At least two records were set on Saturday, July 6, as the Santa Fe Springs, California-based Masters of Harmony won their fifth consecutive international chorus championship at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon. It was the first time in barbershop history that a chorus has won three international championships in a row with different directors (Mark Hale, 2002; Jeff Oxley, 1999; and Dr. Greg Lyne in 1990, 1993 and 1996).
For Director Mark Hale it was only the second time in history that a reigning quartet gold medalist (lead of Michigan Jake, 2001 International Quartet Champion) has led a chorus to the international championship. Fred King (baritone of the Oriole Four, 1970 International Quartet Champion) did it first in 1971 when he directed the Chorus of the Chesapeake to the gold medal.
The rehearsals and section meetings in Portland leading to the Masters' ascendance onto to the international stage were intended to keep the chorus focused on the musical plan. No changes. No hammering out of details. The hard work had already been done. Two of our coaches, Greg Clancy, assistant director of The Vocal Majority, and Dr. Greg Lyne, Society’s Director of Music Education Services, helped us to fine tune parts of our musical package. David Wright, who arranged our uptune, "Here Comes The Showboat," was impressed what we had done visually to bring the music to life. Jim Clancy, director of The Vocal Majority, dropped by to charge us up for the performance.
All these events led to that Saturday afternoon when we left the hotel and went to the Rose Garden Arena in total silence. Then, at the arena, still in silence, we gathered arm-in-arm around a reflecting pool commemorating those who had lost their lives in combat for the United States. One could feel the anticipation of what was about to happen. Still in silence, we walked single file to the stage. The roar of "MOH-MOH-MOH..." further heightened our anticipation. Then, we heard the pitch pipes blowing and saw the curtain being raised. It was quite a rush as we acknowledged the judges, lifted our eyes to the audience barely visible through the sea of lights, and heard the deafening applause.
Then it was over. We were drenched in sweat and knew we had given it our all. The standing ovation was our payoff. The hard work (extra rehearsals and coaching sessions) had led to this moment and we knew we had accomplished what we had set out to do – master the stage.
When we heard we had won by a 44-point margin and had won all the categories on both songs, the victory was even sweeter. We want to thank the Toronto Northern Lights, Alexandria Harmonizers, and all the top choruses that raised the level of their performances and drove us to work harder than we’ve ever worked.
After witnessing the Masters win their fifth gold medal, Emeritus member Bill Myers (bass of Revival, 1998 International Quartet Champion) said, "The chorus has turned a new page in its history. With a new director, there's a new style of music, a new attitude, and even a new look . . . and it’s fantastic." KNX Newsradio Anchor Dave Zorn, long-time friend of the Masters, put it this way, "It's one thing to win an international championship; it's another thing to win five. But to win when you're expected to win is the toughest thing of all."