By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
All championship choruses are expected to prepare a swan song set for the next International contest to be performed between the end of the chorus contest and the announcement of the new chorus medalists. For 2018, the outgoing champion Masters of Harmony turned to emeritus member Dr. Rob Campbell, who had arranged the chorus's 2012 swan song set. For this set, Rob looked to the songs of Stephen Schwartz, winner of three Grammys and three Academy Awards. He selected six songs designed to entertain an audience that had already listened to dozens of chorus songs throughout the day. The medley included the spiritual uplift of "Day by Day," the delightful whimsy of "It's All for the Best," the soulful search for meaning in "Corner of the Sky," the interconnectedness of life in "Colors of the Wind," "Popular," a song that showcases the vocal and comedic talents of The Newfangled Four, and a moving tribute to those who have enriched our lives in "For Good." Enhanced by Erin Howden's choreography and Tony De Rosa's vocal coaching, Dr. Campbell's brilliant arrangements give Director Justin Miller an especially powerful musical package to present to the audience as the Masters of Harmony end their memorable championship year. (Note: For a detailed description of Masters of Harmony activities in Orlando, read Maurice Freleaux's article "Another Swan Song Triumph for the Record".
On May 12, the Masters introduced the spring show audience at Cal State Long Beach's Carpenter Theater to their new show opener "You'll Never Go Wrong With a Song." This high-energy song is designed to wow audience members from the get-go, and it did just that. Soon thereafter, the audience was introduced to the aforementioned Stephen Schwartz Medley, and the audience once again roared its approval.
Other songs in the program included the Gold Medal package from Las Vegas – "Too Darn Hot/Fever" and "I Have a Love/One Hand, One Heart," the ever-popular Simon and Garfunkel Montage, and the listed show closer, Circle of Life. Although the Masters rarely do encores, they broke with tradition and sent out long-time audience favorite Les Weiser to reprise his rendition of Professor Harold Hill singing "Ya Got Trouble," a soliloquy that warns the good River City folks about the evils inherent in their local pool hall.
Adding visual appeal to several show numbers were interpretive dance movements performed by eight sprightly young women of To The Pointe, a dance production team founded by Lindsey Dixon. The two guest quartets were 2017 International Top Ten Quartet The Newfangled Four (Joey Buss, Jackson Niebrugge, Jake Tickner, Ryan Wisniewski) and 2017 Sweet Adelines International Silver Medalist Quartet ClassRing (Mary Duncan, Heather Krones, Hailey Parks, Michaela Johnson). After intermission, the two groups formed an octet and delighted the audience with "Is There Anybody Here from My Home Town," a song styling reminiscent of the interplay between the Buffalo Bills and Shirley Jones in "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You" from The Music Man.
Masters of Harmony Webmaster Bob Czubiak announced that an improved MOH website is up and running. He says the new site features a simplified design that shows what the Masters of Harmony is all about, and visual elements designed to keep website visitors engaged. Its built-in tools can help the site get MOH articles placed prominently on search engine pages. Stop by and take a look!
On May 6, 2018, Masters of Harmony member Brian Harmon lost a valiant battle against kidney disease. On May 19, about 50 past and present MOH members joined Brian Harmon's extended family in his Long Beach Cornerstone Church for a Celebration of Life Ceremony. Speakers noted how Brian's deep devotion to his family and his Christian faith guided him throughout his life. Speakers described how Brian's gentle spirit and understanding heart enriched the lives of those who encountered him. In his 20 years with the Masters, Brian won six gold medals and one silver. His final gold medal, that he won last year in Las Vegas, is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it took herculean efforts for him to even be on the risers. Though his need for periodic dialysis treatments sapped his endurance, he insisted on being granted no special performance favors ... and none were granted. Brian wanted to do things "the Masters way." Secondly, standing nearby on the risers was his son, Jeff. When father and son embraced after receiving their gold medals, there were many moist eyes in the awards ceremony room. Rest in peace, Brian. You will be missed by many people whose lives are better because they knew you.