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2001 International Convention

Nashville, Tennessee
July 03-July 08, 2001

(Last Update: 07/05/01)

Quartet Quarter Finals, Session I
Wednesday, 07/04/01

This was our first time inside the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and
it is a *nice* facility. A large enclosed arena seating around 21,000
people, it was set up with a raised stage toward one end, and about 
a third of the seats blocked off behind the stage area. I found my
seat in section 104, toward the back on the right side just off the 
floor...actually really good seats to see everything, though the 
stage seemed kinda far away. Luckily the two jumbo projection 
screens on either side of the stage provided great close-ups of the
performers. This year the organizers have added a new set of 
advertising and promotional slides that appear in cycle on the big
screens whenever performers are not on stage. There were colorful
ads for the Gas House Gang's Alaska Cruise next summer after the 
Portland convention, several ads from the Alexandria Harmonizers 
wishing good luck to their chapter quartets and all competitors,
a silly recruiting ad for the Big Chicken Chorus, and others.

Concession stands were opened and crowds were grabbing food and
drink before the opening session right up until 12:15, when they
hurried in at the last minute as Darryl Flinn welcomed the crowd,
and introduced Bob Cox, Chairman of the Society Membership 
Services Committee, as the afternoon's MC. Bob laid down the house
rules and brought out the two Swedish affiliate (SNOBS) quartets,
Jambalaya and Scandinavian Shuffle, to sing the Swedish National
Anthem, "Du Gamla, Du Fria." Scandinavian Shuffle sang the first
verse, as Jambalaya stood to the side, then they switched places
for the second verse, and joined together for an octet finish.

The British national anthem, "God Save The Queen," was sung by 
the BABS quartet Likely Lads (another British competitor, Cambridge
Blues, had to scratch and was unavailable).

Bob told us we'd sing "The Star Spangled Banner" a bit later, and
then brought out the 1976 International Champions, The Innsiders,
to serve as mic testers for the afternoon. They sang "Alexander's
Ragtime Band," as the judging panel checked out the sound and 
wandered around the front of the stage listening. They sang two
more songs and finally headed off, but as Bob began to introduce
the first quartet of the contest, he was waved off suddenly and
they called for The Innsiders to come back on stage again. A few
seconds passed as they ran back on stage from somewhere out back,
and they were asked to repeat their mic testing, as someone had
reported that the feedback monitors for the quartets were not 
working. They started singing again, and this time contest officials
including Dr. Greg Lyne walked on stage and wandered behind the 
quartet as they sang, listening for the feedback. They monkeyed
with it for a few minutes and finally everything seemed to be in order
and the audience cheered as The Innsiders made their way off again
and the contest got underway.


Almost all of the pre-contest hype has concluded that this contest
already belongs to Michigan Jake, last year's silver medalists and 
heir apparent to the gold medal. Having them appear first in the 
line-up gave them a chance to really set the standard for the whole
contest, and that's exactly what they did. Opening with "Always,"
a standard Jake offering, they were excellent as usual, though I
felt they were more assertive this time, more aggressive than usual.
I sensed more "muscle" in the singing than usual. When they sang
"Dinah, Is There Anyone Finer" there was a lighter feel, more air
in the tone, a little more bounce in their step. Throughout the set
I loved the tight match between tenor Andrew Kirkman and lead Mark
Hale, along with Marc and bass Greg Hollander. Perfectly tuned 
intervals, a great clean sound. I think they worked hard to establish
a firm presence right up front, and the crowd acknowledged them with
loud cheers and a scattered standing ovation. No doubt they'll be back
tomorrow night!


In some quartets you can't help but look at one particular member,
and in this Aussie foursome I couldn't help but watch the bass,
Mark Penman. Their opening number, "The Masquerade Is Over," made
me think of ACOUSTIX and Jeff Oxley. Mark is a tall, commanding 
presence, and with his dark hair combed back, his nicely tailored
tux, and his booming bass voice, he easily recreated that classic
Oxley look and feel in this song. "I'm In Love Again" seemed a tad
heavy, and I would have lked the chorus to move a little quicker,
but it was pretty solid throughout. 


