Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Looking Back on the 2017 Harmonizers Events and Milestones
We began our 2017 year with the Presidents’ Award Banquet and board installation on January 28th at Fairfax Elks Club. Randall Eliason was installed as president of the Alexandria Harmonizers Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) Chapter for ’17 along with his board Chris Buechler, secretary; Al Herman, treasurer; David Branstetter, Don Dillingham and Art Medici, members-at-large; and Rick Wagner as immediate past president. A large operations team was also appointed to perform the work for the chapter: Executive Director, Terry Reynolds; Artistic Director, Joe Cerutti; Communications Director, Steve Murane;  Contest Director, Craig Kujawa;  Development Director, Nick Leiserson ( replaced by Johan Westberg midyear);  Education Director, Vickie Dennis (replaced by Don Dillingham midyear); Finance Director (BHS chapter), Bruce Minnick (replaced by David Welter midyear);  Finance Director (AH chapter), Carl Kauffmann; Membership Director, Rich Hewitt (replaced by Dave Kohls midyear); Operations Director, Mike Edison; Director of Shows, Mick Stamps (replaced by Joe Cerutti Sr. midyear); Volunteer Activities Director, Robyn Murane; and Archivist/Historian, TBA.

The 9-member board of the chapter’s other 501(c)3 group, Alexandria Harmonizers, Inc., elected Liz Birnbaum as president, Clyde Crusenberry as vice president, Bruce Roehm as secretary; Julie Rizzo as treasurer; John Roots (replaced by Pat Miller midyear), Ken Fess, Steve Sutton, Randall Eliason and Rick Wagner. This group concentrates on fundraising.
The chapter’s education committee hosted a meeting for local school music educators on Saturday Feb. 4th at First Baptist Church.  Education Director Vickie Dennis was in charge and director Joe Cerutti was the major presenter.  He spoke about the art form, how we teach; plus how we involve students and men (and women) in a cappella singing. Sweet Adeline International (SAI) quartet CLASS RING was present to demonstrate good quartet singing. President Eliason and other members were present to welcome and greet attendees and help with coffee service.

Our Singing Valentines program continued with a plan of sending quartets to make public relations appearances in the Alexandria community such as for the Mayor of Alexandria and the City Council. There were also some quartets who presented Valentine messages for requested customers or for senior citizen facilities.
On Sunday eve, March 5th, the chapter presented The Yale Whiffenpoofs – nationally known as the oldest collegiate a cappella group.  The chorus sang three songs before the guests sang. The show was at The Convergence on Quaker Lane in Alexandria and the audience filled the hall!
The Harmonizers hosted its fourth Aca Challenge at Lincoln Theater on U Street in DC Saturday, March 25th at 8 pm. The chapter invited east coast a cappella groups to audition and six were chosen to compete. The chapter awarded a $1,000 first prize to BACKTRACK from NYC.  They received their “big” check presented by last year’s winners ALL NATURAL.  Judges were leaders from the a cappella community. Also the audience was invited to vote via text during the contest for their favorite. Emcee for the night was Tony Colosimo.

This event was hosted by our own a cappella group, TBD, with their director, Reed Livergood, serving as producer. Volunteer Activities Director, Robyn Murane, assembled a team of chapter and family members to make the event a success including all-important crews for back stage, in the lobby and in the auditorium.  The 80-man chorus sang “All You Need Is Love”  with a rousing audience sing-along, “Summertime,” and “Rock My Soul.”

DA CAPO represented the chapter at this year’s University of Maryland Men’s Choral Invitational at the Memorial Chapel on campus.  It was Saturday, April 1st and on the same date as the Mid-Atlantic District (M-AD) prelims weekend in Reading, PA.   No chapter quartets competed there this year except for Bill Colosimo’s mixed quartet, SERENDIPITY, with Sheryl Berlin, Anne Bureau and Ig Jakovac and they won the district Mixed Quartet contest. Many of our chapter members were also in Reading for that event as officials and district leaders.

We held another Put Together Quartet contest at the March 28th at chapter meeting. Rich Payton and Randall Eliason were coordinators.  There were 12 entries including one quartet from the Frederick chapter (all chapters in the area were invited to send contestants). Will Cox was emcee.  Judges were all M-AD officials – Shawn Tallant, Keith Jones, Alan Wile and Bob Eckman.  Contest score keepers were Jack Pitzer and Chris Buechler.  There were first, second or third place trophies for comedy and regular quartet contestants.
The chapter hosted its 9th Youth Harmony Festival April 22nd to provide singing opportunity for about 50 students – 20 men and 30 women. The all-day event was at Durant beginning at 8:30 am.  There were students from seven schools. Chapter Education Director Vickie Dennis was organizer; Joe Cerutti was dean of the school and brought opening remarks and welcome to the students, other faculty, guest quartets and local school music educators. Tony Colosimo was clinician for the men and Hailey Parks was clinician for the women.  Two guest quartets came to help with the teaching, singing and working with the students: SIGNATURE from BHS coming up from FL (They have been in our area several times to help recruit students and music educators for this event and similar experiences); and CLASS RING from SAI coming from many states in this area including TN. Carlos Barillo was choreo instructor for the youth choruses. Many Harmonizers helped with set up and staffing for the weekend. Members of the Vienna Falls SAI chorus also helped.
For the Festival’s evening show, the three guest quartets sang two songs apiece: UP ALL NIGHT (SAI) from Vienna Falls chapter; CLASS RING (5th place SAI International); and SIGNATURE (4th place BHS International).  The Harmonizers sang “Rock My Soul,” “Summertime,” and “All You Need Is Love.” The youth women’s chorus and the youth men’s chorus each sang for the show. The youth choruses wore their YHF tee shirts for the show.

Also in April, thanks to president Randall Eliason, the chapter earned nearly $19,000 as a participant in the Alexandria Spring2ACTion program on Wednesday, April 5th.  Spring2ACTion is an all-day fundraising event for local nonprofits. We were one of the community’s arts group participants.  Our fans and supporters were able to donate all day. We won a “power hour” with the most donors from 3-4 pm.  That earned us a bonus of $500. The chorus gathered at Virtue Feed and Grain in Old Town to sing for patrons there, and to have fun as the restaurant donated a share of their sales.  Mayor Allison Silberberg stopped to see us, spoke well about our group and then was guest conductor for “Sweet Caroline” outside after visiting inside.  Matthew Stensrud, chairman of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts was present and sang along with us too. Dan Abh, community coordinator for Convergence, stopped by to see us too.
During this year, the chapter launched an effort to explore the roots of barbershop harmony and sing some of the music that was a part of that era. That effort included meeting with and singing for Dr. Ysaye Barnwell noted for her singing with SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK. Our music team had taught us three songs by rote originally done by THE FAIRFIELD FOUR.  Later we joined Dr. Barnwell’s community sing in DC.  We also spent one chapter meeting to have a workshop on inclusion with guest presenter and facilitator Dr. Sheila Peters from Fisk University in Nashville.
We reached out as a men’s a cappella group to initiate fellowship and to sing for and with the men’s choir from Alfred Street Baptist Church twice during the year.
The Harmonizers co-hosted an Alexandria City Gospel-Fest at Durant May 19-20 where we sang with several other local groups on the Friday and Saturday nights. The chapter sponsored       THE FAIRFIELD FOUR guest appearance for those shows. On that same Saturday afternoon, we also honored our Armed Forces with a special performance.
The M-AD southern division chorus contest was in Reston May 26-27 and the 73-man chorus took first place. We sang “Summertime” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” from our repertoire.  First place quartet in the division contest was CAPITAL CITY CLOSE HARMONY CLUB with Mario Sengco, Jordan Haedtler, Chuck Hunter and Ken White. SILVER ALERT was first place senior quartet with Rick Savage, Mike Edison, Will Cox and Steve Murane.  
The chapter held a charter night celebration June 13th in honor of our 69th year. Many long-time members were present for the brief celebration, refreshments and then stayed for rehearsal. Thanks to Martin Banks for a terrific historical display for all to enjoy with our original chapter charter on display

The Alexandria Harmonizers did not compete in the 2017 International contest in Las Vegas in July – instead 75 singers attended the BHS week-long Harmony University on the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, TN, July 23-30. It was a very beneficial event and rated as one of the chapter’s history milestones. Each guy paid his own way. Our coaches were Kevin Keller, Cy Wood, Joe Hunter and Jordan Travis.  Director Joe Cerutti and associate director Tony Colosimo and the music team helped the members prepare two ballads and an uptune to work on for the week. Ultimately we worked on the two songs in preparation for the fall contest. Several members of the chapter were on the faculty or staff at HU. All the members attended classes of their own interest in addition to the chorus coaching sessions.
We did perform on the Saturday night show at HU and debuted our “Chicago” medley for the enthusiastic HU audience. It was arranged by Steve Tramack. Also we surprised the staff and HU attendees by inviting THE FAIRFIELD FOUR to sing with us on that show. It was a great success and for sure, fun for the Harmonizers.
In the summer we did a “flash mob” sing at the Little Theater of Alexandria’s performance of “Fabulous Lipitones;” sang at a middle school for their music students (where member Casey Belzer is their teacher); sent a VLQ to sing for a Masonic ceremony honoring the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of London at the National Cathedral and included several top officials of the worldwide Masonic organization including the Duke of Kent; sang for the community Arts-on-the-Avenue in Alexandria; sent a quartet to the American Legion Memorial Day Event; and sent a VLQ to sing with the Congressional Choir in DC.  TBD sang many shows in the DC metro area and appeared with the chorus on most major shows or concerts. We did our annual Veterans Day sing for the students at Oakton Elementary.  Over 70 of us had great fun at the annual sing with other local chapters at Dog Days hosted by the Prince William Chapter. The annual appearance at Market Square in Alexandria was rained out – as has happened many times over the years.

