Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sweet Georgia Brown

Halfway into our contest set, we’re facing the crowd again, already dripping in sweat from the energy we put into the ballad, grinning our biggest grins as we bask in the adulation. It is a really, really good feeling!

  • Eventually even this applause begins to fade slightly, and Jim signals the front row, who had moved forward some during the ballad, to return to their places. They do so in a well-rehearsed quick seven steps – no more, no less – and the remainder of the chorus “resets” with them on beat seven. Nothing is done with anything less than top precision.

  • Jim signals for the pitch to “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and on the sound our faces morph into the proper expression for this song. While we had nothing but love for the “Georgia” of the first song, this “Georgia Brown” is a completely different woman – one we wouldn’t necessarily take home to Mother! We have wry and knowing grins that we’ve been burned by her, but we have a story to tell about it. You’re about to get entertained.

  • Jim raises his arms again, and this time our reset has more of a snap to it. We begin: “Way down south, ‘neath the Georgia pine, God created a gal (what a gal!) who’s mighty fine, so fine!” The front row have taken off their coats (which on Friday, in our full costumes, will let them show much more color in their fuchsia-backed vests as well as free them up for the acrobatics to come) on the first note of the song, and the men behind them make the coats “disappear” beneath the risers in a well-rehearsed move. We sing and move, move and sing, telling the story in both sound and motion. Hands, feet, and faces flow with the humor of the song. At various points in the number we have front row men lifted up running across the backs of others, being reeled in by colorful bungee cords, flat on the floor shaking from Georgia’s “hypnotizin’,” and more. It’s a spectacle of movement. Brandon later tells me he didn’t take any pictures because he just wanted to enjoy it.

  • As the song reaches its tag, the visual high point comes as front row member Charles Kennedy is lifted high in the air on “tantalizin’ Sweet… Georgia…,” and Jim Clancy walks forward from under him to conduct the big, intentionally over-pronounced last word, “Buh-rownnnnnnn………!” The chords resolve and the volume swells. And swells some more. And swells some more. Our maximum volume level is a “10.” Jim wants this ending to grow to at least a “13”!

  • Once again, thunderous applause, yells and screams before the song is even over. Jim conducts the cut-off, and then one precise beat after the last note, the chorus turns down the tiles with military precision while giving a thunderous stomp, which booms from the risers beneath us. It’s a trademark exclamation point on our performance. The crowd goes wild. Our smiles are radiant, basking in the applause, and yet projecting an energy that says, “I knew you’d like that, and I could do it again 50 times if you wanted.” (May not be true, but that’s what our smiles were saying!) I’m pouring down sweat and blinking back tears from the response.

  • You thought we were done? We’re only done singing. The curtain is still open, so we are still performing. The smiles, the energy, the warm acknowledgement of the crowd continues full blast. After what seems like an eternity of applause, Jim signals the front row, who step back four (precise) steps so as to be behind the curtain when it closes, and we on the risers again reset down the tile with them as they reach their new position. More smiles, more energy.

  • Finally Jim signals us to relax. On Friday we’ll file quietly off the risers, off the stage and our task will be done. Tonight we hoot, holler, and high five each other. We haven’t had any official feedback yet, but we can feel it – that was several levels better than when we last performed it in Dallas. Something about being in the convention city, before an enthusiastic audience, just does that.

Jim Clancy gets our attention and confirms the feeling with three simple words: “Best. Set. Yet.”

We cheer some more.

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