Saturday, July 04, 2009


We file off the risers, down the stairs, and around through the curtain to the judges pit, where the mega-risers await.

During the several-minute process for the three chorus to get in place, a man makes an appeal for support of the Harmony Foundation, and uses an interesting technique. To demonstrate the benefit of having every voice available singing, he blows a pitch and has the audience sing a familiar song – familiar to most barbershoppers, at least – “Down Our Way,” but calls on only those of a certain month of the year to sing. As he calls out different months, different voices take over the song. Needless to say, it’s not a very powerful or consistent sound.

Then he blows another pitch and starts the crowd singing another familiar barbershop anthem, “Shine On Me.” This time, though, each month he calls out is to add their voices, and no one is to drop out. A great thing happens – those of us taking the risers, the three champion choruses, start singing along:

Shine on me, in the morning, shine on me,
I wonder if the lighthouse will shine on me…

I’m singing while surrounded by the wonderful harmonies coming from my VM brothers, as well as my AOH brothers and MOH brothers, in addition to thousands of barbershoppers from around the world. It’s a wonderful moment, and we haven’t even started our part of the show.

Finally it’s time for the three choruses to perform. “Feel the good vibrations!” Oh, they do, they do. The crowd is floored by the sound, and respond with an energy beyond that in the contest yesterday. And we on the risers are having the time of our lives.

Stars and Stripes Forever” and the “Tribute to World Peace” medley just fly by. As hot and uncomfortable as it is packing 450 guys onto risers together, it’s still an amazing experience – perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The finale soars, and the ovation goes on forever. There’s no curtain to close here on the arena floor, so eventually the lights just come up and the applause finally fades away. We begin the slow process of exiting off of the risers.

Since we have to wait for those on the sides and front to clear off, I strike up a conversation with some of the Ambassadors near me, and end up talking to one guy in particular. I’m so glad I do. I start by offering congratulations again, and he says, “You have no idea what that means coming from you guys.”

As we talk, he says the same thing those other men said to Mike Johnson last night – that this win is bittersweet for the Ambassadors. All of this time that they’ve been working to get better and to win, he says, their goal has been to become like the Vocal Majority. They are happy for what they’ve achieved, but sincerely wish it wouldn’t have taken away anything from us. Aw.

The guys tosses out a couple of sentences that just floor me, coming from someone in a group that just beat us on the International stage: “You know, the Vocal Majority is still the greatest barbershop chorus of all time. One contest doesn’t change that.”

He continues on, and I notice that he’s now blinking back tears – it’s like he’s been waiting to say this to somebody, and it just has to come out. “What’s amazing is that everyone I’ve met from the VM has been so nice and gracious to us, congratulating us… When you guys clapped for us earlier… It’s just like…” He takes a breath. “It’s like meeting your idols, and finding them to be everything you hoped they’d be.”

Oh, wow. Now I’m getting choked up.

You know, the feeling’s mutual. Overall, I’d have preferred to win yesterday. But if someone else had to take the gold, it seems like there may not be a nicer or more deserving group of guys than the Ambassadors of Harmony. I’m truly happy for them.

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