By Maurice Freleaux, Chapter Secretary
The Masters of Harmony traveled to the 2018 International Convention in Orlando, Florida, for our swan song set, culminating our year as 2017 International Chorus Champion.
Some arrived early enough to cheer on The Newfangled Four (Jackson Niebrugge, Ryan Wisniewski, Joey Buss, Jake Tickner) at the Quartet Quarterfinals Session #1. The afternoon Florida tropical rainstorms did not dampen anyone’s spirits as they continued through Session #2, checking out the other contenders. I arrived Tuesday night at the Society’s officially waivered Airbnb, which we dubbed the Aviation Condo since it was inhabited by pilots Gary Stone, Mark Matonic, Ed Schackman, and myself, a retired flight attendant.
Wednesday morning was our first rehearsal at the Rosen Center. For 35 minutes, Dr. Chris Peterson gave the best warm-up of my life. Choreographer Erin Howden then refined many of the points she had established at our last choreo session, a mere three weeks earlier. Of course, Director Justin Miller exhorted us to tell the same story with our singing.
After the rehearsal, Sean Sherrod tasked me with making the trendy new Masters of Harmony T-shirts available to members and Sweethearts, blasting our brand on Orlando and the world on social media. Many then went to Quartet Quarterfinals Session #3 to cheer on Suit Up! (Justin Klemballa and R.J. Esquivias) and FWD perennial favorite Artistic License. (Suit Up! came in a respectable 25th.) That night, we had a late rehearsal, 10 PM to midnight. Whew! And this is a non-competition year!
Thursday had only one rehearsal, but afterward, I had the happy task and honor of presenting gifts to two competing choruses that day: the BC Squares Quartet Singers Association (a quartet chapter who won their district contest!) and the Big Orange Chorus, directed by Society legend Jay Giallombardo. How did I get so lucky? In all, MOH presented about 4,000 MOH beverage coasters emblazoned with our message, “You’ll Never Go Wrong With A Song,” to the chorus competitors, who we figured were already winners by virtue of making it this far in the competition cycle. Meanwhile, the two FWD quartets progressed through the semifinals to make the top 10.
I only saw the first session of the Friday chorus contest that included Westminster, Vocal Majority, Fog City Chorus, and Vocal FX. Wow! Personally, I had the choruses slotted in that order, with W’s artistry, singing and musicality edging them up front, closely followed by VM, with over twice as many men as W, and their amazing spectacle of big sound and pageantry. When the results were announced later that night, VM (97.1%) came out on top followed by W (95.7%). Can you believe the competition this year? The 3rd through 5th place medalists had scores of 92.1–92.2%!
While the judges were busy tallying up those scores, MOH presented “You’ll Never Go Wrong With a Song” and the Stephen Schwartz Medley as our swan song set. What an amazing experience to be back on the International stage without the pressure of competing. However, we were acutely aware that, with the quality of competing choruses before us, we were most assuredly being scored. Despite the odd acoustics of the conference center that added a distinct echo rather than resonance to the hall, we felt we had knocked it out of the park.
Saturday morning had us singing some of our current top hits at the Gold Medal Hour, where we presented a seminar explaining how we do what we do, including a Q & A session, which could have easily gone on for another half an hour due to the quality of the questions. This segued into our last performance as the 2017 Chorus Champs, where we sang at the World Harmony Showcase. At that point, we retired our gold medals and watched NF4 move up to within striking range of a medal at sixth place.
Far from taking next summer off, the road to Los Angeles in 2020, which we will also host, begins now!