Saturday, July 16, 2011

Looking Back on the 2011 International Contest and Convention, Kansas City

The Alexandria Harmonizers came to the 73rd annual BHS International contest battleground and earned another 5th place medal. The months of work paid off! Our score was 2,663 out of 3,000. Our 99 guys filled the risers and performed “If I Loved You” and “What Do I Need With Love?”

This was the 17th medal earned by the Alexandria Harmonizers, including the four golds. We have competed at 23 International chorus contests since our first one in 1978.

Director Joe Cerutti used the many rehearsals in Kansas City to hone the performance. We actually relocated our rehearsal site after Tuesday nite since the hotel ballroom was like an echo chamber. Thanks to our convention chairman, Carl Kauffmann, for working the phone with Society convention planners and other chorus contacts to find a place we could work. We moved to the convention center on Wednesday morning – about a mile from our Hyatt hotel where most of the chorus and their family was staying. It was close to the Marriott headquarters hotel and the Sprint contest stage. So that was good. It did mean we had to move the props early in the week to this new location.

The contest package uniform was bright blue shirts with black slacks and such, including shiny black patent leather shoes, suspenders for the riser singers, and sunglasses for the front row. Props for the show included huge wooden blocks that were used to create height and energy for the uptune. Two of the boxes actually included trampolines which guys jumped onto in the tag and bounced high into the air with bright colored streamers in their hands. Thanks to Dennis Ritchey for construction, Bob Blair and other guys for hauling them on Tuesday nites, and he and his painting crew for frequent touch-up. Thanks to Joel Golden and Bert Phillips who “pulled the tabs” on the streamer gizmos our trampoline jumpers tossed.

This year we were fortunate to have our major coaches with us all week – Geri Geis, Kirk Young (who arranged the uptune), Cindy Hansen, and Steve Tramack (who arranged the ballad). They helped Joe keep the chorus on target and offered advice and ideas.

Before going into details about the chorus work sessions all week, YeEd needs to recognize our quartet guys who did us proud in the contest too. DA CAPO made the cut for the top 20 semi-finals round. They ended up 14th for their first time at the International level! Each time they sang, the Harmonizer crowd led the cheering and clapping routine to get the audience ready and to send a signal backstage that we were proud of Ryan Griffith, Tony Colosimo, Joe Sawyer and Wayne Adams. Fun to see their family members with the da capo musical symbol on their tee shirts. Our guys also were named winners of the International Dealer’s Choice Award for the highest placing first-time quartet in the contest.

OLD SCHOOL, also from the Mid-Atlantic District, won the quartet contest gold with 8,090 points – 121 points over MUSICAL ISLAND BOYS. MASTERPIECE, who sang on our show last summer, was third. Our retreat coach, Tony De Rosa, sang in a new quartet called MAIN STREET and they took 5th. All three of their performances featured an old-time quartet look with huge “skimmers” and tap dancing. The popular and funny quartet, LUNCH BREAK, was the mic tester quartet on Saturday nite and pulled off some great bits. Last years’ quartet champs, STORM FRONT, also used their comedic skills to entertain while the finals scores were calculated that nite.

Our M-AD friends, ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT, came in 12th and FRANK THE DOG came in 26th.. Several former Harmonizers sang in quartets that competed: Dennis Malone in IGNITION!, 15th; Mike Louque in SKYLINE, 20th; Harold Nantz in FLASHBACK, 32nd; Ron Rogers in RACKETEERS, 44th. Our M-AD collegiate quartet, THE FRAT PACK, was 21st.

Now back to coverage of the chorus contest. As was expected, the Masters of Harmony from CA won with 2,829 points at 94.3%. Great Northern Union earned second after taking a year out of contest with 2,824 points at 94.1%. There was a tie for third – The Northern Lights from Toronto and Sound of the Rockies from Denver earned 2,733 points at 91.1%. Alexandria then was fifth. We earned 88.8%.

The other M-AD chorus, Brothers in Harmony from Hamilton Square, NJ, was 27th at 76%. They were directed by Jack Pinto, the bari of OLD SCHOOL. The chorus contest mic testers were also from our district – Voices in Gotham, Hell’s Kitchen, NY, directed by Larry Bombeck.

