After a great barbecue dinner with fellow chapter members in the convention center, I headed back to the Gaylord Entertainment Center for the second half of the quarter final round. This is really a great area of downtown for the International convention, with the large hotels right near by and lots of places to eat along Broadway as well as inside the arena building. Things got started on time, with Southern Cross (AAMBS) singing the Australian National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair," and the New Zealand representatives, Phoenix Rising, singing their anthem, "God Defend New Zealand." Our 1998 Quartet Champions, Revival, came out to do the mic testing, and did their usual great job on "Sugar Cane Jubilee" and "Where The Southern Roses Grow." This time there were no problems with the mics, and we were underway! 27) THE BAY RUM RUNNERS (MAD) This quartet always looks elegant and classy. Their crisp black tuxes fit well and they looked like pro's as they opened this round with "That Old Feeling." Like Tulsa Tradition, these guys have been on the International stage many times before, so they knew what they had to do to score well, and they did the job. Clean, energetic, non-stop sound. Great! "I'm Beginning To See The Light" was next, and it was fine too, should be enough to get them to the next round. 28) SOLD OUT (EVG) I was thinking, "Holy cow, where did these guys come from?" as I jotted down their song titles as they sang. I really liked their version of "When It Comes To Loving The Girls" and "South." They have a really good sound and I sure hope they continue on! 29) SIBLING RIVALRY (CSD) Though I felt a good command of the rhythm and tempo during "I Found A Million Dollar Baby," it seemed a little ragged in spots, overall it seemed too loud (again, this seemed to prevail throughout the rounds, at least to my ears) and it needed more soft dynamic on places. A cute song, nonetheless. On "That's An Irish Lullaby," the mic seemed to pick up too much bari, and again, I sensed an abundance of "muscle" in the tone quality. This is a lullaby, and should be sung with softness and tenderness. We don't need every song belted to the back wall. 30) POWER PLAY (PIO) Now...HERE is a quartet that knows a thing or two about dynamics and interpreting a song. They were consummate professionals out there, in total control, smooth and clean throughout. They sang "Mr. Jefferson Lord, Play That Barbershop Chord" and "Lucky To Be Loving You" (or was that "Time After Time? I am not getting these song titles right...), and man, they just had the audience in the palm of their hand. Such finesse. Oh, umm...did I mention that they were just on our chapter show a few weeks ago? I really like these guys!
31) RUMORS (JAD) WEELLLLLLL...we were all wondering what Rumors was going to have up its sleeve this time. You may recall in Kansas City last year how they created a stir by singing a parody of "Please Mister Columbus," attacking the judging community for allowing the style to go too far afield, as evidenced by the rewarding of Northbrook's controversial "Les Miz" package in the previous year's chorus contest. They called for the Music Category to "turn this ship around" and get the barbershop community to sing more traditionally styled and arranged songs. Afterward they took a lot of heat for their stand, and so it was a wonderful sight to see first a white flag of surrender poke out from behind the curtain, followed by them appearing on stage, their outfits torn, bloodied and filthy, their faces made up like they'd just barely escaped with their lives from a furious battle. They also carried a flag reminiscent of the French flag carried by the Northbrook chorus. Staggering to the microphones in mock pain, they struggled to even take the pitch, but gathered their strength and began, again to the tune of the verse in "Please Mr. Columbus", "In fourteen-hundred ninety-nine plus one we sang this song..." and they branched into another parody of "Forgive Me," begging the judges, the Society, everyone, for forgiveness for causing such an uproar. They offered apologies and kissed up to Northbrook with signs that said, "Hey, Northbrook, we'll sing for beer" (but the word "beer" was crossed out and replaced with "free"), and "We Love Jay" (the "love" was actually a heart)...the big laugh came when they unfurled the flag they were carrying to reveal the words "We feel Les Miserables" and they sank to their knees in abject humility and contrition. After much laughter and applause, they changed attitudes and pulled out mock copies of the Society's quarterly magazine, "The Harmonizer," and began singing about some incredible turns of events in the barbershop world, such as the Society dues being lowered to a mere $7 annually, or news that ACOUSTIX actually sang a barbershop song, or that the Vocal Majority had gotten disqualified in contest, and that the Harmonizer actually arrived on time...then the chorus, "Hell Froze Over Yesterday," delivered the stinging punch line again, as they revealed that no, they really weren't sorry for what they'd done, and that they were sticking to their guns. It was a funny and clever set, and probably cost them a slot in the semi-finals! Oh well. You can't fight city hall (or is that Harmony Hall?)