Thursday, July 02, 2009

VM Reception

We hang out in the hotel lobby for a bit. Most of the other VM guys are hanging out here, too, waiting for the doors to the reception to open.

I take the time to rest, and to sit with my family and catch up on their various activities today. The Crystal Cathedral tour sounds like it was really interesting. I learn some fascinating facts I hadn’t known before:

  • Their congregation officially topped three million members last March (but only half of them attend weekly);
  • A few years back, a family of squirrels took up residence in Robert Schuler’s hair. He tried to get them out, but after protests from animal rights activists, was forced to let them stay. They lived in his hair for three months. No one watching at home ever noticed any difference.
  • The Crystal Cathedral is not actually made of crystal, but of transparent aluminum, based on a formula given them by a strange Scottish engineer in exchange for big slabs of plexiglass and use of a helicopter.

Okay, I made all that up. I’m sure the tour was fascinating, but I’m so exhausted right now after all this rehearsing that I’m struggling to keep focus. I do enjoy the Disneyland desk that this hotel has in its lobby. Most hotels would be improved by the presence of a Disney desk.

Right at 4:00, the doors to the reception hall open. We walk past gold streamers – what else? – into the ballroom. A handful of tables are set up, with most of the places already spoken for before we arrive, and then a couple of long rows of chairs. It really doesn’t seem like enough space for everyone to sit, and that’s my primary mission.

The decorations in the room are phenomenal. Hanging behind the head table is a long banner with the VM logo in a couple of places, the words “International Chorus Champions” and “Dallas, Texas.” Attached to the banner are pennants with the years of the chorus’s gold medals, eleven in all, from 1975 through 2006. On the podium itself is the world “GOLD” in gold stand-up letters, and the 2009 pennant hangs there – ready to be attached to the bigger banner.

There are two buffet tables, with lots of crackers, cheeses, meats, fresh fruit, and carving stations with roast beef and ham. Becky and I join one of the lines, but after ten minutes or so of standing, I decide that I’m more in need of liquid and sitting than I am of food, so we cut to one of the beverage stations. It’s a cash bar, but our tickets allow us a couple of soft drinks or bottled water each.

Benjamin asks if they have lemonade. The lady bartender says no, but offers a concoction of Sprite and sweet & sour mix. Benjamin chooses just a Sprite instead. Becky’s adventurous and tries the drink and finds that it’s very tasty; I try a sip of hers and ask for the same.

Turns out, later on, that Benjamin wasn’t sure whether the mixed drink (such as it was) was something he should be having. We assure him that it’s non-alcoholic, and later on he goes back to get his own glass.

It takes a bit of hunting, but we eventually find a few seats available. I’m happy to be able to collapse for a bit. After the line dies down, I do go to get a plate of cheese, crackers and fruit, but I’m mostly just happy about being able to sit.

Around 5:00, the program starts. There are wonderful, inspiring talks from Jeff Oxley, Phil McShan, Chuck Mitchell, and Jim Clancy. Chuck chokes us all up talking about how he wishes he could be on the risers with us, and he calls Charles Kennedy up to the podium. Chuck references the VM tradition that every man on the riser will carry a gold medal with them on the contest stage, with the rookies getting one on loan from a veteran member. Since Charles took Chuck’s place on the front row, Chuck gives him his gold medal to carry with him on stage. Truly touching.

Judy Clancy is the last to speak. Given the Sweet Georgia Brown connection, she thought of the Harlem Globetrotters – now there’s a team that knows about a winning streak! – and she actually tried to book Meadowlark Lemon to come speak tonight! She was unable to get him here, but instead got a Harlem Globetrotters basketball autographed by all the current players. She presents it to Jim.

Judy also then prompts the VM Women to present “our guys” with something to carry on stage. Suddenly Becky is handing me a small leather drawstring pouch. It’s black, with “Anaheim 2009, Love, VMW” printed on it in gold letters.

There are two items inside. One is a gold ribbon, folded in the classic “cause ribbon” loop. Printed on it is the name of Chuck Mitchell. We’ve dedicated this performance to him, and are specially hoping to score a “100” in the Presentation category in his honor (even though no chorus has ever done before scored a 100 in International competition). Now we’ll be carrying Chuck onstage with us in more than spirit.

The second item is a small glass bottle, about 1 oz. in size. Floating in the liquid sealed within are multiple flakes of real gold. Wow. So, on the contest stage tomorrow, I’ll be carrying a vial of gold flakes, a gold ribbon, and a gold medal from one of the VM’s previous wins. That’s a lot of gold!

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