MC Bob Cox announced earlier that RIPTIDE had been moved to the 
end of the second quarter finals round, but didn't mention the
reason, which most everyone knew anyway. Lead Tim Reynolds' wife
was home in Atlanta, having just given birth to their triplet
sons on Tuesday afternoon! Tim had flown home yesterday afternoon
to be with his new family, and was rushing back to Nashville by
tonight to catch up with the contest. See the end of the second
round quarter finals session for their set.


I happened to be sitting in a section apparently filled with 
Mid-Atlantic District members and fans, because they screamed
and stomped their feet when these guys hit the stage. They sang
"It's You" and I was a bit distracted by their lead who seemed
to want to direct everything with his hands. "Redhead" came second,
and they seemd to have a better focus of their nervous energy here,
and the quartet got into it more...they were really cookin' on this
one! The crowd liked that jazzed up version better, and gave them
more than the usual applause in return.


They shone brightly in their red tux coats, singing "Shanghai"
with a really nice build in the verse to the chorus. "I've Got
The World On A String" had a good solid rhythm, but again seemed
a bit oversung, with a muscled tone, but fun anyway. Man this lead
voice of Mike Harrison is big!

 6) 3 MEN & A MELODY (CSD)

This was a *good* set. They opened with "In The Wee Small Hours"
and it was gentle, sweet, with a nice touch by tenor Chris 
Drogemueller on the tag. But the song everyone was talking about 
at intermission would be "Shoo-Fly Pie." They had a great sense
of rhythm and tempo with this fun up-tune, and they really sold
us on how they loved that good ol' home cooking. Our mouths were
watering as the melody line bounced around the quartet through this
tune. A great job!


This was another big, loud sounding quartet, and they opened with
"Banjo's Back In Town," followed by "For Me And My Gal." It was a 
big, loud, lively set, though it sounded like the lead dropped or
fumbled a couple of words here and there, I couldn't quite tell.
However, I felt like everyone so far has been singing to loud, trying
too hard...maybe it was the sound system, I don't know, but I know
I was really ready for a nice soft ballad right about now.


My salvation came in the very next quartet, as Fred King and the
boys came out and soothed our collective ears with "The One Rose That
Lives In My Heart" followed by a dramatic "Sonny Boy." I loved the 
emotional turn at the key change, when lead Fred Womer grimaced in
anguish, glanced down toward the floor to collect his strength and
agonized through the final verse when the angels came and took
his son to just drove the rest of the song and really 
was effective. THANK YOU guys! 


Ooh, yeah, a little more smooth ballad work is just right here, and
Heyday came through with a sweet interpretation of "It Had To Be
You," though I was looking for a little more smoky nightclub feel
to this song. Still, very nicely done. "I'd Love To Meet That Old
Sweetheart Of Mine" is a song I haven't heard in a long time, but
brought back a flood of memories of my first days in barbershop,
when I first heard Chicago News ('81) win the gold with this one.
My first chorus in Burlington, Vermont sang it in contest too, and 
I had just run into several of my old singing buddies before the 
session I had this really nice warm feeling (or maybe 
it was the humidity? It certainly wasn't the air conditioning,
which was on full blast and caused a run on sweaters and sweatshirts
at Harmony Marketplace between rounds)...but I digress...Heyday,
good job!!


Another one of my favorite quartets at International, they are 
always so full of energy and drive. They did not disappoint, with 
a steamrolling "I'm In Love Again," with a big sound and strong
unit choreography. The antics between the bari and lead on the 
side, with neat facial expressions, really sld the fun they were
having up there. "Floatin' Down To Cotton Town" just continued
the pace, and they definitely locked in a place in the semi's.


A slight technical glitch occurred as these guys came out and 
were accepting their applause, when the stage lights suddenly 
went black for about 2 seconds. I happened to be looking down
at the notebook and noticed the loss of light from the stage
area, and looked up to stage! Then suddenly the lights
blazed on again and the quartet, just coming out of their stage
bow, reacted in stride and just smiled brighter and went into their
set, showing good composure on stage. It may not seem like a big
deal now, but at this level of competition, every little distraction
can have devastating effects on the results. They opened with 
"If I Love Again," a nice sweet ballad, then changed tracks with
their "Railroad Medley" ("I've Been Working On The Railroad" and
"I'm A Railroad Man"). Again this seemed too loud for me, and a 
little out of control toward the end. They have big pipes but it 
felt like they cut off the tag a little early for me...I couldn't
tell if it was on purpose or if they were a little short on breath.
This was minor stuff though, and they did a fine job.