... 32) ENDEAVOR (SUN) This is Sean Milligan's newest foursome, and it's good to see his smiling face and great lead voice back in it again. They opened with the beautiful "Moonlight Becomes You," singing very nicely throughout, and treating it with tender care. I also liked "Jazz Baby" and thought they had a great shot. I was sure they'd make it to the semi's...later in the evening, when their name was called for the top 20, one of their significant others was seated in front of me and let out a big sigh of relief. I just smiled and thought, How could you doubt it? They were great!" 33) THE SENSATIONS (CAR) I had not heard this quartet before, and after the Cardinal District prelims the word from the District was "oh boy, wait till you hear this new quartet!" Featuring past gold medalists Ken Hatton and Jay Hawkins, it was a good bet that they were going to be hot. They came out in stylish black tuxes with yellow carnations in the lapels, and began "Embraceable You." Something didn't click with me, and it took me a while to sense that they were just too heavy-handed with this song. I wanted to hear a loving, beckoning call to come into his arms, but the attitude I got was, "Get over here and hug me, NOW!" It was just too commanding an attitude, I thought. Still, it sounded good, and I like their voices together. The second song, "I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo" was more fitting, I think. They did a really good job with the rhythm and vocal expression, and I liked their dynamics and command of the song throughout. I think they're still good enough to make the cut. 34) AUTOGRAPH (SUN) "How Deep Is The Ocean" was pretty solid throughout, a nice clean presentation, though I sensed a couple of minor vocal quirks between blending voices, most likely a minor one-time execution error. They sang "They Go Wild, Simply Wild, Over Me" was also good, but they just didn't wow the crowd like they need to in order to advance. 35) JAMBALAYA (SNOBS) This is, I think, the fourth year that Jambalaya has competed at International, and it's always good to see them in the line-up. Their opening song, "The Key To Success With The Beautiful Girls" was one I'd heard many times, and it was, as usual, chock full of fun and crazy antics. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" was a good number as well, I'm just not sure if it's enough to make the cut. 36) CHEERS (ILL) I was delighted to see this new quartet with Chuck Sisson (Lead, Chiefs of Staff '88) back in the saddle again. He still has a huge voice, and the other three have to work hard to keep up, but they did a great job overall, with "That's Life" and "If You Love Me, Really Love Me." I have them in the semi's no problem. 37) SATURDAY EVENING POST (RMD) The lead, tenor, and bari came out one by one, as Allen Gasper started the first song alone on stage. The tenor strolled in and joined him on a short duet, and the bari chimed in a few measures later...they looked for the bass to enter on cue but he didn't show, and they repeated the cue, looking frantically off stage for him to appear...then we all got a shock as bass Brian Beck appeared from the opposite direction in full Star Wars costume as...Yoda! He wore a long flowing robe and had the full bright green Yoda head with ears and bright green face. This was Brian's answer to the nickname given to him by FRED in one of their contest songs (in which they were making fun of the other quartets in the contest). They sang the praises of their wonderful space friend and top bass, as they sang "Yoda, He's Got a Gold-a" with Yoda adding some typical Yoda phrases...They followed this with "Let The Rest Of The WORLDS Go By" gesturing to outer space and doing a really fine job overall. 38) BY POPULAR DEMAND (ILL) They sang "I'll Try To Forget You In Vain" and "Pal Of My Cradle Days" and did a nice job, but it was a little rough in spots and not enough to move ahead. Hopefully they'll be back again! 39) RAISE THE ROOF (SUN) Their songs, "If We Can't Be The Same Old Sweethearts" and "Oh! You Beautiful Doll" were nice, but just not up there with the rest of the pack. I have to emphasize that ALL of the quartets who make it to International are GOOD quartets, or they wouldn't be here to begin with. It's just that at this level of competition it's the smallest things that often mean the difference between making the cut and not. 40) OVERTURE (DIX) The second of three quartets from the host Dixie District to appear on stage, Overture strode out in confidence to loud hometown crowd applause, and charmed us with "Song Of The South." The climax at "singing a song" as they went into the spread was awesome! They then started with a serious-sounding second song, singing about the wonder of love, but suddenly turned away from the mics and shed their tuxedoes to reveal grungy T-shirts, tattooed arms, baseball caps askew and grotesque false teeth, transforming themselves into stereotypical rednecks to continue singing about love their own way, in "I Love Y'all"...they have done this bit a few times in the past and they've really got it down to a science, and the crowd loved it. Good going guys! We love y'all too! 41) NORTHEAST CONNECTION (NED) They did a nice job on "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You," a nice arrangement I hadn't heard before. I also liked their medley of "It's You" coupled with "My Romance" but thought it was a bit long. I kept anticipating the tag but they kept going. 