This was the second 5th place medal for the Harmonizers. The 2011 medals were distributed right after the contest results were announced, back at the Hyatt. President Steve Murane presented each Harmonizer his medal and shook his hand.

The chorus had arrived early in the week for the first rehearsal on Tuesday eve, July 5th (a couple guys had to stay at their jobs until Wed. and Thurs.). Our chorus was at the Hyatt and most of our guys had used the chapter fundraising plan and bought scrip to use in paying for their hotel room. Great way to help the chapter raise some much needed funds.

There was a huge buzz in the air when we started gathering at the Hyatt Tuesday eve with news that Joe Cerutti and Gary Plaag had been elected to three-year terms on the BHS board of directors earlier in the day. Another former president of our chapter, Dwain Chambers from the Dixie District now, was also a candidate.

Joe and Gary were introduced with the other board members during an evening convention session. The Society Board of Directors met early in the week. Chris Buechler serves the board as assistant parliamentarian.

Another former Harmonizer, Larry Deters, has been named Acting Executive Director for the BHS. He will serve during the search for a new executive director. Ed Watson retired July 15th.

The kick off rehearsal for the chorus was exciting. As usual we had sound equipment thanks to Scott Kahler and Dennis Ritchey. It came with our risers and props on a rental truck which Howard Nestlerode and Drew Fuller drove to Kansas City – a 2,200-mile round trip. The chapter board also invited chorus members to send luggage on the truck, space available, for a modest fee. It saved guys from paying luggage fees to the airlines and helped the chapter pay for the rental. Thanks to all the guys who came to help unload. (YeEd learned that we didn’t drive our own Harmo van as it is getting some “age” on it and the air conditioning doesn’t work these days.)

YeEd also heard about several fun pre-convention trips by chorus families such as Yellowstone, family reunions in KS and MO.

Every one of our rehearsals drew a crowd of Society VIPs and always a good number of our own FRIENDS IN HARMONY. Bob Cearnal, who was our emcee for the East Coast Harmony Show, stopped in on Tues, as did FRANK THE DOG quartet. Great to have Chuck Hunter and John Hohl on site with us. Our coaches were there from the start.

Tony Colosimo and Will Cox did the vocal warm ups. Chorus manager, Mark Klostermeyer, did a blue bandana check for the Class of 2011. This is one of our largest classes: Adam Bradley, Jay Butterfield, Clark Chesser, Chris Clark, Bill Colosimo, Clyde Crusenberry, Thom Faircloth, Jacob George, Michael Gilmore, Kevin Kaiser, Dave Kohls and Nick Leiserson. (These are current singers who have not previously sung with the Alexandria Harmonizers on an International stage.) We also added guys who now live out of town who came to sing with us: Mike Wallen, Bob Wilson and Pete Frank. They all had sung with the Harmonizers before.

The first rehearsal included time for the chapter visual team to review and drill moves and focals with Chuck McKeever, Scipio Garling and Craig Kujawa in charge.

Before we adjourned Tuesday nite, Joe recognized DA CAPO and we all wished them the best for their performance in the quartet contest.

There were morning and afternoon/evening rehearsals both Wed. and Thurs. All of them included hard work, solid input from our coaches Geri, Cindy, Kirk and Steve. Our coach from Harmony College East, Rik Johnson, stopped by to give a cheer. The schedule varied with front row extra rehearsals, or with work sessions with props or with the riser chorus coming early.

Many times the rehearsal room audience included former members who came to see their Harmonizer friends. And often guests from around the BHS came to check us out. M-AD president, Dick Powell and his wife Roxanne, came to wish us the best on behalf of all of the members of our district. He also reported that our own Chuck Harner has been elected to the Harmony Foundation International Board of Trustees. (Later, YeEd learned that Chuck Hunter’s Dad, Chuck Sr., was also elected to that body.) Congrats to both.

Our friends from Westminster, CA, chapter – last year’s chorus champs and our guests in July 2010 – sent a messenger to wish us well and bring each guy a nametag lanyard.

