Friday, April 06, 2007

Vocal Majority - Step One

A few weeks ago, I wrote of my first visit to a Vocal Majority rehearsal ("Chords that ring forever") and what a thrill it was to be able to add my voice to their best-in-the-world sound. (Not an exaggeration -- an unparalleled eleven international gold medals, including gold the last ten times in a row they've been eligible to compete!) Well, I'm hooked. Since that article, I've been to several more rehearsals, and last night I took the plunge and auditioned.
The Vocal Majority's 2006 Gold Medal performance on YouTube

I've auditioned many times in my life, for various choirs, solos, theatrical roles, etc., and I can say without a doubt that I've never had an audition as demanding and intense as the Vocal Majority's. They say that maybe one in five people pass on the first try. (It certainly didn't help my confidence last night when the man escorting me to the audition room told me, "This is the route you'll take from now on when we come get you to audition." Come get me... again??? I asked him if it was a multi-part process, and he said, "No, it just takes most guys three or four auditions to get in." Yikes!)

I did not time the audition, but it was at least thirty minutes in length, quite possibly forty-five -- all of it one on one with the auditioner, Wes, who sat at a piano while I stood. Besides the usual checking of my vocal range, I was asked to match pitch; duplicate 3- and 4-note sequences with some very odd intervals; find the baritone note in various chords (the most difficult for me, especially the tight clusters!); improvise harmony (both above and below the melody) on a known song; then improvise harmony on a new, previously unknown melody (Wes played a chord and sang the melody twice, and then I had to sing with him); and finally clap out a variety of rhythms of increasing difficulty.

All that, Wes told me, was to see if I could sing baritone. But the audition wasn't over -- I then had to show I could sing baritone the VM way. I had to sing one song twice using different emotions -- heartrendingly sad and joyous. (My limited theatrical experience helped quite a bit here!) For the last part (there's more?!), Wes wanted me to sing without vibrato -- a key to the VM (and much barbershop) sound so the pitch can be kept pure and bring out the overtones and undertones in each chord. And, oh yes, the piece he wanted me to sing without vibrato was "The Star-Spangled Banner." Nothing like trying to tackle the extremes of our national anthem at the end of an already long day of singing!

He seemed satisfied, though, and told me right away I had passed. YAY! At that point, it was 10:30 at night, and the group's practice was winding down. As we rode the elevator back down to the rehearsal hall, the group was finishing up singing their powerful arrangement of "The Holy City." I walked into the room to a chorus of "Hosannas" -- literally! It matched the joy I was feeling quite well!

And so as of last night I am... still not part of the group. But I've taken the first step. After an interview next Monday with their Board of Directors (and hopefully a vote of approval), I will be able to pay my dues and be an official member of the Vocal Majority. THEN comes a LOT of work, because I have to learn their entire repertoire of music and lots of choreography -- and pass yet another audition -- before I am certified to perform with them in public. Hey, like I said, they are the best in the world. I'd be disappointed if they didn't have high standards.

But I can at last join them in saying (as they do at the end of each practice, right after singing "Keep the Whole World Singing"), "it's great to be a barbershopper"!!!

BTW... now that I'm (almost) a member of the group... Tickets are now on sale to the Vocal Majority Spring Show, "VM Las Vegas," to be held at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, TX, on April 20-21! Get yours at!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Brad!


The Strange One said...

You didn't happen to mention me in this. I mean I was there too. Ha Ha Ha

BRWombat said...

Thanks Cindy!

Hmmm, who could "the strange one" be...? I mean, there are so many possibilities among the people I know who were there, between the other VM members I know and the fact that my family and my mom came to listen... I'm guessing its my son Brandon, who stayed for the whole practice and witnessed my introduction. Am I right? If so, Brandon, consider yourself mentioned. Sorry, didn't intentionally exclude you... my writing is just long enough as it is, so I have to leave out something! (See, other readers, as much detail as I put in, I do leave some things out!)