Fun, fellowship, songs, laughter and All-American-Patriotism was the result of the inaugural
Alexandria – Hershey BHS Softball Classic.  The big game was on neutral ground at Centennial Park in Ellicott City, MD, Saturday August 26th. We had 26 players! Both teams had baseball jerseys for the game with their names on the back, and our guys’ shirts had the new AH logo on the front. After leading with their eight runs til about the fifth inning, the Harmonizers rotated every player onto the field.  The final score was 8 for Alexandria and 16 for Hershey.
Organizer for this event was “Slugger” Steve White.  Jack Cameron helped get the field and park in MD since it is near his home. Surprise umpire for the game was Chip Gallent, COO for the BHS in Nashville.  Chip reviewed the rules agreed upon in advance by the team captains – Don Dillingham from Alexandria and Brandon Brooks from Hershey. Chip was home plate ump and stationed for the softball game behind the pitcher’s mound.  First and third base umpires were BHS contest administrators Chris Buechler and John Santora. Terry Reynolds was score keeper. The game, which started about 10 am after the choruses sang the National Anthem together, lasted seven innings.  The first pitch of the game was delivered by Joe Cerutti who had declared a few months ago that he’d be the quarterback for our team – so accordingly he tossed a football onto the field?!! And when Joe finally got a hit at bat, he ran to third base!!
Before the picnic feed, the two teams each lined up at home plate for a team photo and then a combined game photo. The intermingled singers then sang “God Bless America.” Chuck McKeever was one of the cooks and he had a 100 hotdogs and buns ready to serve – he only had 8 left to take home.  Carl Kauffmann was also cooking burgers and brats on a grill. 
There were some injuries to report tho!  Steve White a badly scraped knee sliding into first base was first.  Then our first pitcher, Shawn Tallant, who had kept the Hershey team scoring down to a minimum was injured trying to catch a fly and needed to have 911 called for an ankle injury. Ironically, Shawn’s wife was the nurse on hand for the game and had to call for help. Then our second pitcher, Art Medici, also fell while on the mound and has a messed up shoulder issue! Dennis Ritchey went to the mound from first base and finished the game without injury!
For the first time in many years, the chorus placed second at the Sept. 15-16 fall district contest in Reading, PA, behind our friends from Hershey. We sang a ballad arranged by Brent Graham with two songs intertwined – “The More I See You/There Will Never Be Another You” and a rousing fun uptune arranged by Rasmus Krigstrum – “Blow Gabriel, Blow” with classic Harmonizer Broadway-style staging created by chapter choreographer Carlos Barillo.  The chorus wore their black suits  (thanks to uniform chairman Tom Kern for helping all the many new members get outfitted) with a new green pocket stuffer (prepared for each many by Robyn Murane).  The chorus did qualify for a wildcard slot in the 2018 International chorus contest in Orlando in 2019.
Our quartets in the fall M-AD contest were CAPITAL CITY CLOSE HARMONY CLUB, SILVER ALERT, NATURAL SEGUE and YOUTH RECLAMATION PROJECT.DA CAPO sang on the jamboree and then later in the year announced their plan to retire.
In addition to singing in Reading, the chapter was also host for the district contest weekend and many of the Harmonizer family stepped up to help and work long hours to make it a success in a new venue for the M-AD. Ian Poulin headed up the organizational team. Matt Doniger and his crew managed getting the Harmo truck and risers to Reading. Harmonizer Dennis Ritchey was M-AD president; Bob Eckman, executive vice president; and Keith Jones, secretary.
Early Sunday morning, Sept. 17, the chorus took buses from Reading to NYC to sing at Carnegie Hall. The chorus was hired to appear on the 10th annual Circle Wind Concert – a Japan-U.S. Chorus Festival at Carnegie scheduled for 5 pm.  These concerts help raise funds for world tragedies such as 9/11 in NYC, the Tsunami in Japan also in 2011, and now the Hurricanes in Texas and Florida in the US.  The chorus appeared on this festival one other time right after the Tsunami. Our chorus sang Neil Diamond’s “America,” “There Must Be a City” spiritual from THE FAIRFIELD FOUR, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “All You Need Is Love” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” When the cheering audience and other performers called for an encore, the Harmonizers performed “New York, New York” as we had done on the 2011 show.
Shawn Tallant worked for months as our primary contact with the Japanese organizers of the NYC concert appearance and afterglow, plus worked on all communications, arranging busses and coordinating hotel payments for our singers. Also credit is due to Bob Rhome who did amazing work in helping the members prep for packing, bus departures and scheduling.
The chapter continued its work on diversity and inclusion to fit in well with the BHS summer roll-out of the new strategic vision – EVERYONE IN HARMONY.  Theme for the fall gospel shows was “Rock My Soul” (suggested by Rob Barnovsky and Brian Ammerman in a chapter contest).  On the Friday, Oct. 13th 8 pm show, we sang at the First Congressional United Church of Christ in DC with TBD, the Howard Gospel Choir and then for the second half of the show, we welcomed three-time Grammy winning THE FAIRFIELD FOUR.  We repeated that show format on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm at Schlesinger Concert Hall on the NVCC Campus in Alexandria. Special guest for the show was friend Dr. Barnwell. Ken Rub was show producer.

