Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A triumphant return?

As I mentioned in The Young Curmudgeon, I had set up this web log three years ago, I guess to get access to the blog for 4-Cast, the podcast devoted to barbershop harmony. If you are interested in this great music style and like the back-story -- interviews, etc. -- 4-Cast is terrific. (link)
The thing started several years ago by two good friends, Alan LeVezu and Eric Brickson, guys I have pretty much known since I started in this hobby. Their one-time quartet TopCats was among the first quartets I heard and helped me to get involved in this thing. They were a blast to hang out with, listen to, and get accepted into the wonderful humor that we share as barbershoppers. Like so many quartets, they ran their course and disbanded. Erik and Alan popped up again in Playback and Checkmate, respectively. The 4-Cast is a big project that spanned the entire barbershop community. They recorded the history of our hobby as it happened, and continue to on a limited basis.

It is said the being a barbershopper is more than a mere hobby, it is a lifestyle. It is not just being in a chorus or quartet to sing four part harmony, but it is an extended family. It is putting away all differences in socio-economic caste, race, creed, color, etc. and all focusing on making music that is fully dependent on all members -- four to forty to one hundred and forty -- singing as one. No instruments to "hide" behind, just the four vocal parts that have to be in sync in every way to produce a synergy going beyond the sound of the four parts. The "extended sound", the locking and ringing of a chord that becomes almost addictive when the singer is in that zone. And knowing that you can only attain that "nirvana" by encouraging those around you to sing as well as you and in complete compatibility.

It is something I had to sit on the sidelines for the latter part of 2007. Missing the pure joy of the music, and the pure joy of these thirty-odd gentlemen I share my Tuesday evenings with, was a thrill to return to. So much, that when the first contest came up, the "Novice", hosted by our chapter, I banded together with three other terrific singers and we entered the thing! Two of the gents, Howard and Greg, have had years of experience behind them, Steve, a few more years than I and under some pretty high quality training, and me.... who was honored these guys would sing with me! For a quartet that was formed "on the fly", with probably less than 2 hours total rehearsal time, only to get third in the contest was a blast! And as much a testament to the leadership of our chorus as anything. That our chorus director spends as much time on vocal craft as he does the songs themselves, allowed for four guys to spend our limited rehearsal time on refinement of our two songs, and virtually no time on the fundamentals. We were already past that point.

Also for me, it was a bit of redemption. Three years prior, I had competed with three friends, with dreams of glory. Hard work, dedication, and thinking we were terrific somehow didn't translate on stage and we came in a disappointing ninth place. I was devastated! Didn't want to sing for a while. And it took me a few months to feel good about singing. So this current Novice contest was a chance for me to go out, have some fun, and feel good about the judging panel again. Amazing what it is to have that mental block wiped away. (Here is the score sheet for the day)

Getting toward work time and I will expand on this next chance I get...