Friday, February 4, 2011

Looking Back on the 2011 Mid-Winter Convention in Vegas

The Harmonizers were well represented at the convention by chapter leaders and by our new group, CAPITAL FORCE, that competed for the first time at the Barbershop Harmony Society's Youth In Harmony festival, held during the Mid-Winter Convention.

On January 29, our nineteen-man group joined 18 other youth choruses on the stage in Las Vegas. These contest sets consisted of three songs, two in the barbershop style and another to demonstrate versatility.

Under the direction of Harmonizer assistant director, Tony Colosimo, CF performed “Kaval Skiri” (a complex Bulgarian folk song), “Basin Street Blues”, and “Hello My Baby”. It was announced from the stage at the end of the Festival that our guys earned a “superior” rating (75 or more percentage points).

This was the fourth year for the contest, which already has grown from six to nineteen competitors and is hailed as “a bellwether of the Society's successful barbershop youth programs.” Another youth chorus from our Mid-Atlantic District, Tri-Star Chorus from the New Jersey area, also competed. The contest winner was the Northwest Vocal Project Chorus from Washington state.

Also during the convention there is a Seniors Quartet Contest. Our MAD guys did well too: HIT PARADE, was second; LEGACY was third; and YOUTH RECLAMATION PROJECT (with our own Mike Wallen) was seventh. Former Harmonizer, Lee Hanson, sang in the outgoing senior quartet champs, RESISTING-A-REST, from the Detroit area. Other former Harmonizers who sang in seniors quartets were Lynn Hineman, Larry Deters, and Paul Wietlisbach.
According to Chuck Harner, to be eligible to be a seniors quartet, all members must by 55 or over, and the average age must be 60.

Our own John Hohl was pleased that several of his arrangements were sung during Mid-Winter. The Seniors Champs Chorus under the direction of Joe Liles sang an "Elvis Medley" that was created for the Richmond Chapter by John. Then while they showed slides of Sinatra, that chorus sang John’s arrangement of "My Way." In the seniors quartet contest, YOUTH RECLAMATION PROEJCT sang a new arrangement for this contest entitled "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" from Gigi. It was a particular hit in this seniors context. Then HIT PARADE brought back John's original song and arrangement of "End of the Road" with lyrics by Scott Werner. This was a signature song of our chapter’s medalist quartet, VAUDEVILLE.

Many of the Harmonizer family who could not go to Vegas enjoyed seeing parts of the convention via webcast. Alan Wile’s doc wouldn’t let him fly to NV, so Alan says the webcast was the next best thing. His 11-year-old grandson, Thomas, sang with CAPITAL FORCE, and so it is likely Grandad was a little proud!

Another highlight of the convention which attendees like are the shows featuring the medalist quartets from last July’s International convention, past senior quartet champs, and the chorus of senior champ quartet singers.

One attendee told YeEd, “Our Director Joe was the talk of the convention.” Joe served as emcee for the seniors quartet contest and at the Friday and Saturday shows. Here is a report of his antics that appeared on the Harmonet – a listserv for the barbershop harmony community:
Joe Cerutti, director of the medalist Alexandria Harmonizers and SAI Pride of Baltimore chorus, has been awarded the all around most valuable player award for this convention. After acting as MC for the Seniors Quartet Contest, Joe appeared on the evening show as Elvis and later in the show as a Las Vegas show girl – yes you read it correctly! The next afternoon, while watching the CAPITAL FORCE youth chorus from Alexandria directed by Tony Colosimo – guess who we spotted in the back row! Finally on the Saturday night show, the multi-faceted Joe appeared as part of a comedy acrobatic team. To wind it all up, Joe appeared as a magician who botched up every trick he attempted then had us rolling on the floor as he (assisted by our BHS president Alan Lamson) and Pookie Dingel attempted to make Sam McFarland disappear.”

YeEd suspects some of these antics were prompted by our coach, Cindy Hansen.

But Joe was not the only Harmonizer at the convention. Chris Buechler made a presentation to the Society board regarding new rules for contests. Chuck Harner and Sam McFarland were certified as Standing Ovation reviewers (these are guys who help review performances at the request of the performing chorus).

