Friday, June 29, 2007

Odds and ends

Random thoughts:

  • This has been a crazy week. We needed rain after last year's drought, but we've received more than we bargained for. We haven't personally been affected by any flooding, BUT it did mess up our church's innovative Vacation Bible School, which we hold in a nearby water park! Two of the four nights were canceled because of the weather, and I was out last night because of VM practice. (Which reminds me of a shirt I saw one guy wearing last night; it read, "I CAN'T, I have rehearsal." Becky didn't think it was as funny as I did.)

  • My 21-step Qualification Checklist for The Vocal Majority is now complete! My first signature was obtained back on April 5 from my auditioner, Wes Dean. I got the final signature last night from co-director Greg Clancy. Greg congratulated me and pointed out that yesterday was a good day to finish the list, as it was the 32nd anniversary of the VM's first gold medal win in 1975!

  • After today, I will be off of work until July 10. Most of the time off I will be back in Denver. I grew up there, but it's not easy to get back very often, and yet I find myself heading back for the second time this year! What's even wilder is that we typically plan trips long in advance, but until November or December of 2006, we hadn't even thought of going to Colorado at all this year, but circumstances allowed us to travel up in March over Spring Break; and then when I passed the initial VM audition in April, I did not think I could get qualified in time to travel to Denver, but I was strongly encouraged to do so, and now I'm riser-qualified and Denver-bound. It's been a whirlwind and lots of work, but fun all the way. I can't wait to perform with the group!!

  • Speaking of that, we perform in two shows in Denver and also will conduct a "Masters Class," where we'll sing some more. As mentioned in the previous post, we sing at the Pepsi Center on Friday evening, at the tail end of the chorus competition. On Saturday afternoon, we perform as part of the World Harmony Jamboree, a 2+ hour concert featuring award-winning quartets and choruses from many different countries. VM is representing the nation of Texas. :-)

  • I'll post more soon -- maybe while I'm there, for sure when I get back!

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    I'm in!

    VocalMajority.comI have passed my Final Performance Qualification with The Vocal Majority Chorus (after previously having passed separate Music (vocal) and Choreography reviews). Last night I was presented with my cufflinks and bolo tie for my performance tuxedo, meaning I am officially "riser qualified" and can perform in public with the group.

    I'm not ashamed to say it was a lot of work. I thought the two months it took me was a long time, but it turns out it's not. In fact, I understand one other rookie who qualified with me last night has been working at it for over 9 months. I really admire his perseverance -- I don't know if I could have sustained that kind of effort!

    There are many, many things that impress me about VM, and I'm still discovering others. But from a new member point of view, I am awestruck at a combination of two things that few groups have, in my experience: (1) Extremely high and inflexible standards AND (2) an extremely helpful and encouraging membership doing all they can to help you succeed. Many groups have one or the other: some are friendly and welcoming, but take anyone willing to join. That's not bad, just different. Those groups can be a blast to be a part of, but the quality is not the same. Other groups have high standards but lift not a finger to help you get there. They tend to be elitist -- if you can qualify, you can be one of them; otherwise, you probably weren't "worthy." Those groups tend to be good but not very pleasant.

    The combination of both of these factors makes VM special. Their rehearsals are always open to the public, and any guy can step in off the street, never having sung barbershop (or anything!) before, and they will immediately be put on the risers next to 25+ year veterans with a pocketful of gold medals. Amazing! But if you want to join, there's a pretty rigorous audition, one that many guys try 4-5 times to pass. The thing is, each time you "fail" is used as a teaching time to help you the next time. They really want you to get in, and help you to do so without sacrificing their quality!

    Then, once you join, there are even higher standards for being able to perform with the group, both in singing in VM's style and moving (and expressing) the way they do. There is a lot of music to learn, and a lot of moves to study. They expect perfection. But many of the veterans give up extra hours of their time to teach you, and everyone -- everyone! -- is willing to answer questions and give pointers. They do not relax their standards, but to a man they are pulling for you and helping in whatever way they can to get you over the hurdle. It is an extraordinary group of men, and I am very, very honored to be one of them now.

    Oh, yeah, they sing good, too. See them -- I mean, us!! -- in person if at all possible!

    My debut with the group will be onstage at the Pepsi Center in Denver, before a crowd of 10,000+, on Friday July 6. Should be fun! (For tickets, or to order the live webcast, go to the Barbershop Harmony Society website.)

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    Harmony Explosion

    I have not yet become "riser-qualified" with The Vocal Majority Chorus (that is, certified as to sufficient learning, vocal and choreographic, to perform with the group in public), but I think I'm getting close. It may even happen this week. BUT, I have to say, as anxious as I've been to perform, last Saturday night made me almost glad -- almost -- that I have not yet qualified. VM performed at the closing night of the Harmony Explosion Camp, a 3-day music camp for teens sponsored by the Southwestern District of the Barbershop Harmony Society. If I'd qualified in time, I would have performed with the group. As it was, I got to do something I'd never done before -- be in the audience for a VM performance! That's right, although I've heard the group on the radio, seen them on TV, and even been backstage a their shows, until Saturday night I'd never just sat in the audience to hear them perform!

    I can't begin to tell you how awesome the group is. They performed a 30-minute set, and every song was moving, entertaining, and technically amazing. They garnered three well-earned standing ovations before reaching their last song! And their encore -- Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho -- was goosebump-inducing. I was getting misty-eyed at the amazing-ness (if that's a word) of it all. Hard to believe I'll be up there with them (soon? eventually? maybe?)!

    There are several VM videos on YouTube if you want to see them perform -- even Joshua -- but nothing compares to seeing them in person. Make every effort to see them in concert some time soon -- you won't regret it! (Upcoming dates: Denver in July -- VM is performing a couple of times at the Barbershop Harmony Society international convention in Denver this coming July 2-8 -- I hope I'm with them then. Texas in September -- the VM Fall series of shows, titled "Deep In The Heart of Texas," will be held September 21 & 22. Details for all of this and more are on the VM website.)

    As awesome as VM was on Saturday night, I can't fail to mention the Harmony Explosion Chorus, the 65 or so teenage guys that attended the camp. They closed the show with a set of six songs of their own. For a group that had only been together for less than three days, they were amazing, and in their own way, just as entertaining as VM. Oh, sure, they were far from technically perfect, but their performance was energetic, passionate, and a heck of a lot of fun. (I'm still smiling about their closer, "Zombie Jamboree." I'd smile more if I could get the tune out of my head!) All in all, a tremendously entertaining evening.