We do a little singing, a few moves, but we’re waiting for our Society handlers to give the signal that it’s time to move.
Jeff Oxley has one final word for us about the contest before we go: “Gentlemen, I’m sure this isn’t necessary, but if the outcome is not what we expect, be gracious. And... that’s all I’ll say about that.” A good word, but I agree it’s unnecessary, probably on a couple of levels – first, because these are some of the nicest and most gracious men by nature I have ever known, but mostly because I just can’t see the contest not going our way.
At 10:15 we’re given the signal by the two Masters men accompanying us that it’s time to go. Our next stop is the Marriott hotel, across the street from the Hilton, where we will have our official contest photograph taken, and then have a few more minutes for warm-up before we travel to the Honda Center.
We walk off the risers and proceed in a line through the Sheraton parking lot, down to the street, and then along the sidewalk to the front of the Hilton. We’re getting a lot of stares and occasional questions from passers-by, not all of whom are here for the barbershop convention or even aware of it. It’s not every day you see 140+ men in tuxedos with sparkly fuchsia (not pink!) accents walking down the street!
When we reach the front of the Hilton, though, the story is different. There is a line of people waiting for the bus to take them to the Honda Center for the very chorus contest we’ll be appearing in, and they recognize exactly who we are. They break out cheering for us as we file past. It’s a good feeling.
We cross the street in front of the Hilton over to the Marriott, and then head to the ballroom/conference center entrance. We precede through the large hallways, which are surprisingly active with non-barbershoppers (more stares), and then we are told to hang out in the hallway until it’s our turn for pictures.
After a few minutes of waiting, another chorus of about 50 or 60 men, looking sharp in white tuxes with black shirts and white ties, comes filing past us, obviously headed for the contest stage. The men of the VM spontaneously begin applauding and cheering them as they walk past, and a few line up to give high fives.
The smiles on the men of the other chorus are priceless. And frankly, I love being in a hobby where we can compete intensely, and yet the competitors are all rooting for each other to do their very best. It truly is a brotherhood.
After ten or fifteen minutes, we’re called in for pictures. We enter a very large ballroom with a set of risers at one end, and a camera with those big flash umbrellas set up in the middle of the ballroom facing the risers. We leave our water bottles at the seats behind the camera and take our place on the risers. Phil McShan sets us and turns our big smiling faces towards the camera.
The photographer spends several semi-uncomfortable minutes moving us around with voice commands, making sure every one of the men is visible. Since there are 142 of us, that takes a while. Finally, she begins snapping away.
Then, something unexpected, at least to me – a man from the Masters of Harmony, last year’s champs and this year’s local hosts, reaches into a large case and pulls out the Chorus Championship Trophy that we are competing for! He walks the trophy to the front of the risers and places it front of the VM. The photographer takes a few more pictures, so we’ll have some of the chorus with the trophy if we win. Cool.
After those pictures, the Masters guy retrieves the trophy. Several of the Vocal Majority guys kid with him, “Shouldn’t we just take that with us?”
“No, gentlemen, you have to earn this prop back!”
Give us time, sir. Just give us time.