Friday, July 03, 2009


This chorus, the Vocal Majority, was born to compete.

I mean literally, not figuratively. Back in 1972, a handful of like-minded barbershoppers wanted to put together a chorus with the focus and drive to be the very best they could be, and to put that vision to the test on the contest stage. To do so, they had to convince the Society that another Dallas-area chapter was needed. They were successful, and the Dallas Metro chapter of the SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, now d/b/a the Barbershop Harmony Society) was chartered, with the chapter chorus performing under the name The Vocal Majority.

Those men had stars in their eyes and lofty dreams, but even they could not have predicted the future success of the VM. In 1973, in their very first International competition, the Vocal Majority took third place. Two years later they returned to compete again, and took home their first gold medal.

As I’ve mentioned before, when a quartet wins they gold, they are “champions forever” and do not compete again. When a chorus wins the gold, though, they only sit out of competition for a couple of years and are eligible to compete again in the third year. So, after VM’s 1975 win, they returned to the International stage in 1978, only to fall short of the gold by ten measly points.

That 1978 loss was their last.

The VM returned to decisively win in 1979, and have won the gold medal every three years since: 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. That’s eleven gold medals total, the past ten of them in a row – a thirty-one year win streak. They – we – are the winningest chorus in the history of the Society, and widely acknowledged as the standard-setter for the past three decades.

However, the quality of competing choruses has improved greatly over the years. And there are now other “super-choruses” that know how to compete and entertain on the same level, so the competitions can be real nail-biters these days.

One chorus, the Masters of Harmony, who are local to this area of California, have now won the gold medal seven times in a row. Because of the three-year rotation, though, they’ve never competed head to head against the VM. They won last year and so are not competing this year. (Whew!) Another group, Westminster, is a younger spin-off of the Masters. VM went against them in 2006 and squeaked out a controversial 17-point win (out of 3000 points possible!).

The other super-chorus at this level is the Ambassadors of Harmony. They won the gold in 2004, but have taken the silver in the last two years, losing by very, very close margins. They perform tonight, and the big buzz this year is whether they (no one else is given much of a chance) can finally bring the Vocal Majority juggernaut to an end.

We cannot control them or their performance, nor can we control the judges’ perception of either performance. All we can do is perform our hearts out, executing the contest plan the best we can, and entertain the stuffing out of the audience in the process. The rest is out of our hands.

We’re pretty convinced that what we’ve put together is going to rock the stage, though. (“Rock” in a purely barbershop sense, of course.)

The chorus members file into the door and are led through the hallways in the catacombs of the Honda Center. We can hear the previous chorus performing, and the audience’s response to them. Somewhere out there is my family, among the six or seven thousand applauding fans.

We file past a table where we can leave our water bottles, and then are told to form a double-file line in a hallway just off the stage area. We walk past curtained-off areas where the in-house video monitors and webcast are being produced.

The Society really does have this down to a science. We are in the back hallway for only a couple of minutes before we are given the signal to head in to the stage.

This is it. It is – literally – show time.

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