These Swedish representatives did a really nice job on "The Little
Boy" with a sweet and loving approach. "M-A-Double-M-Y" had a fun
swingy feel, and the audience was appreciative of these guys being
part of this great contest and convention. 

13) BSQ (MAD)

BSQ came out in their bright red tuxes amid enthusiastic applause
from their many fans, and opened with "All Alone." It seemed like
they took a little while to settle in on this ballad, it just seemed
a little ragged getting going. By their second song, a neat rhythm
medley, they were back in fine form, handling a complicated arrangement
with ease. We cracked up as bass Al Mazzoni got a little wacky with
his arm-waving dance steps, and I really liked when they fell into a 
tight jazz band combo, each with their own "air" instruments. Whew!


This quartet has been on the rise for a number of years, and they
seemed to continue their march upward through the ranks with a 
great set. I loved their orange, blue, yellow and green tux coats.
They sang "Ballin' The Jack" and "For The Sake Of Auld Lang Syne"
with crystal clear harmonies and some awesome overtones. Thunder
from outside began to boom in the distance, but they were not
distracted in the least as they powered their way into the semi's.


This New Zealand representative sang as the skies outside the arena
opened up in a heavy downpour that pounded the arena roof and almost
drowned out the softer parts of "Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair."
They started "Give Me A Barbershop Song" with "...When a rainy day
comes..." and we all had to chuckle and wonder wow, how did these
guys arrange for a driving thunderstorm at the perfect time??...all
in all a nice job!


This fun and crazy quartet seems to have taken on the awesome task of
filling the comedy gap left by FRED after they won the gold two years
ago. They usually have something new and interesting cooked up, and
we were all anticipating their next bit of lunacy. Our curiosity
piqued as they came on stage dressed in black, with bari Andy Wallace
sporting a top hat and carrying a large set of playing cards, poster
sized, along with a small stool. It became clear that they were 
magicians, each with their own magic act. Andy attempted a card trick
with a normal sized deck of cards, but they fell all over and his
trick was ruined. The other guys expressed their disgst at this 
has-been magician, singing a parody of "Don't Tell Me The Same Things
Over Again" as they admonished Andy, "don't show methe same tricks
over again"...a mildly humorous parody, but not terribly inspiring.
They handed out the large poster-sized cards, one to each man, and
turned them over one by one to reveal "Ace" cards bearing the pictures
of Society leaders, until Andy's card turned over to reveal a "Joker"
card with Andy's likeness as "Dummy Boy," a reference to another 
successful comedy act from last year. The punch lines were not that 
great, and the audience applauded, though they were a bit perplexed.
Between songs, they brought out a large box on rollers, one typically
used in magic acts to make a person disappear. They opened it to 
reveal it was empty, and started singing another parody, this one
to "The Masquerade Is Over" ("Your Last Charade Is Over") as they
decied to get rid of Andy by putting him in the box and making him
disappear. The front door was in three sections, top, middle, and 
bottom, and they closed him inside for a few seconds, spun the box
around, threw some magic dust, and opened the door triumphantly only
to see Andy still inside, looking around absentmindedly. Angry that 
he had screwed up yet another of their magic acts, they closed him 
up again, did another incantation, and opened the top part of the door
and Andy was gone! They then opened the bottom section of the door 
and saw Andy knelt down, tying his shoe. They closd him up again,
this time drawing swords and thrusting them into the sides of the 
box, which also didn't seem to have any effect on Andy. Finally they
tried one last time, and when they opened the door the final time,
Andy was truly gone! They hustled off stage with the box as the 
audience applauded, but the overall effect was not what they'd hoped 


I didn't write a lot about these guys because they are just so
consistently good, they did just what was expected of them and 
hit us with a solid set, "I'm So Used To The Rain" (Hmmm another
appropriate song with the weather we're having) and "Happy Go Lucky
Lane." Just a really nice job, they will easily make it into the 
top 20.

