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2001 International Convention

Nashville, Tennessee
July 03-July 08, 2001

(Last Update: 07/22/00)

Quartet Contest, Final Round
Saturday, 07/07/01

Well, here it is over two weeks since International, and I'm just 
getting around to writing down what I can recall from the quartet finals
round in Nashville. It's old news by now, as many of you heard the web
casts and have already seen the results, so I won't go into all that.

It had already been a fantastic convention all week, and it seemed
like the afternoon's amazing chorus contest simply could not be topped
for excitement, excellent singing and just thrilling performances. The
arena was still buzzing with the excitement of Northbrook's historic
win, and we were all just giddy at the thought of even more great 
barbershop with the evening's final quartet round. At this point there
seemed to be a couple of key competitors. Michigan Jake had two 
excellent sets, and was certainly gunning for the gold medal if not a 
repeat silver, and many people had them in the front going into the 
finals. I had been personally blown away by Four Voices, and was 
playing in my mind the bedlam that might ensue if they should shock
everyone and walk away with the top prize. But then when I looked at
the rest of the lineup, and saw Power Play closing in, as well as 
Uptown Sound, and Riptide, BSQ, Gotcha!, Excalibur, Saturday Evening
Post and Metropolis, it all came apart in my mind...this contest could
go anywhere! There were so many good performances that deserved to be 
rewarded, it just made me glad I was not a judge and had to face the
dicey task of picking one over the other.

Dr. Greg Lyne led us all in singing both the Canadian and American
national anthems, and we were treated to a stunning replay of the
championship chorus set by Northbrook's New Tradition chorus, who 
then accepted the trophy from the outgoing Vocal Majority, with 
some warm words of praise from Jim Clancy. This was followed with
another tribute to the Schmitt Brothers' 50th anniversary, with the
whole Schmitt clan forming a chorus on the stage risers and singing 
together. How neat! 

Flipside was the mic tester for the evening, and then Metropolis
kicked off the final contes session with a great set, "If You Love
Me, Really Love Me" and "Wild Wild Women." The let it all out on 
stage, and their high energy set and big stage moves went over well.

BSQ had some nice rhyhtm touches in "Nice Work If You Can Get It,"
and bass Al Mazzoni still had a few goofy arm waves left over that
cracked us up. "If I Ruled The World" was controlled and beautiful,
building nice to a great tag and a strong solid set.

Saturday Evening Post took one of last year's mic testing songs to
the finals round this time, "Saturday Night Is The Lonliest Night
Of The Week," pairing that with "Sweet Lorraine" in a nice finals
shot. It's good to see them up there, and Brian Beck sounded as 
good as ever...well ok, as good as the other three guys! Love ya,
mean it!

I held my breath as our boys from Dixie (I still can't believe 
we've got TWO Dixie quartets in the top ten!), Four Voices, hit
the stage for the third time, offering a well-done if not side-
splitting "Make 'Em Laugh" along with a neat "Carolina Mammy"
medley. I am just so impressed with these young men, who have
climbed so far so fast in the past 5 years. They certainly
earned their medals this year, and we can only hope they'll be
back even stronger next year to run for the gold.

Michigan Jake was next up, and sang their strongest set yet,
"Look Me Up When You're In Dixie," and "Piano Roll Blues,"
scoring an average 91.2%, possibly their highest score ever.
They were so confident up there, and every move and chord
stated, "We are the Champs and we're here to let you know it!"
The crowd was ecstatic with their performance, and the applause
and cheers were loud and long. Awesome! after this set I knew 
they had all but sewn it up. 

Uptown Sound was really strong though, singing "Here To Stay"
and "How Deep Is The Ocean," reminding us that there were still
some big guns in this contest and that it wasn't over yet! I
really enjoy this quartet, watching them really solidify over
the years into a mature and professional sounding group. Here's
where my "judging" ability goes haywire, since I want to put them
in the medals but I can't figure out where they should go! It is
just too tough to call at this point. They are all SOOO good.

Riptide (yayy Dixie!) is another case in point. They also have
such a clean polished sound and presence, they could easily take
a medal, but it's just so hard to predict where they'll be in this
tough set of finalists. They sang "Apple Blossom Time" and
"For All We Know" and I joined the arena crowd as we collectively
shook our heads at yet another marvelous package, unable to tell
who was going to finish where. And there's still three more to go!

