By Ron Larson, Staff Writer
In 2020, the Masters were preparing a two-song contest set that members loved for the 2020 International Contest in Los Angeles. In March 2020, the chorus had a successful coaching session with nationally acclaimed vocal coach Tony De Rosa. Chorus participants left feeling very good about their chances of success. Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 forced many performing groups to cease operations out of understandable concerns about the safety of audiences and performers alike. Some performing groups responded by creating virtual performances using techniques perfected by Eric Whitaker to produce group recordings of remarkably realistic sound. Masters of Harmony technology experts used that technique to produce two virtual Christmas carols they added to Christmas show recordings from shows dating back to 2011. The mixture of old and new recordings created a successful virtual Christmas show in December 2020 that took Masters musical verve to viewers worldwide.
Over the next six months, many chorus members rehearsed online using Zoom and JackTrip equipment. In June 2021, the chorus finally returned to in-person rehearsals at its new home, the La Mirada United Methodist Church. These rehearsals kept the Masters of Harmony ensemble sound alive and made it possible to stage two live Christmas shows in December 2021. Audiences in San Diego and nearby Artesia responded to the shows by showering the chorus with thunderous applause!
Since the Masters of Harmony qualification for the 2020 Los Angeles contest carried over to the 2022 contest in Charlotte, chorus leaders carefully reviewed what earned that qualification. As a result, the Masters of Harmony entered 2022 with a revised Vision Statement and a set of performance goals:
"The Masters of Harmony is an entertaining and dynamic vocal ensemble recognized by a broad, worldwide audience for its award-winning performances."
Topping the list of goals is a determination to modernize MOH show performances. The MOH Music Team added new songs to the chorus repertoire. Tony De Rosa and choreographer-extraordinaire Erin Howden were brought in at appropriate times to help take the chorus’s contest set and its other songs to new heights. Having MOH ensemble-type groups and/or quartets perform the music of various genres throughout the local community helped the chorus reach one of those goals. On April 29, Director Alan Gordon directed a VLQ (Very Large Quartet) consisting of ten MOH members as the "opening act" of La Mirada's 6th Annual Prayer Breakfast. The VLQ sang the Star-Spangled Banner and three other songs. Comments made about the performance indicate that La Mirada's Chamber of Commerce and City Council members are not only aware of the Masters of Harmony but have become chorus fans!
Building a reliable, up-to-date mailing list has long been an important part of the Masters of Harmony's success story. Under the direction of Ed Schackman, chorus electronic mailings now use the Constant Contact platform. The current MOH email list numbers about 3,800 names and includes patrons, prospects, as well as current and former MOH members. Each email is carefully crafted to best represent what MOH does; shows, fundraising efforts, newsletters, and general public relations outreach efforts. Email links also help recipients retrieve videos, purchase tickets, and read chorus newsletters.
On Saturday, March 5, the Masters of Harmony sang at a Celebration of Life Service for the legendary arranger and MOH gold medalist, Dave Briner. The Celebration of Life Service was presented as a Birthday Party according to detailed instructions Dave had given to his lifelong friend, Pam Pieson, Director of the Harborlites Chorus, a perfect choice for event hostess. For many of the 300-plus attendees, the event was the first opportunity to attend an indoor event since the Covid era began. Other groups performing at the event included the South County Sound Chorus directed by Dawn Castiglione, Dave's final stop as an active member, a chorus where he also performed with quartets on their shows; Sweet Adelines quartets Dragonfly (Catherine Berriz, Amber Carroll, Carol Krenek, Jennifer Philbin) and Ms. Cellaneous (Chris Robertson, Susan Phinney, Mary Branham, Sarah Slade), Masterpiece (Alan Gordon, Patrick Haedtler, Brett Littlefield, Rob Menaker) and Nightlife (Rob Menaker, John Sasine, Brett Littlefield, with Cody Littlefield singing the baritone part of the beloved Jeff Baker). Pam's skillful, loving supervision of Dave's plan was a huge success. The event showcased beautifully how Dave lived his life with passion and purpose right up to its end.
What an enormous privilege it is to be coached by two of the most talented music coaches in the world! Tony and Erin coach with such passion that just about any singer coming to one of their coaching sessions tired will likely leave invigorated! While each approaches music from somewhat different angles, what they coach overlaps in many important ways. Tony’s two sessions combined vocal technique improvements with ways singers can put their emotions out for the audience to share, ways that go beyond practiced facial expressions and staged moves. Erin's two choreography sessions were equally effective in raising chorus awareness of the need to immerse the audience in the emotions of the songs and, like Tony, demonstrated ways to do so. The choreography package she crafted for the MOH contest set is dynamic, believable, and doable even by the senior members of the chorus! When the Masters assemble in Temecula, California, in early June for a three-day retreat and coaching session, both of these master teachers will be there to build on those sessions and fine-tune them to even greater levels
On June 23, the Masters of Harmony will present its first spring show since 2019. The show will feature the debut of the contest set the chorus is preparing for the 2022 International Contest in Charlotte, North Carolina. For information about the show and to order tickets, click here. We hope to see you there!
Since the last issue of Westunes, Arturo Lagunes Flores, Seth Freed and John Yokoyama were welcomed into membership. Edgar Sandoval was approved for reinstatement.
It is with sadness that the Masters announce the passing of emeritus member and MOH gold medalist Allan Webb, who served as Far Western District President (2014-2015).