Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Go time

When I arrive in the VM rehearsal room, I see the front row is already rehearsing in front of the risers.

The ballroom/rehearsal room is wider than it is deep, so that the risers are in front of one long side of the room, and there are just 10 or so rows of chairs, but the rows are very wide – about 40 or 50 chairs per row. I estimate a total of 400-450 chairs for spectators.

With 15 minutes to go until the rehearsal starts, there are plenty of VM guys milling around, but only 50 or so others in the seats, and many of them I recognize as family. Not quite what I expected, but as the rehearsal gets started I bet they’ll fill up quickly.

They do.

Even as the crowd swells, though, I haven’t spotted some California friends I’m expecting. It adds to the difficulty in spotting them that I’ve never actually seen them before – Lara and her husband are both Disneyland cast members that I’ve gotten to know online. Lara said she’d be wearing a purple windbreaker, and I haven’t spotted her yet.

Hey, Chuck Mitchell is here! His is an unexpected and very welcome face. Chuck, apart from his many years and multiple gold medals as a VM front row man himself, is the chorus’s longtime in-house choreography director. He’s a great guy and an amazing motivator who can get 140+ men of all ages, sizes, and physical ability to move the way we do and express ourselves in the heartfelt fashion VM is known for. And that’s saying something.

Chuck wasn’t expected to be here, as he received the news just weeks before the contest that a cancer battle he’d fought and thought perhaps won had returned with a vengeance. We thought he’d be in Houston starting treatment. The last thing the chorus did before leaving our dress rehearsal last Thursday was to gather around Chuck on the stage and sing “God Be With You (Till We Meet Again).”

I don’t know how he managed to make it here, but I’m glad he did – and from hearing the buzz from the VM guys around me, his presence is giving us all an incredible uptick in enthusiasm.

Seven o’clock rolls around and we hear our call to action: “Risers!” And with that, one hundred forty-one guys in matching shirts take their places in front of the crowd. There is an amazing buzz of energy in the chorus. Fist bumps and greetings are exchanged, and most of the men are literally bouncing on the balls of their feet in excitement. We’ve worked hard in the past several months, and we can’t wait to see what we can do this week.

Let’s get to work.

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