Saturday, July 04, 2009


Eventually everyone’s in place, and we’re ready to rehearse. The feeling of fellowship in the room is overwhelming.

We’re given a few words of logistics – when VM finishes performing at the Honda Center, the last single chorus on the program, we will file off on both sides of the stage down to the risers on the floor and take our places in the center of the mega-risers. The Ambassadors will be waiting off stage left and the Masters off stage right, and they will process onto the mega-risers after we pass.

Then it’s rehearsal time. Okay, this turns out to be very little in the way of rehearsal – we all know all three songs we’re singing. It’s more a matter of running through each of them one time so we can get used to the sound, to our cramped positions on the risers, and to each director’s style.

First up is Mark Hale, director of the Masters, conducting Harmony, a spectacular arrangement of a song that was the VM’s show opener for more than a decade:

Feel the good vibration!
What a fine sensation!
That ringing resonation just carries us away!

The sound is… is… almost beyond words. Four hundred fifty men, singing in tight four-part harmony, generating overtones and undertones and filling the air with music. The chords surround us as thick as molasses. It is an amazing experience!

Harmony, harmony, we hail the name of harmony,
Forever may the sound of ringing chords abound!
Major or minor, nothing is finer, life is diviner when harmony’s around!

It is pure joy to sing in a mass chorus like this, and I dare say everyone around me is grinning from ear to ear as we sing.

The song ends, and we erupt in cheers, celebrating the incredible sound we just made.

Jim Henry, director of the Ambassadors (not to mention multiple quartet gold medalist who is a favorite to win yet another quartet gold in tonight’s Quartet Finals), steps forward for the second song, and is met with another round of applause. He’s directing John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” – yes, there are lyrics to the familiar tune, the Official March of the United States, lyrics penned by Sousa himself. This particular a capella arrangement captures every trilling piccolo and deep bass tuba of the instrumental, and is one of the more complex pieces that the VM performs. But it is always a crowd-pleaser, and I can’t wait to hear how this mega-chorus sounds on it.

Unfurl the banner, and raise it to the sky!
Let eagle cry from mountain high the never-ending watchword of our nation,
Now behold this gem of old, the wonder of the western sky!

Wow, what a rush.

As we reach the tag, we fall apart a bit – the VM is used to slowing and adding a bit of interpretive phrasing to the song’s big finish, but Jim Henry wants to keep the tempo steady to the end. Hey, that’s why we have run-throughs. We back up a few measures and take it again, and this time we finish perfectly.

Finally, Jim Clancy takes center stage for our finale, an amazing medley of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” “One Voice,” and “One Song.” Max Q, Vocal Spectrum, and OC Times will be singing on this as well.

The song’s heartfelt cry for peace, harmony and brotherhood swells and soars on perfect ringing chords. It’s a wonderful thing.

This show is going to be a treat, for performer and audience alike.

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