Yeah, yeah, I know. That was October, and this is March. Uck, believe me, I know! Life interfered with the writing. Work, work travel, family travel, and our usual passel of activities ... But I'm picking up steam again and hope to get these last few days out to you soon!
So, back to Thursday ...
I'm a counter. I mean, I like to count things. So I keep track in my head of things like how many international conventions I've attended, what years, and in what cities. I also remember things like which choruses and quartets medaled in which positions. I don't remember all of them every year like my son the barbershop trivia whiz kid does, but I do remember a fair amount.
So I can count that I attended exactly seven Sweet Adelines internationals before I got the opportunity to be on the SAI international stage as a competitor. I remember the yearning feeling I'd have each time - while I thoroughly enjoyed spectating, I thought it would be so much more fun to be up there participating. And I hoped the one day ... someday ... I'd get that chance.
The introduction of the chorus wildcard was a wonderful thing for Capital City. After many years of almost always finishing second or third to the likes of Gem City, Seven Hills, Pride of Kentucky, Derby City, and Columbus, but almost always with high enough scores to have earned a trip to International in many other regions, we finally got our shot in 2002, the first year wildcard choruses were a part of the International chorus contest.
What was different about being a competitor, after attending many times as a spectator? There were the obvious things -- like instead of just 20-40 of our members in attendance, they were almost all there. And of course as I mentioned in an earlier report we had our official rehearsals on the official chorus risers in one of the official rehearsal rooms. Since our first international was in Nashville, it was close enough for us to drive, so we didn't have the issue of packing costumes in our carry-ons, but we did have to remember to bring all our costume and makeup stuff, and about six days of clothes, too. Yikes! We weren't used to that!
I remember walking in from the backstage holding area that first time, and seeing Pacific Sound Chorus up on the risers performing. If you haven't competed at international before, you haven't had the experience of seeing a chorus perform backwards on the big screen as you snake up the long ramp to the stage and watch it from behind. Pretty cool.
But the thing that struck me as most surprising was when I first took my position on stage and looked out at the audience. Wow! They were so verrrrrrrry far away!
I later told my chorus (in one of those "let's all share our experiences with each other" moments that we all do after a big event) that it felt like standing on one shore of a big lake, and seeing the audience over on the other shore. I could see our cheering section jumping up and down and waving wildly as we lined up on stage (and twirling about 100 Skyliners with red LCD letters spelling out "Go CCC!" - remember those?), but I could hardly hear them. It seemed like they were really, really far away and muffled. I almost laughed out loud at the sight. It was kind of surreal - seeing all the wild movement in the distance, but not really being able to hear them.
I remember wondering (yes, I was really doing all this thinking as I stood there waiting to sing on the Sweet Adelines international competition stage for the first time) how a quartet must feel, all alone up there on this huge stage, with the audience so very, very far away. And then I remember thinking how glad I was that my whole chorus was there with me. Those of you who've competed at international with a quartet, I applaud you! That must take real nerve!
And then all of a sudden we were all lined up, and the emcee announced us, and the lights hit POW! And it was Showtime! And we were off ... and ...
And then I remember walking off of the stage.
It was that fast!
Seattle was my fourth international as a competitor. And as cool as the first one was, I have to say I liked this overall experience much better. I felt much more relaxed, knew much more what to expect, enjoyed myself much more out there during our performance, the audience seemed to be much closer this time, and I actually remember most of it! I promised myself after that first blink of an experience in Nashville that I'd pinch myself or do some other consciousness check each time to make sure I really remembered and relished the experience.
I mentioned earlier that we were contestant #1 in Seattle, so we were up bright and early getting ready, trying not to wake up our roomies. Wendy, our makeup checker, came to the door all bright and cheerful (her usual demeanor, even at that time of the morning), and we hustled her quietly out in the hall for our makeup check. Good, good. Good! Now get the costumes on, and let's go!
We gathered in the meeting room we had reserved for our use for the week (which we used both for chorus meals and for moments like this), and did some very gentle warming up. Although we were some of the first to walk through the hotel lobby and board our buses, there was a crowd gathered in the lobby, and they started applauding when they saw us, gently first then more powerfully as we all walked through. This is one of those moments that makes competing at international such a rush!
We followed the mic testers, Harbor City Music Company, winners of the Harmony Classic AA contest on Tuesday night, both onto the buses and later onto the stage. They were adorable - All dressed as crayons in different bright colors, with fun, creative color names down the side. We'd talked to one of the women on the bus on Wednesday and learned that they even each did their nails to match their individual costume. Now that's what I call attention to detail!
We waited backstage in the holding room as Harbor City performed, and then it was our turn! Woot, woot! Out we went, up the ramp, quickly onto the stage, and up into our positions on the risers. After I was situated with my pitch pipe ready in my hand and its button firmly under my thumb, I looked out for a moment. Ah, yes, the audience seems closer this time. Great!
This phase of the contest experience kind of reminds me of the dusk before dawn ... The lights are subdued, the excitement of our upcoming performance hangs in the air, and miraculously, even though we are contestant #1, there's a fair number of cheering people in the Key Arena. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a contest!
We're wearing our brand-new, very bright and sparkly, turquoise, silver, and black swirl print dresses with black leggings, something very different from our usual pants and top style. (The fabric's called "Wow!") We can hear a little bit of a gasp when the lights come up before the loud applause starts. Fun!
We launch into our first song, "Time After Time." Marti Lovejoy's report says, "First goosebumps of the day already!" Cool! Everything goes off without a hitch. I was having a blast. I remember having fun on stage in Calgary, but this was even better. What's the key to being relaxed on stage? Preparation, preparation, preparation. Knowing exactly what was supposed to happen when. I'm a firm believer in that! Our uptune, "South Rampart Street Parade," also goes well. Great! Yay! Woo hoo! The lights briefly dim and we take our photo pose. Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash! The lights dim, and it's ALL OVER!
Wow, that was fun!
One of the joys of being contestant #1 is the knowledge that, even if for a brief while, we led the contest! So it was fun to walk offstage and chatter amongst ourselves about our contest-leading performance. As it turns out, we didn't know it at the time but we led the contest through the first six contestants. Not bad for a chorus that had never before cracked the top 10!
How do I feel afterward? Well, there's always the little bit of letdown because it's over, but I thought we did really well. Top 10? Well, I've been to a lot of these conventions over the years -- about 40 international contests across the three barbershop organizations - and I tend to be pretty realistic, and usually pretty accurate, about the placements. (One good thing about this is it spares me the tears that some of the ladies have when we don't place as high as they'd set their hopes.) Based on how I felt about our performance and what I knew of the competition, I expected we'd land somewhere between 9 and 12. But the big question was ... Was it good enough to make Saturday? I'd say that was really our collective chorus goal, and was something we'd never done before. So now we'd just have to wait and see. (But, hey, did I mention yet? That was really fun!)
Brad's (my husband's) birthday is on Friday, and he's home watching on the webcast. All he'd told me when I asked him if he was bummed that he didn't get to go this year was that he wanted one thing for his birthday - "Saturday."
Now we have 32 more choruses to sit through until we know if we sing again on Saturday. Ugh! But we know that all the rest of the choruses will be performing at the top of their game, and all will be entertaining. So we settle in to watch the show. Maggie and I are die-hards (it's a family trait!) so we join the group in our chorus seats and watch pretty much all of the rest of the contest.
We went back to the hotel to change quickly during a break, but I think over the course of the rest of the contest we saw all but two choruses live, and we saw those two out on the TV screens in the concourse. We made one mistake - One of those choruses was Stockholm City Voices, and we missed seeing their semis package live! Ack! We had no idea they'd be so good! I think that's probably the only regret I have of our whole trip, that we didn't know to stay in the arena to watch them. And it was really only by accident that we missed them - we'd gone out for what was supposed to be a quick potty break, and took too long. I hate it when that happens!
Some of the performances were absolutely stellar. Song of Atlanta was great. I always enjoy them for their entertainment value, but their singing seemed to have climbed a notch or two this time, too. Harborlites was wonderful. I love them! And then Scottsdale sang. Oh, my, my! WHAT a performance! I don't know if I've ever heard cleaner, brighter, ringier-pingier singing on the Sweet Adelines international stage. Wow!
Maggie and I looked at each other about halfway through their first song, raised our eyebrows, opened our eyes wide, and just grinned from ear to ear. We were both hearing it! I love having a mini-me who gets this hobby as much as I do! The other chorus that really impressed me was City of Lakes. I remember them well from their successes during the Mary Dick says, and all I could keep thinking throughout their performance was, "They're baaaa-aaaack!"
Rich-tones wowed us with their swan song set. Since I'd been there live in Nashville the year before, I pretty much knew what to expect, but still loved every minute of it. Such energy, and of course Dale's own take on physical fitness is just a hoot! But I was glad Maggie got to see it all live. The webcast just doesn't do a high-energy performance like that justice, and the neon colors are so vivid on the live stage.
The call-off was a little startling. I wasn't expecting them to announce the mic tester for the finals first, before calling off the top 10. I kinda wish they'd reverse that. I think it would have been much better to wait through the top 10, think we didn't make it, be disappointed, then have our name announced as mic testers and have something to get excited and cheer about. But instead, it was over in a flash. "Your mic testing chorus is Capital City," and there was a smattering of applause, and then they moved on to the top 10 call-off.
Okay, that was quick. And now the anticipation's over. Hmmmmmm. How did I feel at that moment?
Well, I was startled that it was over so quickly, but in a way I was relieved. Greatly. It's much better to move forward (from 12th in Calgary) than to fall back, and I'd figured we were somewhere on the Top 10 cusp, so I wasn't that surprised. As much as I wanted to make the top 10, I definitely did NOT want to be 12th or lower. Having the opportunity to sing again on Saturday was good. Very good, in fact! And, much to my relief, I'd now taken care of Brad's birthday present! Yeah!
We got out our Keepin' Score books and wrote down the Top 10, discussed our picks and the results briefly with some other chorus members, and headed back to the hotel to get comfortable and decompress a little. Hey, we're singing on Saturday! Life is good.
Capital City Chorus, Region 4, SAI
BHS wife, mom, and Associate