Members of the chapter who sang in CAPITAL FORCE in addition to Joe and Tony were Eric Wallen, Phil Feguson, Patrick Kim, Tony Colosimo, Andrew Havens, Edris Qarghah, Noah Van Gilder, Adam Bradley, Wayne Adams and Ryan Griffith. Other members of the CF were Jon Baker, Jesse Bogue, Joe Grimme, Thomas Miller, Chris Odell, Bobby Seay, and Kenne Toula.

Here are highlights / fun facts from Patrick Kim, who serves CF with many admin duties:

Ryan arrived on Monday to spend some time touring the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam; Joe, Phil, Andrew, Patrick, Steven, Bobby, and Eric arrived on Wednesday and avoided getting bogged down by weather-related delays; Thomas Miller probably experienced the longest delay, originally scheduled to arrive in Vegas on Thursday morning but not making it until Friday morning. He woke up at 3am on Friday to make his 5am flight and lasted through a full day of rehearsing and spending time with the chorus before finally crashing shortly after dinner.

Edris experienced the most travel complications, originally scheduled to fly through Philadelphia to arrive in Vegas on Friday morning; instead, he was re-routed through Philadelphia and Boston before reaching Las Vegas after a series of delays and unsuccessful standbys, finally arriving Friday evening.

CAPITAL FORCE had an opportunity to rehearse on Friday; Terry Reynolds came by to support the chorus. We received our stylish shirts at that time and wore them proudly throughout the remainder of the weekend.

CF organized a last-minute Togetherness Dinner on Friday evening, scrambling to find a venue in Vegas that could cost-effectively accommodate a group of 20-25. While maybe not as organized and well-advertised as a Harmonizers Togetherness Breakfast, we tried to model our dinner after the breakfast. Tony delivered some encouraging words and provided those who wanted an opportunity to speak about their experiences in the chorus.

We met at 8am on Saturday morning to warm up our voices and mentally prepare for the competition. We then headed down to the convention center at 10am to wait for the announcement of the first choruses to perform.

There was no pre-selected chorus draw/order this year. Instead, the first youth chorus that would perform was announced at 10:00am, and each subsequent chorus was announced in 15 minute intervals. Upon seeing your chorus name on the “jumbotrons” in the convention center, the choruses were to file out of the convention center to get to the ready room.

CAPITAL FORCE was drawn as the fifth chorus to perform; unfortunately, due to poor timing of the announcement on the “jumbotron” the door monitors would not let the chorus leave until the chorus on stage finished performing; this delay, coupled with the fact that the ready room was located about 10 minutes away, left the chorus with only about 3 minutes in the ready room before we had to walk back to the stage. Fortunately, our voices were still warmed up from the morning's rehearsal.

After the Youth Festival, choruses received their scoresheets and met with one judge from each category to receive a 45-minute evaluation (15 minutes with each judge). With regards to scoring and ranking, we opted to not be ranked against the other youth choruses. This was not a sign of uncertainty or doubt in the ability of the chorus, but rather, a desire to keep with the educational-focus of our chorus and to maintain the true spirit of a youth festival. That said, we were very pleased to find out that had we chosen to be ranked, we would have placed high in the festival (looks like we're following in the steps of the Harmonizers!).

In the short period of time each judge had, they provided great feedback and the chorus saw some immediate improvements. Definitely an encouraging sign for the upcoming year! One of the judges gave Tony a great compliment about his competent conducting skills.

The shows on Friday and Saturday evening provided a treat to all of the CF guys and all the other youth choruses, by showcasing some truly talented quartets, including current collegiate quartet champion SWEDISH MATCHS, current quartet champion STORM FRONT, and quartet medalists OLD SCHOOL, RINGMASTERS, MUSICAL ISLAND BOYS and THE ALLIES.

And as is YeEd’s tradition, here are the names of former and current Harmonizers not mentioned above that YeEd’s reporters (mostly Dixie Kennett and Keith Jones) spotted at the convention: Dwain Chambers, Jim Lucey, Darryl Flinn, Joe Sawyer, John Rettenmeyer, Tom Gannon, Ross Johnson, Bill Ward, Bob Mattes, Richard Lewellen, Bob Caldwell, Gary Mankin, Rick Wagner, Ken Fess, Mick Stamps, Gary Smith, Bob Hirsh, Ray Kahler, and Will Winder.

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 at as part of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —Ye Ed.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Looking Back on the Feb. 1st Chapter Meeting

Well we dodged another bad-weather bullet and most guys could get to Durant without a challenge. The predicted ice was a nice easy rain. When the early arrivals got to Durant at 6 pm they went right to work for all the set up needed for our meeting.