Gotcha! really got us with their third set, "What More Can A 
Soldier Give" and a totally cooooool "Royal Garden Blues," the
latter a repeat from last year's semi-final round (they scored
4 more points this year on it!) and were just awesome as usual.

Excalibur also repeated a song from last year, "You Made Me Love 
You," and added a wonderful "I Love Jazz" medley and gave us yet
another demonstration of their amazing finesse and talent. How 
these guys come back year after year with such goo and varied stuff
is a wonder. I love it!

Rounding out the top ten was last year's fifth place medalists, 
Power Play, and they opened with the by now familiar "I've Been
Working On The Railroad" medley that seemed to have been the song
of the convention. They closed with "The Sunshine Of Your Smile"
and I gotta tell you, no one does a ballad better than Mike Slamka.
His style and interpretive nuances bring a song alive in a wonderful
way, and his voice just has that pure quality and tone that is such
a pleasure to listen to. The rest of the quartet absolutely shines
around him, and the result as a whole is just really special.

We all had to take a breather after this intense final round, and
many folks around me were busy predicting the outcome, throwing 
various names about and comparing notes. I was thinking about 
heading out toward the door to hear the final results and then
get out o the arena before the crowd broke, and then realized that
I had been sitting in on all of the events and had never had the 
chance to listen in via the webcast. So I grabbed my stuff and 
zipped back to the hotel across the street, and got back to the
room in time to fire up the computer and tune in the webcast from
my hotel room. As it came on I heard PLATINUM's bass Kevin Miles 
talking about the year they've had as 2000 Champs, and then listened
as they wrapped up their swan song set. I was really impressed with
the sound quality of the web cast itself, it was clear and full
and really sounded fine. I sat and listened as the final results
were announced, scribbling them down in the convention program
on the desk, then immediately switched over to the Harmonet yahoo
group to see if the scores were posted. I looked once and they
had not yet appeared, but when I hit "refresh" the note came up
just as predicted...another truly excellent job by Scott Hoge
and his backstage crew to collect the scores from the judges' 
laptops and hit the "send" button the instant the results were
announced. Folks back home had score sheets before people in the 
audience had even left the arena! Amazing. But the printed score 
sheets were also fast in coming to the crowds gathered in the
convention hotels, another fantastic job and attention to detail
by the Nashville convention team. 

Personally I was extremely satisfied with the convention and the
contest score results. What a convention! We saw some absolutely
stunning performances, heard some incredible singing, saw some 
simply excellent shows during the week, and celebrated the joy
of barbershop harmony all over again. 

Some have said they might not even bother to go to International
now that they can sit there in their homes and listen to the 
webcasts on the internet. Some told me later that they had a 
much better "seat" than they have had in the past at conventions,
where they couldn't see or hear the performers adequately. Will
the proliferation of webcasts actually undermine the attendance
of future conventions? I certainly hope not! For those of us who
were there in person, we saw so much more than the webcasts could
possibly convey. The thrill of being there to watch Northbrook
finally win the gold, to see Michigan Jake plow their way thru
the opposition and take the well-earned gold medals, to enjoy
the excellent World Harmony Jamboree and AIC shows, to cheer on
the College quartets and take in all the fun outside the arenas
and the Nashville downtown area, really made this convention one
of the best ever. 

Next year we do it all again in Portland, Oregon. The Masters of 
Harmony will likely be returning to defend their championship, and
you can bet the Alexandria Harmonizers are going to gear up once
again to regain the coveted gold once more...those fabulous upstarts
from Toronto, The Northern Lights, will hopefully be back in the 
mix as well...and of course, Northbrook will be returning to hand
off the trophy, so we'll see them once again. Already it looks like
it will be a killer of a chorus contest once again! And then the
quartets just keep on coming. Will it be Uptown Sound's year in 
2002? Or will Four Voices come back a bit older, wiser, and even
more amazing? Riptide, Power Play, and the others will hopefully
return and add to the thrill. The webcasts were great, but you
really need to be there to experience it for yourself. Make plans
now! I've already got my ticket!

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