We load and make the now-familiar trip to the Honda Center. Just like yesterday, we are dropped off at the top of the ramp leading down to the Center’s loading dock. Unlike yesterday, there’s no competition ahead of us – just another chance to entertain.
We’re just as excited for that as we are for any competition.
The procedure to get on-stage is pretty much the same as it was yesterday, into the loading area behind the stage, past the TV production areas – we pause to watch the Ambassadors, who are on stage performing “The Man of La Mancha” – and then to the hallway just off the stage floor.
Again, the timing is spot on. The Ambassadors finish and exit the stage to the left, we are led in from the right. As we are quietly taking the stage, Max Q is out in front of the curtain doing their set. They are wonderful as always.
The front row has a last-minute costume change. Because at the start of “Sweet Georgia Brown” they rip off their coats, it’s decided that there’s really no reason to have them in their coats to begin with. It takes them a short while to make the change, mainly because they have to take their silver medals off of the tux coats (you bet we’re wearing them for this performance!) and re-pin them to their vests. The coats are collected and carried offstage just in time.
Max Q finishes their wonderful performance of “You Can Fly,” and Jim Henry comes on to introduce Jim Clancy and the VM. (Jim Clancy intro’d the Masters, and Mark Hale intro’d the Ambassadors; likewise the gold medal quartets introduced each other. Harmony is the theme, you know!)
We’re set, the curtain opens, and we launch into “Sweet Georgia Brown.” It sizzles. We’re relaxed, the choreography is flying, the sound is perfection, and the audience is eating it up. We scored three 100’s with this yesterday? I think it would have been higher today.
Jim speaks to the audience briefly, thanking them for their support and love over the years, and dedicates the next song to them. Zach Millwood steps from the risers to the center stage microphone and begins masterfully playing the haunting melody on his pennywhistle, Irish flute style. It’s beautiful. We take our pitch from the last note and begin to sing.
When I am down and oh my soul so weary,
When trouble comes and my heart burdened be,
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
For you to come and sit a while with me…
Jim Clancy’s arrangement is stirring and beautiful (and VM's recording of it has been praised by the author of the song over many of the hundreds of versions he’s heard), and the crowd is spellbound. Ironically, this song was never a favorite of mine, but I love performing it with the VM.
After “You Raise Me Up” concludes, Nick Alexander steps out to the microphone to introduce the Armed Forces Medley, calling on those present in the audience who have served, are serving, or have family members serving to stand at the singing of their branch’s anthem.
We charge through the song, a high-energy choreographed progression from “The Marine Hymn” through “Anchors Aweigh,” “Semper Paratus,” “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” and “Off We Go (Into the Wild Blue Yonder).” Each brings men and women to their feet in the audience, and the crowd applauds and cheers for each branch in turn.
The song finishes on a rousing tag:
And with a final shouted “Hoo-ray!” we snap to a parade rest position. The crowd goes wild, and the curtain closes.
Time for the mega-chorus.