visual team (Scipio Garling) and the chorus manager (Mark Klostermeyer) all helped.

And so they were worthy!!

The Harmonizers climbed back into the medal ranks and earned a fifth-place bronze medal at the 72nd annual International Contest and Convention. We earned 2,608 points (3,000 is perfect score). It seems this is the first time the chapter has earned fifth. We have some fourth and third places, a couple seconds and the four first place gold medals.

Our guest chorus for the June 27th show in Fairfax won first with 2,932 points. They had 67 singers. Dallas Vocal Majority was second with 2,913 points and 137 singers. Third place was Toronto who earned 2,822 points with 54 men dressed as robots. It was a very funny set. Denver came in fourth with 2,769 points, 130 men.

Greendale, WI, was eighth doing a wild and funny synchronized swimming set. Results of other choruses from our Mid-Atlantic District: Hamilton Square, NJ, was ninth, Dundalk was 18th, and Manhattan was 22nd. The mic tester for the chorus contest was Voices of Gotham, also from M-AD.

Before we go on too far into the week, we gotta proudly report on our quartet rep in the contest. Eric Wallen is bass in CRUNCH TIME and they placed 25th. This was their second year for a 25th ranking. Others in his quartet are Brett Thomas, Shawn Thomas and Matt Fellows who live in other states.

There was a surprise ending to the quartet finals, when STORM FRONT from Denver pulled ahead of OLD SCHOOL who was second. RINGMASTERS from Sweden were third and MUSICAL ISLAND BOYS from New Zealand was fourth.

You gotta admit – those folks who bought tickets to our June show had quite a convention preview!

The chorus first gathered Tuesday nite, June 29th. President Newton met early with the Class of 2010 to help them know more about what to expect for the week. They all had their purple bandanas!! And they bought one for new chorus fan, Ellen Dellert. She has attended most rehearsals of recent months, brought goodies for the guys to enjoy with their coffee and cheered all week in Philly.

There were many family members and FRIENDS present at all the rehearsals. Also there were often guys stopping in from other chapters, such as Richmond, DC, Harrisonburg.

Early Wednesday morning the gang was at it again. Director Joe thanked associate director Will Cox for doing the warm up. Joe asked Will how long he had been doing that for the chapter – for 30 years or so, was Will’s reply. (Our coaches tell Joe that Will is one of the best.)

For a while, associate director Tony Colosimo directed so Joe could coach. Then mid-morning Joe had to scoot off to prepare to serve as mc for the first half of the quarter-final round of the quartet contest (the quarter-final round boils the 50 entries down to 20, the semifinal round cuts 20 down to 10 for the finals on Sat. nite.)

Another Harmonizer, Rick Taylor, who directs Dundalk Chorus, was mc for the second half of the quarter finals round of the quartet contest.

All week our terrific 16-man Harmonizer front row had extra rehearsals before or just after a chorus session.

Wednesday evening the chorus regrouped to work, sing, drill and dig deeper into the messages of the songs.

Last year’s chorus champs, Ambassadors of Harmony from St. Louis, MO, sent reps to our rehearsal to bring greetings of support and encouragement. They gave our president a supply of medallions for each singer. Our AOH rep was Bob Hall, brother of our own Dick Hall. He shared that during their rehearsal earlier in the day, our Director Joe and our painter friend, Greg Pappas, had stopped in and Greg created one of his famous paintings of the GAS HOUSE GANG. Bob said there was not a dry eye in the house, as the GHG was a revered quartet in their chapter.

Our on-site coach, Cindy Hansen, was with us in Virginia for the big show. So we all knew that she came east from Denver and was now in a scooter-chair. But it didn’t slow her down one bit in Philly. She was frequently beside Joe pushing and “pulling it out” of the guys. He husband David was often on hand too.

Thursday we got up early again! We had a surprise when we saw the convention daily bulletin and saw Harmonizers Paul Greiner and Barbara in the cover photo.

The Harmonizers were in their teal blue casual shirt outfits and sat as a group at the “master class” in the headquarters hotel. (This class is always conducted by the outgoing chorus champs.) Our friend and retreat coach, David Wright, seemed happy to see us all and stopped the program to introduce us to his fellow Ambassadors of Harmony. Neat exchange.

After the class we adjourned to a nearby rehearsal room. We had left the Doubletree where we had been meeting all week, as we were sharing the ballroom there with Voices in Harmony chorus, from CA, directed by Greg Lyne. They came in seventh.

During this morning gathering, our own Martin Banks, who is VP of the PR organization within the Society, surprised Scipio Garling with news that Scipio had been named recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Public Relations Officers/Bulletin Editors (PROBE) organization. News of his award appeared in the Friday convention bulletin.

After we finished rehearsal, everyone hurried to the semifinals quartet contest. One of our former members, Mike Louque, was in SKYLINE in the top 20.

When the contest ended, we reassembled at 3 pm for more rehearsal. Somewhere in this session, the guys pulled off the annual surprise prank for our director. This year he almost out-foxed the scheme, as he never started at the edge of the song so the guys could do their vest pull away at the wrong place in the song. Finally they got him!

After our rehearsal, the Voice in Harmony guys came in and we did a three-song show for them – “Meeting Here Tonight,” “Summertime,” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Dennis Ritchey did the song introductions.

Then we swapped places and the VIH sang for us. After the singing, we had refreshments and a time to meet and greet.

Those who didn’t go to the past champs (AIC) show on Thursday nite had a chance for a nice dinner. And speaking of meals, we all had fun eating at the Reading Terminal Market place all week between contest sessions.

Friday the guys awoke to find a flyer slipped under their hotel room door with a cheerful message from the FRIENDS in HARMONY organization.

And we all needed to be up early for the annual Togetherness Breakfast at 7 am in the hotel ballroom. Keith Jones was organizer and ticket coordinator. President Dick Newton was host and he invited Fr. Joe Witmer to do an invocation, and then Dick introduced Society administrative leaders who had joined us from the Society and District levels.

Jeremy Knobel, president of the Class of 2010, was our first major speaker. (Each year all the guys singing in their first International chorus contest as a Harmonizer become a class of new guys. They are given a colorful bandana to wear at all Harmo functions. They get free of their bandana just before going on stage. This year’s class of 17 was the third largest new-guy group for the chapter.)

Other members of the class were Myles Glancy, Jack Stonesifer, Tim Buell, Don Farrell, Kevin Roth, Dean Martin, Bert Phillips, Matt Barnes, Don Thompson, Don Dillingham, Andrew Havens, Jim Lake, Steve Lingo, Andrew Plocher, Victor Hills, and Ken Henderson.

The FRIENDS group had decorated each table with a different old fashioned telephone. And they gave each singer a tiny rubber eraser in the shape of a cell phone to carry on stage for good luck. Their president, Sandy Stamps, spoke on the group’s behalf.

Rick Savage gave a great testimony about his 36-year Harmonizer membership. He shared how his singing and the chapter had become part of his life. It was a heartwarming and prideful sharing.

Cindy Hansen spoke with important thoughts about the chapter WOW moments – first-class work ethics, sharing an opportunity to excel and the wonder of the magic that this chapter has.

She also thanked Joe on behalf of all of the coaches this year, Geri, David, Kirk, Brandon and herself, for allowing them to come in and offer ideas and changes and suggestions. Then to see the chorus accept and implement the ideas!!

Then it was Joe’s turn to speak to the Harmonizer family. He recognized that all three of the associate directors we have had in the chapter were present– John Hohl, MikeWallen, Terry Reynolds.

He also thanked Greg Pappas for even more paintings this week – one of the late Fred King during the Dundalk rehearsal and one of retiring Jim Clancy during the Dallas rehearsal.

Joe honored quartet singers as represented by Eric. He honored two other men who had supported him in his growth as our director – Brad Jones and Ken Fess.