42) DESTINY (SLD) They sang the "Railroad" medley ("I've Been Working On the Railroad" and "I'm a Railroad Man"), the second time I'd heard this unique arrangement in contest. Not bad, but uninspired. "How Deep Is The Ocean" was good, but again, in this environment they need more to hang with the big boys. 43) FINALE (FWD) "When It's Night Time In Dixieland / Dixieland One-Step" medley was rocking, with great Dixieland jazz band stuff, good rhythms and good tempo and control. "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody" was great too, with a different interp than I've heard before, very interesting. Both songs started out slow and controlled and built to big rousing finishes. Great hit! I think we'll hear them again. 44) FLIPSIDE (EVG) Solid energy and drive sold me on this set, "Make 'Em Laugh" and "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song." By this time I could tell from the audience response if a quartet had that certain "zing" or not. If not, they responed with cordial but polite applause. If it was there, you'd hear a roar build up and enthusiastic response. These guys "had it!" Definitely in the top 20! Really good job. 45) STUDIO ONE (EVG) The sang "Side By Side" and "Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair" and did an adequate job thoughout, but not enough to make it. Hope to hear them again in the future! 46) ROAD SHOW (NED) I like the drive and forward energy in "1927" but in "Bye Bye Blues" I felt the tenor got out of control and was too loud, and the tag semed too elaborate, something I've noticed in many of the songs this year. Does the Music category reward extended tags that seem to go on and on, or should the song just end when it's supposed to? I'm no judge so I don't know...I just know what I like. 47) EXCALIBUR (LOL) I've always liked this quartet, and they've always tended to sing complex stuff. Long time bari Greg Volk has been replaced by Brent Graham, and they moved bass John Korby to the outside in this new shuffle. They sounded just as terrific as always, and Brent seemed perfectly comfortable in Greg's shoes as they caressed "Young and Foolish." I didn't get the name of the second song, I was caught up in the moment, just listening to them...it was so smooth from lead Greg Dolphin's cool intro throughout the song. Nice! 48) BREAKPOINT (LOL) Hmm, ok who is the arranger responsible for this new "Railroad Medley" that everyone is singing? This is the third time this song appeared in this round, so the quartets must really like it. These guys did a good job on it, along with "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen." I remember this wonderful old time barbershop classic as a tender ballad. Did they really need to add that big loud tag? 49) THE CHASE (CAR) "Moonlight Becomes You" was ok, but a bit plodding, and I thought the chorus was too loud (I'm complaining a lot about the sound on a lot of songs...maybe it's just from where I'm sitting? I dunno). I liked "Naughty Angeline" though, had some nice musical interest. 50) APPLAUSE! (FWD) Fraser Brown's (relatively) new foursome treated "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" masterfully, and "That's My Weakness Now" as a standard "Standing Room Only" Fraser special. Great! 51) FLASHPOINT (EVG) "I'll Be Seeing You" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" was nice throughout, putting them somewhere in the middle of the pack. 52) RIPTIDE (DIX) Riptide had been moved from their third place slot in the previous round to the very end of the contest as lead Tim Reynolds had to dash back to Atlanta to see his wife and his new triplet boys, born Tuesday afternoon. A quick visit to be with mom and the new future quartet (some are dubbing them the "Rip-lets") and back on the plane, and Tim was in fine form as they came out to wild applause, in part due to their extensive fan base, and in part congratulating Tim on his new boys and thanking him for making the effort to be back with us. It was well worth the wait as they cruised through "I'll Try To Forget You In Vain." When they started "For Me And My Gal" we looked to Tim's smile as he reflected on this being his "lucky day"... later when they got to the chorus, "...I'm gonna build a home two..." they looked at tenor Eric King, whose wife recently had twins, "...for three or four..." they looked in at Tim, who just smirked and shrugged, then over at bari Rich Lewellen on "...or MORE..." and Rich just frantically waved his hands and shook his head NOOOO! Funny. It was a great way to end the round and close out the contest session. We all waited a few minutes for the scores to be tallied and they announced the order of appearance for the Semi-final round: Mic Tester: Common Ground 1) Cheers 2) Power Play 3) Heyday 4) Four Voices 5) Riptide 6) The Sensations 7) 3 Men And A Melody 8) Applause! 9) BSQ 10) Overture 11) Saturday Evening Post 12) Metropolis 13) Michigan Jake 14) Endeavor 15) Bay Rum Runners 16) Excalibur 17) Flipside 18) Finale 19) Uptown Sound 20) Gotcha!
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