Later in Oct. as part of our diversity/outreach effort, we participated in a chorus meet-up called “Sing for Joy” at Alfred Street Baptist Church.  We sang with their men’s choir, the Alexandria Singers directed by Bill Colosimo and the Hispanic Choir from Blessed Sacrament Church.

In Nov. we sent an octet along with Tony Colosimo to sing “You Are Here” from the  “I Am Harvey Milk” oratorio as part of a concert called “We Will Rise” hosted by the Congressional Chorus and featuring musical and dance tributes to various civil rights leaders. The concert was at the Church of the Epiphany in DC.
The annual holiday shows were Saturday, Dec. 2 at 8 pm and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 pm at T.C. Williams High School on King Street in Alexandria. The theme for the shows was “Peace and Joy.” In addition to the chorus and TBD, we featured current district quartet champs PRATT STREET POWER and a local bell ringer group, Virginia Bronze Resonances. Also Will Cox did his funny and well-liked “The Night Before Christmas” story. Brian Ammerman was show producer. Again a huge volunteer crew, organized by Robyn Murane, helped with crowd control, ticket and CD sales, and the silent auction. The holiday decorations were great on stage – lighted trees, snow effect with lights under it. The chorus wore their holiday sweat shirts and white scarves for the first half of each show.
At the Sunday show there was a pledge during intermission of a generous gift from chorus fans (Bill and Charli Sowers) if Tony would sing a solo in the second half of the show. So we added “O Holy Night” just minutes before the curtain went up! The finale of each show was “Do You Hear What I Hear” with PRATT STREET singing the solos and the bell choir coming in on the last verse and the tag.  It was wonderful and the audience jumped to their feet both shows.
Also in December we continued the tradition of singing holiday music in restaurants all around Old Town Alexandria for our annual “Carol Crawl.” Then on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, mini choruses sang at a several senior citizen or health complex facilities in the Alexandria area as part of a community service effort coordinated by Clyde Crusenberry. We held our traditional Heat Glow at the home of Pat and Jack Pitzer as our last event in 2017. The chorus moved rehearsals several times the last part of the year to churches and schools in order to save rental costs when using Durant. We sold White House ornaments this year as a fundraiser coordinated again by Sandy Stamps. Dave Reyno takes top salesman award having sold 74 this year (he has sold about 4,750 since 2006).
Membership at the end of the year was 214.  One current member – Chuck Harner – died in 2017.  Former members Bob Austin, Ben Smith and Paul Durning also died this year.
Membership traditions continue in the chapter including singing “There Will Always Be a Place on the Risers for You” to any member who moves or is transferred for work.  We did several of those this year.  Early in the year, director Joe Cerutti announced that we would be working hard to find more singing opportunities for inactive and non-performing Harmonizers such as Armed Forces shows, Carol Crawl, Dog Days.  Each time there were several men who came back to join in the fellowship and fun. Each week, long-time chapter secretary Chris Buechler presents membership renewal cards to guys who have paid their dues and if that member has reached a milestone year like 25th, the chapter gives them a lapel pin in recognition.  Two members received their 50th year pin from BHS this year – Mike Everard and Alan Kousen.

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 during the 69th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd