Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The chords ring in the Hilton lobby as we find our way to an escalator and up to the second floor, where the huge ballroom housing the convention headquarters is.

The setup in the main room is much like Denver. As we walk in the room, there is a stage with an open mike and several rows of chairs set up. Any quartet can hop up there and sing for the room, and later this week many, many barbershoppers will pay for the privilege to “Sing with the Champs,” taking the place temporarily of one of the members of an international champion quartet, singing with the other three for those assembled (and for a commemorative DVD).

The vast majority of space in the middle of the room is taken up with the “Harmony Marketplace,” the Society’s prime shopping area, with a vast selection of t-shirts, pins, hats, CD’s, glassware, jewelry, posters… just about anything you can imagine, if it can be emblazoned with a Society logo or something barbershop- or music-related. It’s a treat just to browse through the place.

Along the left and right walls are the booths of individual vendors, many of them quartets and choruses selling their products. About halfway down on the left-hand side I spot the Vocal Majority’s booth. I stop by to say “hi” to Carol Anderson, who manages our CD sales, but it’s on the way to our primary destination – the back wall, which has the convention check-in stations, ticket sales, and more.

This is one process that is greatly improved since Denver 2007. There we filled out slips of paper with our names and other info, and waited for the staff to create our name badges – a process which took almost an hour. Today, we step up to computer screens, type in our info, and our badges print immediately.

Manning the printers is “Art” from the Masters of Harmony, the local super-chorus that is the host of the convention, and who, as seven-time gold medal winners themselves, are second only to the VM in championships. The Masters won last year’s contest, and so are not competing this year. Thankfully!

Art sees my VM name badge and asks the question many others will ask this week, “Is VM going to take the gold again?”

I give a heartfelt and humble, “I hope so, we’ve been working hard, but we’ll see!” Which is true in every word – and much better than bragging bluster. The VM has a lot to be proud of, but much prefer to do our “talking” on the stage and deal with our “brothers in harmony” in a friendly and gracious manner. This is a hobby, after all, with guys from all walks of life who just love to make music, not a professional sports team with money on the line. There’s no place for trash talk.

As I prepare the badges for my family members, Art and I talk about what is bound to be an amazing event, this Saturday’s “Harmony Foundation Presents…” Show, which will feature four champion choruses, the HarborLites from the Sweet Adelines, the Masters of Harmony, and our chief competition this year, the Ambassadors of Harmony from St. Charles, Missouri, along with three champion quartets, OC Times, Vocal Spectrum, and Max Q. At the end of the show, the three BHS choruses, 450 men in all, will join together in one mega-chorus to sing three songs. There has never been anything like it before, and it’s bound to be pretty cool.

After the name badges are ready, we look through the Marketplace briefly. Becky and I get some convention logo t-shirts, a bargain at $10 each. I spot several other VM members milling about – Bones, Grass, Stevie D... (That’s Mickey “Bones” Bonesio, Phil “Grasshopper” McShan, and Steve DeCrow. While not universal, nicknames seem to flourish in the barbershop world. I’ve gotten more non-internet-related use out of “Wombat” since joining VM than at any time before.)

We don’t spend long shopping though, since it’s almost 5:00, which is around 7:00 p.m. (Central) by our stomach’s accounting, and we want to get some supper.

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