The front row and quad leaders had been invited by Chuck McKeever to meet him on the stage at 6 pm for a training session with guest visual coach, Racheal Acosta. She taught them moves for “ObLaDi ObLaDa” so that they could teach the chorus at a future rehearsal. It was good to have Racheal back to help our visual team.

After vocal warm ups by Will Cox, Director Joe invited Chuck to help him review and drill the moves and plan for “That’s Amore,” which had been taught last week when Cindy was with us. The gang did a darn good job of remembering the crazy antics.

Then the Joe-and-Chuck team reviewed and drilled the visual plan added to “Stars and Stripes” by Geri a few weeks ago. Geri and Royall were with us for the week too.

Joe welcomed her and they went right to work at teaching/introducing the visual plan for the contest uptune. Some great stuff to enhance the overall plan. The front row worked on their own in the lobby.

Operations vp Mark Klostermeyer opened the chapter meeting period with the usual birthday wishes. Then he did a speedy run thru of announcements. Don Dillingham got a chance to shout out that we are having a guest nite on Feb. 15th and everyone should bring at least ONE singer!!!

Someone announced the extra rehearsal on Feb. 12th. Expect emails.

Secretary Buechler presented Bob Blair his first Man of Note Award for helping as host for Adam O’Brien, our newest member. Adam got the usual packet of new member materials.

Ken White plugged the Singing Valentine operation for the whole weekend of Feb. 11-12-13-14. The recent ECHO has gone out launching the sales. Our options are on the chapter website too for customers.

We are offering the following:
“Love Is On The Line” a Singing Valentine Message delivered by phone -- $25
“The Heart Throb” a Singing Valentine Message with a Rose and chocolates -- $50
“The Romeo” a Singing Valentine Message with a doz. Roses or Chocolates -- $95
“The Valentino” a Singing Valentine Message with a doz. Roses and Chocolates -- $125

What we need are singers to sign up to be in a quartet that delivers the songs. The way it works, we offer Valentine deliveries in specific areas or regions. So it is well organized. AND if enough guys help with the quartets, we can make over $10,000 or more! Just like a spring show.

Don’t just assume some of the other usual guys will cover this gig. All singers can help. Or maybe even offer to drive a quartet of guys so they can get out, go sing, and go! Let Eric Wallen, who is chapter quartet promotion chair, know which day you can help for a few hours and which parts you could sing (especially if you could sing tenor!) Eric’s email is

If you are a new member or have never done a Singing Valentine gig, call Dean Rust or Alan Wile and ask them about it. They are both available during the day to help you.

President Steve Murane reminded all to mark their calendars for the two extra rehearsals for visual training as announced by Chuck McKeever. They are not mandatory, but VERY important for all to attend. They are Feb. 17th and Feb. 24th at 7 pm at Lee Center.

Then Steve read a recent post from the Harmonet chatter about a certain Joe Cerutti and his antics as emcee at the Mid-Winter in Vegas. Joe, of course, was quick to yell out, “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!”

Then Steve brought up an important topic about a possible trip to China for the chapter in 2012. More details will be emailed and feedback about the idea is requested by Joe and Steve.

Membership vp Phil Ashford had nine guests to introduce this week. A bunch of good singersf. Some from other chapters in the BHS, including Lou Berger from Canada who comes to sing with us several times every year when he is in DC for work. The list of guys interested in membership is growing and so assistant director Will Cox was busy giving the prospective members their vocal assessments. Chorus singers can help Phil by meeting the guys early on Tuesday at Durant and offering to sing a song with them, or tell them about our shows or contests, or how uniforms distribution works, or where to get info if you need it.

After the coffee break, the risers looked like a bunch of Secret Service guys with wires coming out of their ears. It was recording time again for the self-evaluation program. Joe stressed that it was an evaluation system so guys who need help can get it.

As part of the eval system, McKeever is happy to have new cameras to film visual performances. The chapter bought one and two members contributed one each. Thanks guys.

Geri and Joe used the rest of the rehearsal nite to continue teaching the moves for the contest uptune.

Tony Colosimo was invited to take us out to close the nite in recognition of his being director of the successful hit by CAPITAL FORCE in Vegas. It was neat to see all of our CF guys with their new t-shirts and the smiles on their faces as proud members of the chapter.

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 at an Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter meeting. —Ye Ed.)