While I was working on the Sing! A Cappella report from Monday night, my family spent the morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum just a block away from the hotel. When they returned we all went out a couple of miles south to the Cumberland Science Museum, a two story building full of hands-on exhibits teaching and demonstrating scientific principals in creative ways. While the kids were off learning how to electrocute the cat and build nuclear devices out of household kitchen items, I wandered into the computer lab and sat at an Apple Imac, brought up the connection to the internet and displayed the SPEBSQSA.ORG web page...the Nashville Convention and Sing! logos were prominently displayed, and I heard one person behind me exclaim, "Oh look! They've got barbershop in here too!" I left it up there for others to see and wandered off... Anyway, after a couple of fun hours in the museum we hit a local grocery store for suplies and then had dinner at a Ruby Tuesday's before heading back downtown to the hotel in time to walk to the Renaissance Hotel for the Celebrate Youth Ice Cream Social...
My wife and daughter accompanied me to the Renaissance Hotel ballroom where a thousand or so barbershoppers had already gathered. We scanned the room for the ice cream dispensing area but all we saw were people lined up to get cookies and lemonade...! No ice cream at an ice cream social!! It's an outrage! :) Well anyway, the girls decided they'd rather go off and scout for some ice cream, so they left me at the ballroom, where I met up with fellow RTP Chapter member Bob Dickson and his wife Andi, and settled in to watch the fun. I was so psyched up for some ice cream though, that it bothered me until Gary Stamm started the proceedings and announced that they were unable to work out gettingthe ice cream, which had been donated by the hotels in the past, but which they were unable to work out this time. The Renaissance came back at the last minute though, and offered at least the cookies and drink, which we accepted gratefully. Soooo, it was a cookie social! We're flexible. Gary Stamm was frantically searching for MC Terry Aramian, but went ahead and introduced the first high school quartet, The Classics. They came out in navy colored shirts and white shorts, and opened with "It's Barbershop Harmony Time," grabbing the audience right away with their smooth horizontal flow of sound and good blend. They followed with "The Moment I Saw Your Eyes," and did a really good job, though the tenor was a bit undersupported at the tag... the bass boomed in as he took over the melody though, and they ended on a solid note. Good job! Terry Aramian appeared and took over the MC duties, introducing the Magic City Performing Arts for Children group from Birmingham, Alabama. Under the direction of John Butler, a long time Dixie District quartet man, MCPAC gets kids involved in the arts and in working as part of a team in staging a full-scale musical production. It's a great way to get kids involved in all aspects of music, art and drama. A group of scrubbed youngsters assembled on stage and presented a brief sample of some of the musical productions they have produced in the past. Simple costumes and easily sung lyrics and harmonies brought to life "The Wind In The Willow" with the song "The Life Adventurous." A crafty Tom Sawyer also appeared in a number called "Paintin' The Fence" capturing that part of Mark Twain's classic tale wherein the sly Tom convinces the neighborhood kids that there's nothing better to do on a sunny Saturday than paint the fence, eventually getting them to do his work! The thirteen voices blended well together, and the fresh shining faces and bright smiles made it so much more fun to watch and hear. They deftly switched into a cute song featuring Tom's school teacher and a fun songgoing up and down the scales while they all learned their ABC's. In "Robin Hood" the famous archer meets up with childhood friend Maid Marion and together they sing "We Lead A Merry Life." Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" included the always late rabbit and the Cheshire Cat swinging his tail, and finally, the classic story of "The Wizard Of Oz" was once again remembered with versions of "In The Merry Old Land Of Oz" and "SomeWhere Over The Rainbow". From Michigan State and Bowling Green, SEGUE was next, and they wore white golf shirts with khaki shorts...they opened with "I Used To Call Her Baby" which started off ok, but then just got better as they got more comfortable. Their bass voice is remarkable! Good strong, resonant vocals there! They showed some really good control as they gradually increased the tempo to the punch line at the tag...go tenor! Nice job throughout. Their second song, "What'll I Do?" was really nice, with strong connecting phrases and good interp. A strong finish made the crowd go "Woahhh!" as they thundered their applause. Bill Rashleigh came up next to take care of the audience participation part, breaking the audience into three groups and had us sing his version of "Way Down Upon The Swanee River" complete with a chi-chi-chi section and a "BOOM!" section that quickly got out of hand by the end and had us all laughing wildly. I hadn't recovered enough to get the name of the next quartet but they came on with blue short sleeve shirts and khaki shorts and sandals and opened with "Silhouette" and paired it with "Hello Mary Lou"...their short hair was stuck up in front and their shirt collars were turned up to give them a bit of a 50's "bad boy" look...nice effect! At this point I decided to check out the Senate-Aires party that was going on at the same time, so I took off...
