Monday, July 16, 2018

Looking Back on the 2018 International Contest and Convention, Orlando

Amazing numbers of current and former members of the Alexandria Chapter were at the 80th annual BHS International Convention and Contest in Orlando, FL, July 1-8, 2018. The Harmonizers competed again this year, and as usual the Alexandria crowd was there to sing together, rehearse, compete, work and volunteer, attend meetings, cheer for our friends from our M-AD, meet old friends and hang out with each other.

The Harmo family began arriving on Sunday and Monday since the first contest sessions were on Tuesday this year.  Folks checked into the Hyatt Orlando and got settled.  Many took flights, but some drove, took the train or auto-train.  Dean Sherick actually rode his motorcycle. Some guys combined the trip with family vacations.

And the always-competitive Harmonizer chorus returned to the International stage with 84 singers with our director Joe Cerutti. Our ballad was “We Kiss In A Shadow” arranged by David Wright, and our uptune was “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” arranged by Rasmus Krigstrom. We earned 2,728 points, 90.9% and an eighth place finish!  

We have competed at 27 International chorus contests since our first one in 1978 when we placed fourth.

The Harmonizer convention week and rehearsals was simplified compared to past contests as we only met twice – 8 am on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  On contest day, Friday, we met at 8 am again for some preparation before taking the stage.  All 84 singers were present for the first time at the Thursday session.

As usual there were a number of crews at work such as Mike Kelly and Dennis Ritchey who kept the sound equipment running for all the rehearsals and performances. Chuck Powell and Chris Leyen drove the Harmo truck to FL.  Riser crews were ready to set up and take down as needed. 

Associate director Tony Colosimo conducted all warm-up sessions. Choreographer Carlos Barillo, who created the plan for the uptune, helped fine tune and helped add the extra performance by Cy Wood (as a sort of Gabriel character) and Cecil Brown (as a sort of “confessing sinner”). Cy was our coach at Harmony University and Cecil sings in UP ALL NIGHT.  Cindy Hansen helped at all rehearsals.  She was joined by coaches from our pre-International retreat, Steve Scott and David McEachern.

There are many Harmonizer traditions during International convention week.  One special one is the surprise of the director.  And this year was no exception.  On signal, the first time doing the uptune, the chorus jumped into singing the first line of Toni Basil’s song “ Mickey” which got Joe (and our Mickey) for sure. And our coaches had a good laugh too!

Last year’s champion chorus, Masters of Harmony from CA, sent three guys to bring the traditional gift from the outgoing champ to each guy on the stage for the chorus contest.  This year was coasters.

In the evenings during the week, many of us adjourned to socialize with our friends in the Harmo HideAway.  Good crowds made it there each nite to the suite hosted by Chuck McKeever, with Craig Kujawa and Ken Rub whose room we used.  Thanks to those who helped finance the suite or made contributions for goodies. Also thanks to the Class of 2018 for helping with shopping, set up and clean up.

Another important tradition for our chapter is the Togetherness meal, held this year on Thursday. President Shawn Tallant was emcee for the 5 pm gathering at LaFayette’s, a nearby restaurant.  The preset menu options made it go well.

Shawn recognized several folks including Craig Kujawa who was our convention director and helped us all get there, get info we needed, organized all aspects of the week and coordinated the many other Harmo volunteers who made things happen. Kudos to Craig from all of us. 

During the evening there was a bandana check for the Class of 2018 (they have been wearing a wildly colorful blue/green scarf since our retreat in May). Thirteen-year-old Mickey Robertson, their president, gave a great talk based on a new guy’s perspective. This year’s class of guys who have never sung on the International stage with us before included Connor Goss, Jerry Jayjohn, Mario Sengco, Mickey Robertson, Rob Barnovsky, Johan Westberg, Adam Afifi, and Chris Leyen. Later in the week, Cy Wood and Cecil Brown were presented bandanas and welcomed to the Class of 2018.

Coach and friend of all the chorus members, Cindy Hansen, recognized how the Harmonizers have changed her life just as an example of how they change lives of others.

Current Mid Atlantic District president, our own Dennis Ritchey, extended greetings from the district. Jack Pitzer shared the Top Ten Moments of Harmo History from the many other International convention appearances. Guest quartet, BLIND WIVES and current M-AD mixed quartet champs, sang for us.  The quartet includes Tony and Elizabeth Colosimo and Andrew and Heather Havens.

Director Joe spoke about the importance of our singing and thanked the members and their families.   

After Joe’s last pep talk in the Friday contest day rehearsal session, the chorus adjourned to get into uniforms for the contest package – black suits, shoes, and a new orange-ish tie and pocket stuffer. There was extra help from Robyn Murane to fix, iron, and solve uniform challenges. Last event was the annual building of the contest chorus by class beginning with the 1978 contest singers concluding when the Class of 2018 took their spaces on the risers.  As in the past, the class tossed their bandanas to the floor!

Tribute goes also to this year’s front row with Ken Rub, Carlos Barillo, Randall Eliason, Dennis Ritchey, Johan Westberg, Chuck Hunter, Steve White, Reed Livergood, Bruce Roehm, and Craig Kujawa.

The chorus headed to the Orange County Convention Center for the contest with former member Harold Nance as our guide. Chorus manager Mark Klostermeyer helped get us lined up for the travel. Greg Tepe came with us to work with the contest stage video crew to call the cues for our performance. The chorus members got to hear nearly all of the choruses since we sang early – in fifth time slot.

Finally we got the contest results and cheered and applauded the other choruses for their successes. We had no time to waste and returned to the Hyatt to hear from our director and musical leaders before heading to the HideAway.

The chorus gold was won by the Dallas Vocal Majority having scored 97.1% over the Westminster Chorus from CA who scored 95.7%. Our friends from M-AD, Hershey Parkside Harmony, captured third place with a score of 92.2%. Fourth place was won by Denver Sound of the Rockies. The fifth place medal was earned by Nashville Music City Chorus.  The other M-AD chorus, Brothers in Harmony from NJ, placed 16th.

Interesting note on scores for the chorus contest – the top nine choruses all scored over 90%!

The quartet gold was won by AFTER HOURS from Bloomington, IL.  SIGNATURE quartet from FL, who has been here in Alexandria a couple times to help us promote singing for youth, place second again this year. Third was THROWBACK from FL and PA with former Harmonizer, Sean Devine, singing lead. Fourth was QUORUM and fifth was STOCKHOLM SYNDROME with our uptune arranger, Rasmus Krigstrom, singing tenor.

The contest venue was huge but once we all got used to it, there was plenty of space with some food spots. One major venue change this year was the use of a smaller theater within the Center for the quarter finals rounds for the quartet contest.

The judging panel included our former director, Richard Lewellen, and past president Gary Plaag. Richard’s wife, Christina, was emcee for one of the quartet contest sessions.

Former members who sang in quartets, and not mentioned above, include David Ellis in THE HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVER 4 and Ed Schubel in PRATT STREET POWER.

Several of our members taught a Harmony University class during the week including John Santora, Joe Cerutti, Tony Colosimo, Bill Colosimo, and Cy Wood.  

Early in the week, Dick Powell from M-AD was elected as Society president. John Santora attended board meetings as treasurer of the board. Dennis Ritchey participated in district president meetings. Chris Buechler attended contest and judging committee meetings and worked with former Harmonizer, Dave Binetti, on the new scoring software that produced the new, more detailed score sheets this year. Rick Taylor is now on the staff of Harmony Foundation International (HFI) as is Sean Devine.  Joe Cerutti was busy all week as a BHS staffer in charge of the Next Generation Varsity Quartet Contest.  Tony Colosimo judged the singing category for that contest.  Shawn Tallant represented us at a chapter presidents’ reception hosted by BHS CEO Marty Monson.

There were several former and current Harmonizers who sang with other choruses in the contest: Jim Gammon in the mic tester chorus, THX from FL; Bill Conway in Big Orange, FL Chorus; Mike Louque in Fog City Singers from CA; John Adams in Carolina Vocal Express; Kevin Kaiser and TJ Donahue in Denver Sound of the Rockies; Johan Westberg in The Entertainmen; Lynn Hineman and Joe Kane in Harolds of Harmony from FL; Jack Stevens in The Marcsmen from TX; and Ed Schubel, Jay Butterfield, Sean Devine, Michael Vlcej, Fred Womer in Hershey Parkside Harmony.

There were a lot of Harmonizers who were not in this year’s competition chorus we saw during the week and not mentioned earlier in this article (here’s hoping we got everyone’s name!).  Many of them were frequent visitors at rehearsals.  The list includes Darryl Flinn, Tom Gannon, Al Herman, Ross Johnson, Alan Lamson, Tom Griffith, Lew Klinge, Jim McConnell, Alan Wile, Martin Banks, Dave Barton, Chuck Botts, Dan Cook, Bruce Minnick, Bill Ward, TJ Jones, Ross Johnson, Geri and Royal Geis, John Rettenmayer, Art Medici, Steve Tramack, Ryan Killeen, Glenn Williamson, and Jorge Acevedo.

Thanks to Dixie Kennett, Keith Jones, Randall Eliason, Steve Murane and Alan Wile for contributing additional info for this report and for Dixie’s work on our Harmo convention handbook.

It is 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 during the70th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd.)