Friday, August 7, 2020

Looking Back on the August 4th, 2020 Virtual Chapter Meeting


Looking Back on the August 4th, 2020 Virtual Chapter Meeting

The chapter continues its virtual meetings with members of the Harmonizer family signing in from all around the nation.  Always fun to have old friends attend. 

Director Joe Cerutti cranked up the start of this week’s gathering at 7 pm via Zoom by welcoming former members and current members who haven’t been on a call in a while – Casey Belzer from TN, Kevin Kaiser from CO, Bob Thames from FL, Michael Gilmore from OH, Tom Berkey from Williamsburg, VA, and new member Michael Berkson.

Joe joked when he looked around on the Zoom screen about how many guys in the chorus have added a mustache to their appearance!

Then he presented a preview of this week’s meeting including a quick note about next week’s guest speaker, Cindy Hansen Ellis. She has coached more gold medal winning ensembles than anyone, including quartets and choruses in both BHS and SAI.  She will be fun as usual when she is our special guest next week.

He was happy to report next week’s discussion topic for the small groups – If you could choose your last meal ever – what would it be?

Again Joe extended an invite to all members to volunteer if they have a topic they could speak passionately about as an elective in a future meeting.  Passion for a topic is top priority. Let Terry or Joe know of your interest – it does not even need to be related to barbershop!

Similarly, if any of you have internet content you’d like to share, tell Terry, Tony or Joe about it too.  In that regard, Joe played a great tag created by Devin Gerzof singing all four parts.  It was terrific!

(Thanks to our music leaders for all their extra work in preparing for our weekly meetings, lining up guests, creating new ways to use Zoom, and keeping us posted about BHS news. They are also popular presenters for other chapter Zoom calls – this week both Tony and Joe had to be on a call for choruses in the western time zone after our call ended.  Joe thinks he has been on about 100 calls so far, and Tony on about 50.)

This week’s physical warm up session was do-it-on-your-own-before-7 using links that had been sent out to all members. Tony actually asked for a hands up signal to see how many guys had done it in advance – about one third.  Then he got those on the call to do vocal warm up exercises.

Then Tony moved right into the promised review of choreography for “42nd Street.” He had prepared well to teach the moves that had been taught to the chorus months ago by coach Cy Wood.  Tony used his camera to show his foot work and the moves, and followed that by playing the music and performing the moves.  He started at a slow tempo and then he increased the tempo for subsequent run-thrus.  Chorus guys asked him to do it again with his back to the camera so singers could see it mirror image. He also stressed that the whole plan included character development by each performer.

Joe expressed the appreciation of the whole chorus to Tony for his extra efforts to learn the choreo plan and be prepared to teach it.

Next on the schedule for the nite was the seventh interview by Alan Wile of one of our members who has submitted a Harmonizer Hero paper (those papers are posted on Groupanizer too in the Harmonizer Heritage section of the Documents). This week’s interviewee was Casey Belzer, who has moved with his family to Johnson City, TN.

Casey has been a member of the chapter about five years and joined us with lots of enthusiasm on the risers.  We have known him as a local music educator – mostly at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria –  where we have performed with his students and choir ensembles over the years.

He came to sing with us at the urging of his Mom who was also a music educator at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria.  He grew up with his parents and family near George Washington’s Mount Vernon. His mom had him singing as a young kid in a church choir where she was also music director.

In addition to his singing as a young boy, he chose the viola as an instrument which he also mastered and still plays some.  And he was a lettered athlete in school in addition to all his music.

He studied at Virginia Tech and was in vocal performance which meant he studied French, Italian and German which meant he could strongly sell a song because he knew what the message of the song was about. That skill was one of his strengths as a barbershop singer as well.

The move to TN meant a career change into financial management, and his moving away triggered the chorus to sing the traditional farewell song – “There Will Always Be a Place on the Risers for You.” Joe wished Casey and Lacey and the boys the best of luck in their new location, and encouraged keeping in touch with the chapter. 

There were 58 attendees this week.  Joe signaled it was time to merge into our small group discussion groups and launched the question: “What is your favorite barbershop song to perform and why?”  This week’s topic brought out a huge list of great Harmonizer favorites – interesting that the list of different songs was about 50% ballads and 50% uptunes – but many of the ballads were mentioned several times such as “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Bring Him Home” that we sang in France, “San Francisco” from   “I Am Harvey Milk,” and “We Kiss in the Shadows.”   “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,”  “Circle of Life.” “Anything Goes,” and “Wait Til You Get Em Up in the Air Boys” were on the uptune list.

The chapter’s business meeting was brief with no major announcements. We were reminded to promote supporting the Choruses for Care and Compassion campaign (the Harmonizers are one of the 31 choruses working to support the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB). Chapter coordinator  Matt Doniger will send out “easy instructions for donating” so more of us can chip in. About $20,000 of the $100,000 goal has been reached, and about $1,500 has come from Harmonizer donors.

The rest of the evening was used for two electives which the members could choose to attend.

One was a report from Chapter Director of Education, Sheryl Berlin regarding the chapter’s Youth Harmony Festival program. Joe interviewed her so members could learn more about her background.  She is retired from a 37-year career as a music educator in Montgomery County, MD.  She was has been actively involved in our M-AD youth education program and also was an associate director of the Washington DC barbershop chorus for 10 years with Bill Colosimo. In recent years, she earned a BHS certification as a director.

Over the years, she has worked with her students to participate in M-AD youth adjudication activities and has provided similar support for students to participate in SAI programs for youth.

Currently she is a full time coach for ensembles in the DC Metro area and has worked with some of our chapter’s quartets too.

Sheryl is proud to have been asked to serve as our Director of Education.  She is working with Joe and Tony and Randall on planning our programs, along with Dean Rust who is working to fund those programs with any possible grants. She expects to come out of this quarantine era with a strong program for youth is this area in late 2021 or early 2022.

The other elective was presented by Jack Pitzer and Terry Reynolds about Harmonizer Artifacts to pass along to the chapter’s history team.  Terry has a great collection of items he has gathered and not tossed – some of them he has because he was around when they were about to be discarded and rescued them.  One example is the wildly sequined coat worn by Scott Werner in one of our swan song packages – it is covered with red, and blue shiny on the white coat, and the battery pack in the inside pocket makes it light up!

He showed the musical score from the Kennedy Center Honors show when we sang the tribute to Perry Como.  He has the thank you letter from Mrs. Obama after we sang for them at Christmas time at the White House. He found a number of plaques we have received including one of appreciation for our “I Am Harvey Milk” performance at Strathmore.

He rang the big brass bell that Dick Hall used to ring every week to end the break period of the meeting. 

And that prompted Jack to show the miniature of that bell he has – each year the past president of the chapter was given a miniature when he retired.

Jack’s other collection items included a handmade barber pole created by Dick Hall for a chapter quartet contest, the poster for the 18th annual Spring Tonic in 1968 (ticket prices were $3.00 for reserved and $2.25 for general admission), and the bronze second place chorus medal given in the day when the Society didn’t  make silver medals.

All these artifacts are show as a reminder to be on the lookout for things in your home or files or garage or storage unit that could be added to the Harmonizer collections.  The history committee is willing to come and get them if you find some things.  Also it reminds us all to mark things that you want to keep (but figure your family won’t want in the end), to be sure to pass them on the chapter.

As is the case each week, a bunch of guys stayed past the closing time of the Zoom meeting for an impromptu afterglow. Next week’s meeting will be via Zoom again at 7 pm.  Watch for email details.

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 72nd year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd