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Annie Mac Notes from Seattle – Friday Oct 15

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  • themcalexanders
    I started keeping a journal of sorts years ago when we first started taking our kids to the men s internationals. Although I wrote them mostly so that the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1 9:13 AM
      I started keeping a journal of sorts years ago when we first started taking our kids to the men's internationals. Although I wrote them mostly so that the kids could go back and read about their adventures when they were older, I've also posted some of them to the Harmonet. I try to include a lot of detail so that if you weren't able to go (or in the case of my kids when I started doing this, you were too little to remember), you can kind of picture what it was like to be there.

      Although this trip to Seattle for the SAI international convention wasn't a family vacation, it was the first time that Maggie (my 14 year old daughter) competed on the international stage, I thought it'd be fun to keep some notes this time, too, so she can go back and read about it in a few years.

      When I mentioned I was going to do this, Marti Lovejoy asked me to also share this with the SING list, so I'll post these to both SING and the Harmonet. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. If you want to add to or correct anything I've said, feel free to jump in. The more, the merrier! And if you want to republish any of it in a chapter newsletter, that's fine with me. Just credit me as the author so people know it's my opinion and not an official article. Thanks!


      I've been a Sweet Adeline for almost 30 years, and have been married to a barbershopper for over 20 years, so my kids really had no choice – They were destined to spend the bulk of their family vacations in a darkened hall, listening to barbershop music for hours on end. Luckily for us (and them), they both seem to be as into it as we are.

      With Patrick (now 16 and an active barbershopper since he was seven), his interest seemed to start in utero when I noticed that he'd kick any time a quartet hit a bad chord at the district convention about six weeks before he was born, and he'd be completely silent when the best quartets were singing, even if they were loud enough to peel the paint.

      For Maggie, the attraction came a little slower. She'd tolerate the conventions – She loved hearing a song or two close up from a good quartet while we were hanging around at headquarters, but during the contests she usually preferred the noisy freedom of the Barbertots room, or else she ended up toppled over sideways onto my lap, sound asleep, after the first few groups.

      So when my chorus (after three appearances in the first six years after Sweet Adelines starting having wild card choruses) finally won our first ever regional championship in our 53-year history, imagine my surprise when Maggie walked up to me at our celebration dinner that night, looked me seriously in the eye, and said, "Mom, I think I want to join the chorus. I want to go to Seattle." I almost fell over! Then I collected myself, grabbed her hand, walked her over to Bev (Miller, one of our co-directors), and said, "Bev, Maggie wants to join the chorus. She wants to go to Seattle." Bev looked at both of us in her calm way and said, "We'd love to have her … … … If she can sing." Luckily she can, and thus began Maggie's barbershop "career."

      Maggie has been to several previous Sweet Adelines internationals as a spectator, and she was always pretty unhappy with me when she'd see the Family Chorus singing at the end of the chorus finals and we weren't up there with them. The first time she went (2000), I hadn't understood that any female family members were welcome to sing, not just SAI members. But she was only four at the time, so it hadn't even been on my radar to find out. The two times she went after that (2002 and 2004), I'd been well-intentioned, but had forgotten to sign up early, and by the time I inquired the chorus was full. This year I forgot all about it until sometime in late August. Luckily there was still room available, so we added this performance and two rehearsals (and learning the music and shopping for yellow tops ahead of time) to our already-busy schedule.

      And, so as not to leave any stone unturned, Maggie was also VERY interested in attending the Young Women in Harmony festival that was held in Seattle the weekend before the convention. She'd been to the Cardinal District (BHS) Harmony Explosion Camp this past summer, and after this great experience she wanted to jump into the barbershop youth movement lock, stock, and barrel. So we signed her up for the Young Women's festival, too, and made our plans to head to Seattle the Friday before the convention.

      As a result, while I just had to learn eight songs for Seattle (two for the semifinals, four for our performance package, and two for the family chorus), Maggie had to learn eleven. But she threw herself into it all with eager anticipation.

      And after what seemed like eons – eighteen months of preparation – it was finally time to leave for Seattle. The big week had arrived!

      As is my usual practice before going out of town, I didn't plan ahead very well, other than making the necessary pre-arrangements (rental car, hotel for our first few days, registering for the YWIH workshop and Family Chorus). I read on Facebook that a lot of my friends were starting to pack as far out as two weeks ahead of time. Two weeks? Riiiiiiiiight. Not this girl! We were leaving at 7am on Friday morning, so I went to chorus rehearsal on Thursday night, came home and watched the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy that had recorded on the DVR an hour earlier, and started packing about 11pm. Sleep? Nah – waaaayyyy overrated!

      Other than having to repack my carry-ons at 4:30am after Maggie woke up to pack and then announced that she didn't have room for her costumes in hers (Rule Number 1 when traveling to a barbershop competition by plane – Always carry your costumes and other irreplaceable items in your carry-on bag), we were ready to leave for the airport shortly before 5am.

      Patrick's driving now, so it was imperative (at least to him) that we leave my car at home so he'd have "wheels" for the ten days we were gone. So long-suffering barbershopper husband and dad Brad was up with us at o'-dark-thirty to take us to the airport. Well, okay, actually I prefer to drive, so I took us to the airport, and turned control of my car over to Brad at the curb outside the terminal. But the point is we didn't leave the car at the airport. Patrick had his wheels, so although I hate to admit it, I think he was actually a little glad to see us go!

      Our trip to Seattle was what I'd call blessedly uneventful. We were through security with just the usual inconvenience of hauling our laptops out of our bags and walking stocking-footed through the detector, then we repacked, re-shoed, and were on our way. Both flights (we connected from Indianapolis through Minneapolis to Seattle on Delta) were very smooth and both arrived just a few minutes early. We saw several friends on our first flight, and had a chorus friend with us on both flights, so stopped to chat a little in the airport before and between flights. Mount Rainier was spectacular, the top of it rising up through the clouds as we approached SEA-TAC. After landing in Seattle a little before noon, we picked up our rental car and off we went toward the city. The only disappointment was that there wasn't any "Welcome to Seattle, Sweet Adelines International" sign at the airport like there had been when I'd arrived in Calgary in 2007, but that's okay. We were early, so there may have been one there the following week, and we did spot a few Sweet Adelines at the airport, so at least we could tell we were in the right place!

      We drove through downtown and on north, exited and headed a mile or so west from I-5, and found the street our hotel was on. But then I turned the wrong way and we ended up going south when we should have gone north. We realized it right away (love the pseudo-GPS on my iPhone!), but before we could turn around we saw a Denny's up ahead. Maggie and I are both very Denny's-centric, so we looked at each other, smiled, and headed there for a quick lunch, then we headed back north to the hotel. By now it was mid-afternoon and she was due at the workshop between 4:30 and 5:00pm.

      We had a really good hotel deal for the first few nights. We were scheduled to stay downtown at the Sheraton with the chorus from Tuesday on, but we had the flexibility to stay wherever we wanted the first few days. We'd been to Seattle once before, in 2002 for a couple days before the men's convention in Portland, and we'd stayed south, so I thought it'd be fun to stay north this time. I'd researched online and made a reservation at a Days Inn for $47 a night, breakfast included. Outstanding!

      The room was not fancy – It was kind of an updated 70s-style with a sink right inside the door and an open rod instead of a closet, but the heater control was digital, we were on the third floor with an inside hallway entrance, it was spotless, and everything was in working order. For that price or anything close, I'd stay there again in a heartbeat.

      We checked in then spent about an hour relaxing in the room. I was afraid that if I relaxed too much, I'd fall asleep and then feel awful later after I woke up. So I got on my laptop and checked email and Facebook (I'm not the only one who does that regularly, right?) while Maggie took a quick nap. We headed back down into town and over to Mercer Island about 4:00pm.

      We didn't have any trouble finding the church where the festival was being held. Mercer Island is lovely – leafy, suburban, and seemingly far away from the city even though it's only a few minutes from downtown – and the church was surrounded by a nice residential area. We pulled into the lot and walked in, and were immediately greeted by three or four very friendly, well-organized Sweet Adelines waiting to check Maggie in. They told me I was welcome to stay and watch, or to come back around 9:00pm to pick her up. (They didn't know I was a Sweet Adeline, and it was kind of fun just being an anonymous mom.) I thanked them, asked Maggie what she wanted me to do (she said either way was fine), and decided I'd leave her and try to find a Starbucks – my favorite hangout – for at least awhile. Before I left I ran into and greeted my New Zealand friend and fellow stats geek David Brooks, who was there with Sweet Adeline friend Marilynn and the girls from Rising Star quartet competitor The Fource.

      I drove around for awhile to check out the business district on "the island" (as the natives call it), went to a Rite-Aid to pick up a few things, and even watched a crowd from the local high school line up floats and the marching band for their homecoming parade in the park next to the Rite-Aid parking lot. Then thanks to the locator function in my Starbucks app (my iPhone came in handy many times on this trip), I learned that there were three Starbucks within the small business district on Mercer Island. I felt like I'd struck gold! But as I drove around to check them out, I found out that two of them were inside grocery stores. So I opted for the third one, went in and ordered a drink, and settled into a comfy chair for the evening.

      Oops, wrong! At about 6:35 one of the employees rounded the corner and seemed surprised to see me tucked into a corner in my big, comfy chair, and told me they'd closed at 6:30. Really? The only real Starbucks on the island closes at 6:30 on a Friday night? Big bummer! I packed up and headed out, and drove around some more. The business district reminded me a lot of some of the towns in suburban Chicago near where I'd grown up (especially Wilmette, Winnetka, and Highland Park). There were lots of nice little shops, a couple small grocery stores and pharmacies, low-profile signage to minimize the commercial look and feel, and even the McDonalds had a kind of rustic wood exterior so it fit in well with the leafy, suburban theme. There were lots of people out walking, and many of the stores and restaurants were bustling. It really seemed like a neat place, and I thought if I ever lived in the Seattle area, I'd really like to live on Mercer Island. (Until I checked Wikipedia the next day and found out that the median home value there is $1M. Yikes! Maybe not!)

      I returned to the festival about 8:00, found a spot sitting in a corner on the carpet among some of the other moms where I could be fairly inconspicuous, plugged in my laptop, and hung out there for the last hour. It was fun to watch Nikki (Blackmer, the director) and Judy (Poszgay, the choreographer and coach) work with the girls. There were about 70 of them, mostly high school aged, and I could tell that the vast majority were really good singers. The sound they produced was very full, bright, with lots of ring, and they had so much energy, even late at night. If you haven't been to a youth barbershop festival or camp performance, try to get to one sometime soon. It's such a wonderful thing to see kids at this age learning about and loving our hobby, and doing it as well as those of us who've been at it for a long time.

      After the workshop, I suggested we stop for ice cream at the local Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors shop that I'd driven by earlier. It looks almost exactly like the one I used to go to in our Chicago neighborhood as a kid, and we don't have them in Indianapolis, so I thought it would be fun to try. Maggie enthusiastically agreed, so we stopped there for awhile and each had a dish, then headed back over the bridge to Seattle, back to our hotel, and finally to sleep!

      Ann McAlexander
      Capital City Chorus, SAI
      BHS wife, mom, and Associate
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