Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Feedback 2

Also in the room for our performance is Tony DeRosa, who is one of the rare individuals, like Jeff Oxley, with three quartet gold medals to his name, the latest with Max Q in 2007 with Jeff, Greg Clancy, and Gary Lewis.

Tony is an incredible musician, choral director, and vocal coach, having worked for years for Walt Disney World as the music director for their acclaimed a capella group Voices of Liberty, as well as a performer. He’s coached and directed choruses, quartets, and shows all over the world. And he is absolutely one of the funniest performers you’ll ever see on stage.

Tony’s flown in twice to Dallas to coach us in the past two months as we prepared for this contest. The first time, frankly, was a beating – in a good way? I was hoping for more of the funny, but found out instead why he is in such demand – because he has high standards and demands the best out of everyone he coaches, and doesn’t let you rest until you can give it! The second coaching session was easier, since we were so much more polished than the first time. Tony watched us perform the set and said, “I got nothing. Let’s all go to Hooters.” (Funny joke, but it didn’t keep him from working us for several hours more.)

Jim calls Tony to the front of the rehearsal room for feedback. Tony feigns speechlessness himself for a bit, and then feebly offers, “There’s a Hooters right up the road…”

Jim also acknowledge the presence in the room of his son Greg Clancy, who coached us on our last Tuesday night in Dallas, and of Gary Lewis. Gary, the only member of Max Q not to have directed or coached us on the way to the competition, did record some incredible learning tracks for us to use. This is nothing if not a team effort!

We have more work to do – the Vocal Majority never thinks of themselves as competing against other choruses, but against the “100,” the perfect score. As such, we can always get better. Another of our enduring mottos is that “Today’s ‘10’ is next week’s ‘7.’” Even at the level we’re at we’re not satisfied, so the polishing of moves, notes, and expressions continues for the next hour.

When we finish, second-row VMer Justin has had enough – he broke his leg a week or so before coming to Anaheim, but he is toughing it out on the risers nonetheless, while wearing one of those big, clunky “mobility boots.”

Hey, on the first night of the new choreography rehearsals for the front row, one guy broke his ankle attempting a flip. (New permanent rule for the VM front row: “No flips.”) He’s done his time recuperating, and is back performing. And this contest was a major factor in my getting my ankle and foot rebuilt when I did – I knew I’d need all the recovery time possible from the surgery to be able to handle the rigors of international competition.

It’s that important to us.

Justin steps down to the floor with a little assistance, then hops on his good leg over to the front row of the chairs. He certainly deserves the break.

Without a word of discussion, the entire group of front row men follow suit, hopping on one foot to the chairs, trying to get a break themselves. It’s a hilarious moment.

It’s approaching 10:00, and we’re dismissed by our leadership with a few words of encouragement – we’re doing great; and of advice – get a good night’s sleep, long day tomorrow. We step down from the risers confident in where we are as a group, and even more confident of where we’ll be after a few more hours of work. This competition performance is shaping up to be better than any Vocal Majority performance ever. Ever.

And for a group that’s not been defeated in 31 years, that’s really saying something.

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