I walked from the ballroom at the Renaissance to the convention center connected next door, and followed the signs down the escalators to the huge cavernous east wing of the convention center basement, where the Senate-Aires had set up nearly 2000 chairs and tables for their huge kickoff party and rally in memory of Larry Ajer. A cash bar was set up both outside and inside the huge room, and they were accepting donations (suggested $5) at the door to help defray costs. I got a drink and headed inside, and noticed the large raised platform stage set up toward the middle of the huge rectangular room. Some 1500+ people were already there enjoying the parade of quartets and choruses that were lined up to entertain. I caught Saturday Evening Post as they did their set from "Les Miserables" and though they sang well, I couldn't hear them too well due to the reverberation off the concrete walls, the constant "whoosh" of the massive air conditioning units above, and the constant low rumble of talk going on among the audience, who treated it like a coffee house. I even saw hotel workers pushing wheeled carts down the main aisles right in the middle of a performance, seemingly oblivious to the performers on stage. Southern Cross, a quartet from Australia, did a good job with "The Masquerade Is Over" and were well received. Toronto Northern Lights was super smooth and together on "It Had To Be You," but the softer parts of the song were completely lost in the ambient noise. I could hear some really nice sound coming off the stage, I just couldn't understand what they were singing. Oh well...can't wait to hear them Saturday! They also did a good job on "Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out", with good vocal unity and richness throughout. The highlight of the evening for me was the appearance of the Russian boys' quartet, The Nightengales. These boys are going to be the hit of the convention! They are 9-10 years old, and they hit the stage like miniature pro's, dressed in their crisp spotless Russian outfits and singing with enthusiasm and great harmony. They opened with a Russian song (I have no idea what they were singing but it didn't matter, they captivated the audience anyway). But then they followed the huge applause with "Yes Sir That's My Baby" in English, and full choreography...needless to say the audience went nuts. Greg Lyne took the stage and introduced the boys one by one, who each stepped forward and smartly bowed at the waist as their name was called. Dr. Lyne also introduced their coach, and then signaled the boys for one more song...they stepped up and delighted us all with "Side By Side" and once more got a thunderous standing ovation. They are absolutely adorable, and you'll hear more about them later. There was no point trying to follow that act (you know the rule about dogs and children acts) so they wisely plugged in a short intermission here, and folks milled about talking and drinking and relaxing. I tried moving to a different location near a speaker, and later found that helped some. I stayed to hear a few more groups, including the quartet Flipside, and a mixed quartet that sang some neat songs from the 40's, and the host chorus, the Salem Senate-Aires, who filled the risers and did several nice numbers, including one song with Kim Ajer singing solo in tribute to all these great guys who have been such good friends to her over the years. I listened to a few others, but had put away the notebook by then, and just relaxed and enjoyed the atmosphere. Out in the hallway clusters of singers were gathered in various corners, belting tags and making new friends. I wandered a bit through the hotel lobby, which was filling with more folks left over from the Ice Cream Social, and finally headed out the door for the Hilton and bed.
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