18) intrigue (ONT)

This Canadian quartet has been around for a few years, and continued
their quest for fame and fortune (ok we'll settle for a nice shiny
medal) with a good smooth rendition of "That Witchcraft Called Love".
I couldn't help but think of Revival's Bill Myers as I watched bass
Al Baker's expressive face in this song! He must be practicing in the
mirror..."That's A Plenty For Me" was also a good solid hit, nice
vocals and blend throughout. I'd like to see these guys in the 20...


I liked the slow and stylized version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
which eventually takes off with a drive in the second half. I thought
this had some unique musicality to it, making a barbershop standard
new again. Neat! "You Are My Sunshine" really woke up the crowd with
more driving energy right to the tag. Yes!




I never know quite what to expect from these guys, they always 
seem to have a trick up their sleeve, at least that's the impression
I get when I see their energetic stride on stage and their "let me
at 'em!" attitude. They attacked the mics with "You're Nobody Till
Somebody Loves You" with a hot intro that grabbed me right away.
Not sure if it was pure adrenaline or what, but it did seem to get
a bit out of control toward the end, but they planted their feet and
belted out the tag with confidence and power. Their second song,
"Smooth Sailing," is, for me, a quintessential Wise Guys tune. Smooth
and light, chock full of energy and forward motion, I really like 
the way they do this one.


Oh man, oh man. This quartet has got gold medal written all over it.
Already building a strong fan base since they first won the college
quartet contest in Salt Lake City in 1996, these graduates of Lee
College (you'll remember them also from Monday's SING! A Cappella
Festival performance with the Voices of Lee) are the first College
Quartet champs to move on to compete with "the big boys" in 
international competition, and they left no doubt that they belong
here! Their every move, every nuance, every syllable, every gorgeous
chord, was planned and executed flawlessly. Their opening song,
"My Mother's Eyes" was reminiscent of the best of Rural Route Four
and the Harrington Brothers, blending exquisite voices in killer 
harmonies, the chords just washing over us. I have seen Four Voices
perform many times over the years but never this intense, this
focused. They coupled this wonderful ballad with a rocking "After
You've Gone" and clearly placed themselves in the top ten, maybe
even into the medals. The audience erupted with a standing ovation,
well deserved for this marvelous quartet. I can't wait to hear them


Wow, just when I started coming down from Four Voices' high, these
guys put me right back up there again with another super clean set,
"The Nearness Of You" and "Put Your Arms Around Me"...they have really
developed into a top foursome in the hunt for the gold, and it will
be great to see them battle for the top with Jake, Four Voices, and 
others. They were solid as a rock, definitely in the top ten, sounding
really good. 


The lead, Lee Sperry, sounded almost like a Mark Hale clone as he
crooned "Beautiful Dreamer" and "You Make Me Feel So Young," really
pretty, smooth and pleasant to listen to. I thought they had a nice
clean sound, but I think they needed more "oomph" on stage to really
pull it off at this level of competition. Nice job overall.


These guys came out from different points behind the curtain, sporting
bright yellow outfits and snappy hats with yellow feathers out the top.
They tried to fire up the stage with "This Joint Is Jumpin'" and 
"It Don't Mean A Thing," but they needed a lot more energy and drive
to pull it off, I think...I wanted to hear these at a faster tempo,
it just felt too controlled and careful. Give me the pizazz on these
great uptunes, and I'm sold!


This quartet has lots of International experience, and it showed 
on stage with "Someday Down In Carolin'" and "A Tree In The Meadow."
They did a nice job throughout, just seemed to lack that little 
"zing" that could propel them into the next round. Very respectable
job overall.

That was the end of the first quarter-final round! Many of us headed 
out to the great barbecue buffet dinner that was set up in the 
convention center next door, a perfect place to relax and eat without
having to hustle to find a restaurant. We had a couple of hours between
rounds, and could visit and relax and talk about the quartets we heard
and those yet to come. What a day! And we're only half done! The
second quarter final round is tonight at 7:15pm...

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