After breakfast the singers got make up on and their new contest uniform on. The rest of us went to the PA Convention Center for the chorus contest start at 10 am. When it was time for Alexandria to be announced we started to clap and cheer. We were joined by many others in the hall. And we clapped, and clapped, and clapped, and clapped waiting for the mc to say those magic words. (We of course did not know about the back stage delay, but we never let up!!)

But it happened! The Harmonizers took the stage, grabbed the audience, and never let go until they left stage. Lew Klinge was designated to work with the camera crew backstage to give them cues. We got great coverage of our guys on stage.

The audience did not need a nudge from us to cheer. They were standing at the end of the ballad, and several times during the uptune there was applause. And then the whole place jumped to their feet at the cut off of the uptune – from the front row to the back of the hall!!

It was a long afternoon of waiting to get the great news. Some guys napped or did lunch. We were proud to see Dean Martin’s podcast advertisements on the Jumbotron.

After the results of the chorus contest had settled, the word spread to come to the Doubletree for a Harmo gathering and to get the medals. President Newton issued one to each singer. When Director Joe arrived, it was a wild cheer. And when Cindy arrived, she took a Victory Lap around the deck in her scooter.

Saturday there was a crew to load the endcaps onto our truck. Just one of the aspects of “the Harmonizers are back” image. Howard Nestlerode gets a gold star for driving the Harmo truck to Philly.

During the week it was neat to see many of our Harmo family volunteering to help the host chapter, Bryn Mawr, at various stations like registration, ushers, chorus guides. YeEd saw our district president Gary Plaag volunteering at a registration counter.

Looking thru the convention printed program, you saw a lot of Harmonizer references. Chris Buechler was on this year’s judging panel as contest administrator. Congrats Chris. Another member, Darryl Flinn, was a singing judge for the week. He also was inducted into the BHS Hall of Fame. He was our coach in the past and coined the term “Breathless Moments.” He is the fifth Harmonizer to be so honored joining: Bud Arberg, Dean Snyder, Wilbur Sparks, Walter Latzko.

Chuck Harner was listed as judges services chairman and he enlisted help from Keith Jones and Dixie Kennett since he was singing with the chorus.

Alan Wile is about to wrap up his term on the BHS board. And Chuck Harner was recognized in the program for his major gift to the Harmony Foundation.

Several times during the week Joe Cerutti made presentations to award recipients in his capacity as Society committee chair.

As was the custom by former “Echo” editor, Wilbur Sparks, YeEd lists the names of current and former Harmonizers spotted during the week and not mentioned above. (Thanks to fellow members who reported names all week.)

Dwain Chambers
Larry Deters
Al Herman
Chuck Botts
Berry Parsons
Scott Kahler
Ray Kahler
Jerry Kindred
Ross Johnson
Dave Reyno
Tom Gannon
Pete Frank
Gary Smith
Michael Calhoun
Joe Kane
Mike Everard
Dave Barton
Dennis Malone
Bob Caldwell
George Azzam
Greg Tepe
Steve Guy
John Flynn
Bill Ward
J T Price
Ron Rich
Mark Rodda
Josh Matisoff
Bob Hirsh
John Knight
Phil Stern
Paul Buckley
Gary Mankin
Bill Sowers
Ron Dionne
Larry Shelton
Jim Gammon

A week like this takes some organization and, as always, we had a people step up to the plate. Carl Kauffman was overall chair and gathered a good crew of workers. Bob Rhome gets a big thank you for handling convention registrations, and all the housing for the Harmo family in Philly. Dixie Kennett created the Harmo Handbook for each singer. Chuck McKeever headed up the pre-contest retreat.

As if all of this was not enough, the chapter accepted an invite to appear on a local Philly TV station and sing for their July 4th show. About 30 guys got up really early to film a 10 am show and sang “Stars and Stripes” and “God Bless the USA.” They wore the new black suit with electric blue shirt.

So – a milestone year again for the Alexandria Chapter. And the start along the path for even more. YeEd hears there is already a new applicant waiting to join us when we get home.

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 in the life of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —Ye Ed.)

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