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63rd International Convention

Harmonet Reports

SING! A CAPPELLA Show, Monday Night

This was the third and final show in the Sing! A Cappella Festival
series, and everyone was looking forward to it with great 
anticipation. With two fabulous shows already under their belts,
this crowd was ready for yet another. 

Dave LaBar served as Master of Ceremonies, and, responding to the 
joke by MC Roger Lewis on Sunday night, where he mentioned that 
to save expenses all of the MC's were sharing the same rented tux,
Dave came on stage with the pants legs rolled up above the calf,
vest hiked up around his massive chest, jacket sleeves shoved half-
way up his forearms, giving the distinct impression that his outfit
was rather ill-fitting! He just stood there for a moment as the 
crowd recalled the joke and howled and applauded, then Dave stepped
to the mic and declared, "This sharing the same tux has got to go!"
He later shook out the pants cuffs and straightened himself out to
the delight of the audience, and we were on our way!


Last year's 6th place International Finalists from Dixie District
opened the mostly barbershop-oriented show in their trademark blue
tuxes, with lead Tim Reynolds smoothly delivering "Blue Skies" with
a 2-minute long post (ok it was maybe a minute) at the tag. It 
always works as they go into that final chord transition and Tim 
is STILL hanging on effortlessly, that the audience reacts with 
an "Oh My!!" and then erupts in wild applause as the quartet just
smiles thankfully and thinks, yeah, we could have held it a lot 
longer...Then to show that it wasn't a fluke, they followed it 
with "M-A-Double-M-Y," this time with tenor Eric King posting the
3 minute 47 second long tag (ok, I gotta get this watch fixed)
and bringing another whoop from the audience. 

Bass Jeff Solano charmed us with the old joke of dreaming about
going to heaven and seeing the other quartet members arm in arm
for all eternity with ugly women (as their pennance for "just
barely making it into heaven"), then seeing tenor Eric linked 
with Bo Derek ("well you see, Bo Derek just barely made it into
heaven...") and then they captivated us all with "Let The Rest
Of The World Go By," a totally wonderful ballad. Jeff stepped
forward again and offered a humorous poem about "reincarnation"
where-in the subject, upon his death, is buried and begins his
magical over the grave a flower grows, only to
be eventually eaten by a passing horse, which uses the flower
(which once was you) along with other grains and such, digesting
most of it and passing out that which the horse can no longer use.
This thing (which once was you) lays there on the ground, and 
when the poet comes upon this object, he'll think of you and 
consider the wonders of reincarnation, and think that, all in
all, you haven't changed that much!

A rousing medley of "Fit As A Fiddle" and "For Me And My Gal"
got us going next, and they closed their great set with a 
remembrance of Lou Perry and an almost reverent "For All We Know."


The 1996 Harmony, Inc. Champions were on next, introduced by
MC Dave LaBar as consisting of a mother, her two daughters and 
her best friend. When these four beautiful ladies hit the stage 
in sparkling bright red floor length dresses and sporting their
championship crowns, it was hard to tell who was the mom and 
who were the daughters! They opened with "Birth Of The Blues,"
perfect for this land of jazz and blues, and finished on a soft
low tag that was just sweet. Bass Katie Taylor quizzed the 
audience and had them guess who was who (Tenor Lorie Autote and
Katie are the daughters of Mary Ann Wert, the baritone, with 
lead Laurie Shepherd, Mary Ann's long time singing bud, rounding
out the foursome.

They followed with a bouncy "I Feel a Lot Better When I Sing"
and then shushed us all as they caressed our ears with "This 
Little Piggy," gathering close over an imaginary baby's crib
and tucking us all in for the night...mmmm! The lights went 
dark at the close of the tag, completing the moment. Beautiful!
They planted their feet and sang a stirring "This Is The Moment"
and closed their set with the fun "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby" from 
Forever Plaid, which was good but I thought a bit too careful 
and slowly delivered...I would have loved to see them hit it with
a high energy close, but that's just me, I guess. The audience 
sure loved it all!


The Voices of Lee is a 15-member chorus from Lee University,
nestled in the eastern side of Tennessee between Knoxville and 
Chattanooga, in the town of Cleveland. Directed by Danny Murray,
the seven females and eight males formed two rows on the stage
and instantly filled the hall with a huge rich sound as they 
opened with "This Land Is Your Land" and stunned the audience
with their rich smooth clear blend of excellent young voices.
Several step-out soloists sang clear and pure, and director
Murray stayed off to the side a bit, crisply directing every
nuance to perfection. Amazing!

"Wonderful Invention of Love" was a gorgeous song, you just 
had to be hear to hear it...I can't describe the intricate 
harmony and blend of male and female voices. "There Is a Fountain"
featured a nice male bass solo, and we thought we'd all died
and gone to heaven when the director introduced Four Voices,
the '96 collegiate quartet champions (and currently one of Dixie
District's representatives in the International Quartet Contest)
as a surprise addition to the group. Tenor Lester Rector was
the star soloist as the quartet joined the Voices of Lee in
a stunning, show-stopping "All Rise." The crowd exploded in a 
standing ovation or these extremely talented young singers. Wow!


Rounding out the first half was the Big Chicken Chorus from
Marietta, Georgia, under the direction of Clay "FRED" Hines.
The curtain rose on some 90+ singers packed onto the risers,
and these wacky guys opened with "This Is My Lucky Day," 
proceeding to immediately screw it all up with wild and
sometimes hazardous physical of their step-out MC
men promptly tripped and fell on his way to the mic, then
leaped up in an attempt to recover, only to become entangled
in his tux coat. He managed to wrestle it into submission but
as he grabbed his set of cue cards from an inside pocket they
exploded out of his hands as a loud chord from the chorus 
startled him, sending them raining randomly to the ground...
this was not HIS lucky day!