We held our traditional Togetherness Breakfast early Friday. President Murane was emcee. He thanked the FRIENDS group for the nifty decorations (ducks in a row and Tootsie rolls – all a play on the words to our song.) Andrew Plocher gave the invocation. Keith Jones was coordinator having organized ticket for all well in advance and coordinating with the hotel and Friends group. He reports we had 175 attendees – 99 competing members; 15 non competing members; 51 guests such as significant others, family members and friends; and 10 VIPs which included our coaches and M-AD officials – Cindy Hansen and David Ellis, Geri and Royall Geis, Dick and Roxanne Powell, Bill and Linda Colosimo, Steve Tramack and Kirk Young.)

The program included remarks by Class of 2011 President, Thom Faircloth; remarks from Bob Wachter who spoke about the lifetime of relationships in our hobby; remarks from one of our youngest member, Kellen Hertz; and a poetic response by Ina Berkey on behalf of the FRIENDS group, who presented inspirational gifts for all the contest chorus to take on stage with them.

Each of the coaches spoke and brought important messages about the work ethic, chapter brand, tradition and reputation and talent pool of the Alexandria Chapter. Joe Cerutti was the final speaker and he inspired us with a story of how our singing influences and changes lives of others.
Following the breakfast, fans and family headed to the contest site. The Harmonizers were in the queue to prepare for their performance. They rested, they got uniform and make up ready, they practiced more and they lined up to take command from our chorus manager. Our contest guide this year happened to be Brad Cox, Will’s brother.

At the contest venue, the Harmonizer fans were ready and started a huge cheering and clapping routine to send a signal to our guys back stage. Greg Tepe was drafted to call the camera cues backstage for our chapter. Someone reminded us that this is the 25th anniversary of our first gold medal in 1986 and that we got our second medal in Kansas City in 1989.

There were a number of guys from the Harmonizer family in other choruses in the contest: Ryan Killeen, Larry Deters and Paul Wietlisback in Nashville, TN; John Adams, Research Triangle Park, NC; Jack Stevens, San Marcos, TX; Terry Traylor and Ray Kahler, Phoenix, AZ; Bob Thames and Lynn Hineman, Tampa, FL; Bill Power and Ray Johnson, Santa Fe Springs, CA; and Dennis Malone, Denver, CO.

There were some familiar names among the list of judges for the contests at the convention: David Wright, Mike Louque, Richard Lewellen and Dwain Chambers. Steve Tramack judged the collegiate contest. Bob Cearnal was emcee for one quartet contest session.

And three of our chapter friends made major presentations of awards during the convention: John Hohl, who is vice chair of the BHS chorus development committee; Bill Colosimo, who is chair of the BHS music and performance committee; and Steve Tramack, who is chair of the same committee as John. John presented Master Director recognition to the director of the New Zealand chorus. Bill recognized Ev Nau as recipient of the Dave LaBar Award for emcees. Steve gave the Joe Liles Lifetime achievement Award to Ray Danley, first gold medal director of a Canadian chorus.

When the chorus results were about to be announced, most Harmonizers gathered in the section where we were assigned to sit so we could support each other as the results were announced. We waited patiently for Westminster, last year’s champs to sing. Then the contest officials started the countdown. Fifth place and we erupted with cheers.

YeEd was proud to see our guys stand and cheer and face the area where the Masters of Harmony, 2011 chorus champs, were seated.

Our gang rushed back for the medal ceremony (our chapter was given the supply of medals immediately after the results were released). Everyone tried to get some dinner and found the Harmo Hideaway, which Steve and Lise Lingo managed. The hospitality room had been open often and long all during the week. Steve thanked Drew Fuller and Thom Faircloth for helping with shopping, Clark Chesser and Clyde Crusenberry for volunteering to cover one nite. Lise was the housemother, though, and the guys all say thanks.

Friday nite, the hideaway was moved to a ballroom so everyone could celebrate. Many guys helped with that move. The highlight of the nite was the “balloon tags” which Steve organized. He salvaged the helium-filled balloons from the Togetherness breakfast. Tag singers inhaled the helium and sang some high pitched tags. It was really funny and guys were literally rolling on the floor, they laughed so much.

One of our members, Ron Rich, was recognized as a new 50th year member of the BHS. He joined our chapter in 1962. He was in our front row once upon a time and was a dedicated tag singer. Another member, Darryl Flinn, was named judge emeritus by the BHS contest and judging community.

