What Is an Off Year?

Mark Hale, Director, Jan 6, 2011

Now that 2010 is in the history books, it’s amazing to look and see how much we accomplished during what some people refer to as an “off year.” Okay, here goes...

♫ We enjoyed a full show schedule with our regular Calimesa and youth festival performances followed by another at our new relationship–the Riverside Fox Theater. Then a spring show in Pasadena and holiday performances in Bakersfield, Riverside and Fullerton. It sure was fun to be able to take our holiday show on the road, and I look forward to exploring opportunities like this in the future. The show was better for it and we were able to make new friends in areas we would normally not reach.

♫ We competed in two contests, with successful finishes in the Southwest Division in May and the Far Western District in October. Our totals were very similar to our 2007 numbers and, while we were satisfied with our performances, we all knew that there is much room for advancement during 2011.

♫ We participated in a short film project in November that included a weekend in Long Beach lip-synching to ourselves while mastering the choreography to the of “Alabama Jubilee.” I’m not sure yet what will come of it, but it was fun to see how this kind of thing is produced.

♫ Finally, we had two recording sessions that completed the tracks for our new recording “The Dream Is Carried On” due out in May. This is a recording with religious, patriotic and other inspirational songs performed by the Masters of Harmony, The Westminster Chorus, and both choruses combined. It was a treat to share the risers with these amazing young men who had a pretty impressive 2010 of their own. I know we all stand proud of them for their record-breaking win of the chorus contest.

There’s no doubt that it was a full year, often hectic, but always enjoyable. But now it’s officially 2011, and it’s time to get our minds focused on the new tasks at hand. There are a few spring performances with new songs to learn, choreography to improve, and a contest looming on the horizon that will be here before you know it.

We’ve often heard that excellence is not an act but a habit. I believe this to be the truth, and we certainly put in the efforts to push ourselves to higher and higher levels of excellence. The one aspect of being a director I take very seriously is the role of visionary – knowing who we are and how we want to be perceived. So from time to time I review where we are now, where we want to go, what’s going on around us, and what we need to do to continue our journey. To that end, I am called upon to continually consider our methods, how we teach, how we learn, vocal pedagogy, how we achieve our overall impact, and look for areas for us to push ourselves. In the second half of 2010 we introduced some concepts that have caused some to rejoice and some to squirm while they find their feet, but there is no doubt that the results out front are impressive and worth pursuing. In 2011 we will continue this journey toward the highest level of excellence we can achieve now. How exciting to know that we are not intending to stand still, but lead the way into this new decade!

Each successful chorus in the Barbershop Harmony Society is very different in methodology, musical approach, sound and style. One of the things that makes the Masters of Harmony unique is our personnel. It is historically rare to assemble such an experienced and star-studded cast of characters on a regular basis and, while this can sometimes be a challenge, our results continue to demonstrate what can happen when like-minded men focus on the goal of performing excellence. I can assure you that 2011 will be no different in this regard and, from what I’ve been hearing, we may be assembling our best chorus ever.

While we have achieved honors for our performances in the past, the effort required for each one has been slightly greater. And, with today’s climate, you had better believe that this will continue to be the case.

Some may wonder what our motivation is for wanting to reach higher levels of excellence. Isn’t doing things the way we’ve done them in the past good enough? If we do not strive for higher levels of excellence, we will never know what lies beyond those levels. And that’s a journey worth taking.

They say one must lead, follow, or get out of the way. Since 1985 it has been the choice of the Masters of Harmony to lead. And the time for that leadership is once again upon us. What we choose to make out of our opportunities depends entirely on us.

The book that is 2011 is almost completely unwritten. It’s up to us to determine what kind of a story it will be. All I know is . . . I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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