The chorus continued this "tribute to screwing things up"
with a "mangled montage" of wild singing and crazy footwork,
falling all over themselves as they try unsuccessfully to
blend singing and movement in "Ain't She Sweet"...the front
row and most of the chorus ended up in a heap on the floor 
at some point..."Old McDonald Had a Band" was a cute farm
number, and they finally allowed us to cach our breath with
a straight rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." This
led straight into their "Wizard of Oz" routine, with Drayton
Justice appearing on stage as "Dorothy" complete with brown
pigtail braids, a cute blue and white dress, sparkling red
shoes...and a full beard! The chorus re-enacted the basic 
plot of the famous movie, as the Big Chickens whirled around
the stage in the tornado scene, coming upon Munchkin Land
and being greeted by members of the Lollipop Guild...Simple
goofy props and costume parts were slapped over their black
and gold tuxes and made it complete. Dorothy was joined by
the Scarecrow, singing a ditzy "If I Only Had a Brain," and
the Tin Man, whose outfit consisted of aluminum pie plates
strapped to his knees, aluminum oven baster pans on his feet,
a foil-wrapped funnel on his head, and a couple of oven roaster
pans strapped to his chest and back! Of course, the group was
joined by the "Cowardly Chicken" featuring the chorus' own
mascot in costume, and together they defeated the wicked witch,
successfully obtained their fondest desires (the scarecrow, 
upon receiving his brain, attempted to jam it in his head,
stuff it in his ear, etc...the tin man's cardboard cut-out heart
was slapped on his aluminum chest, but just fell to the stage
floor...the Cowardly Chicken received a gold medal and finally
got the courage to cross the road! All in all it was a wild 
ride to Kansas and back!

The Big Chickens closed the first half of the show with a 
stirring "American Trilogy" medley, that brought the crowd
to their feet one more time with wild applause, cheers and
shouts for more. 


MC Dave LaBar expressed perfectly how everyone has felt about
this wonderfully funny quartet in his introduction, reminding
us of how great we felt when FRED took the gold in Anaheim in
1999, and how miserable we've been since realizing they would
no longer be included in international competition. FRED has a 
loyal following that never tires of their insanity on stage, 
and this crowd was full of FRED-heads as they appeared once more
in their classic black tuxes, top hats, and groucho nose-eye
glasses. They brought back some of their classic routines they
have been entertaining with around the world, opening with 
"I've Got Rhythm," followed by "Fit As A Fiddle" and their
inventive and funny "Church Bells" bit. "Tiger Rag" and 
the off the wall version of "Coney Island Washboard Roundelay" 
(where-in tenor Pookie once more subjects himself to being 
soundly beaten about the head and body by the rest of the 
quartet)...if you haven't seen their craziness in person
there is little I ca do to further describe it. Just be sure
to get these guys on your next chapter show! Fabulous!


OK look...I am going to point you to
and ask you to go out there and check them out for yourselves.
Buy their CD's sit back and get ready for a vocal adventure
you will never forget. This group has been around for about
35 years, and has performed all over the world in what Dave
LaBar announced in his introduction as "swung baroque...and
you know what they say, if it ain't baroque...don't fix it!"
(insert groan here)

The ensemble consists of four male and four female voices,  
all exquisite, all amazing. They strode on stage and faced the 
back wall with their backs to us, and started out with the 
theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" in vocal instrumentals.
They moved into Mozart's Magic Flute Overture with incredible
smoothness, deftly maximizing their blend and sound with 
expert mic work. They had wonderfully simple yet engaging 
choreography, interacting with each other in small groups,
guys versus girls, or individually, always bringing the 
connection back to us with flawless, precise musicianship.
I was just blown away. I ended up just putting down my
pencil and experiencing them, uninterrupted. I can't recall
all the wonderful songs they sang, but I remember a moving
"September Song" and "Just One Of Those Things" and "All
The Things You Are" as they merged into a gorgeously romantic
set of love songs that made you want to grab onto the person
next to you and hug them...

They told us of a new CD they have out now, called "Ticket To Ride"
which is a tribute to the Beatles, and they gave us "a few tasters"
of the cuts on that work, including "Daytripper," "Yesterday,"
"Lady Madonna," and "Baby You Can Drive My Car." I was impressed
once again how the Beatles have proven time and again that their
music was ahead of its time, as it reaches and inspires so many
singers 30-40 years later. 

The Swingles concluded their marvelous package with a set of 
songs from the Broadway show, "My Fair Lady," including "I Could
Have Danced All Night" with a crystal clear soloist voice, "On
The Street Where You Live," "Show Me," and "I've Grown Accustomed
To Her Face." The audience roared their approval and demanded an
encore, which included a complicated and over-the-top "1812 Overture"
complete with vocalized cannon fire, intricate harmonies and 
instrumental mimickry that capped the evening and the entire 
A Cappella Festival for all of us. 

Everyone left the 4-hour marathon show wishing there was more,
and expressing the hope that the Society is able to help put 
together another stellar Sing! A Cappella Festival in the near
future. Thanks go to co-chairmen Tim Hanrahan and Gene Cokecroft
and their entire crew for making this happen. What a gift to music
lovers everywhere!

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