Saturday before the finals quartet round, there was a chorus of fathers/sons/grandsons. We had several of our folks on the riser for that: Ray and Scott Kahler; Alan Wile and his grandson Thomas who sings in CAPITOL FORCE; Chuck Hunter and his dad, Chuck; and Jay Butterfield and his dad, Gene.

Two of our guys, Edris Qarghah and Bert Phillips, even were captured by the media and found themselves in a video clip, which has found its way to Facebook fame!

It is amazing how many Harmonizers come to convention. Here is YeEd’s attempt to list all the others not mentioned above in this article. (Thanks to Dixie Kennett, our attendance taker all week, for keeping a list). YeEd lists current and/or former Harmonizers in this list: Ross Johnson, Martin Banks, Bob Hirsh, Tom Gannon, Joe Wagovich, Lew Klinge, Jack Pitzer, John Rettenmayer, Joe Kane, Jim Lucey, Jim Shoenhard, Bill Sowers, Norm Richards, Bill Ward, Larry Shelton, Ron Dionne, JT Price, Rich Garodnick, Will Winder and Ed Allen. If we missed anyone, it would be fun to hear about it.

As is Harmonizer tradition, there was a major administrative team that worked for months behind the scenes to organize our chapter appearance in the contest. Carl Kauffmann was committee chair and he started a year ago with his trip to Kansas City along with other chorus reps. Carl put together a coordinated rehearsal schedule for the eight choruses staying at the Hyatt, including the foreign affiliate representatives from New Zealand and Great Britain. Mike Schwartz was housing chair. Bob Rhome coordinated registrations. Keith Jones managed the myriad details of the contest day Togetherness Breakfast. Bob Blair managed a lot of logistics including taking care of the props as we moved to and from the different rehearsal rooms and the Sprint Center. Jack Cameron is handling the ordering and distribution of chorus photographs. A very useful handbook was prepared by Dixie to help every guy know what to expect, when to be places, what to bring, where to eat, when our quartet friends would sing, and more. And when it comes to food, the Harmonizer gang didn’t miss the chance for some great BBQ and a big Kansas City steak.

YeEd will report that several members of the Harmo family were injured or got sick in Kansas City. Jim Lucey’s wife, Ruthanne, broke her hip (she is on the mend and they will stay in Kansas City for a week or so for therapy after a successful operation). Thom Faircloth fell and badly scraped his knees. Vince Cazenas fell and cut his arm and needed stitches. Craig Kujawa fell in the auditorium and smashed a finger. Carol Dangel stumbled getting down the ramp of the airplane. John Hohl had a mild ankle sprain. And who can count all the colds and coughs and congestion attacks.

On Monday night, July 11th, Howard and Drew returned with the rental truck to the Lee Center back in Alexandria for transfer of equipment back to the Harmo truck. Again there was a contingent of dedicated Harmonizers on hand to do the transfer and off-load luggage for transport to the Harmo house.

Even with all the success and accomplishment by Harmonizers, there is no time to rest and celebrate. We are already at work on our next show, our future plans to go to China and our new music for future audiences.

There is no doubt, “It’s 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 with the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking Back on the July 12th Chapter Meeting

The Harmonizers continued a long-standing tradition of singing at Alexandria INOVA Hospital on the Tuesday after International.

It began when chapter leaders realized many guys were not back from the convention and/or had to tend to other person matters – or maybe just rest up.

About 25 guys made it this year to the Seminary Road facility and warmed up with Will Cox in the hospital lobby. There were adequate singers for all four parts and Director Joe and his assistant directors took the chorus from ward to ward with the aid of a hospital host. Joe chose several songs from the repertoire to sing to patients and staff. The hospital also provided free parking for the Harmonizers.

It was really hot – over 100 degrees – so the show producers allowed shorts. Most guys had some kinda Harmo shirt. The gig lasted about 1 hour.

YeEd is working on his report from International, so stay tuned.

Also YeEd reports that our friends in the Harmony Heritage Singers Chorus of the Mount Vernon, VA, Chapter celebrated their 15th anniversary recently. They met at the Sherwood Hall Regional Library. The chorus sang, as did several of their quartets.

Chapter leader, Mike Everard, inducted the new members who have joined the chapter this year.

Associate director, Chris Buechler, was at the helm for the meeting. Director Bob Wachter was there for the cake cutting ceremony.

Congrats to our brothers in HHS.

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. —YeEd.)