The barbershop chorus Ross belongs to is relatively small, roughly 15 men. It's tough to get younger guys involved in a musical style such as barbershop. But at the Land O' Lakes District contest this last weekend in Rochester, quite a few younger men, including high schoolers from Somerset, are becoming more acquainted with it.
It's been three years since the West Central Connection Chorus has participated in the district contest. It qualified earlier this year in Fergus Falls (another adventurous journey). Ross wasn't feeling well as we traveled toward New Ulm and had a little fever. But he toughed it out and we made it to Rochester around 6 p.m. We didn't get to see any of the quartet preliminaries, but we learned that the Sound Image quartet, which consists of three members of WCC, made it to the finals for Saturday night. Plus I learned what "hot rock" grilling was as we went to Twigs Tavern and Grille that was part of the Best Western we were staying at. Unfortunately we didn't try that particular technique as Ross was aiming for having soup, but it sounds like something I want to try in the future.
It was an early night for both of us on Friday, and Ross had to meet the rest of the group around 9 a.m. Saturday. I lounged around until the last minute before the competition began at 10:30 a.m. I grabbed the shuttle with a few others to the Mayo Civic Center and missed the first chorus. No biggie. I was also looking for a woman who graduated a couple years behind me at Somerset High. She's dating a member of the Midwest Vocal Express chorus out of Greendale, Wis. This group is known for its "legendary" theatrical presentations at competitions. It's dressed up as "Finding Nemo" characters, Army figures, penguins. Its performance at district competition was a little subdued, mainly dressing up as shoeshine boys. The Mankato Riverbenders dressed up as various Disney characters, singing "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Zip A Dee Do Dah."
Choruses are judged on presentation, as well as music and singing. And at this competition, one heard a lot of repeats in the song choice. For example, West Central Connection did "Once Upon A Time," as did the Croix Chordsmen Chorus of St. Croix Valley. Both the Singing Saints of St. Cloud and the Heart O'Lakes Harmony of Fergus Falls performed "Tin Roof Blues."
After all 17 choruses did their thing and a special guest performance by the Great Northern Union, awards were announced. The first award was most improved chorus, which went to the North Star Chorus of greater St. Paul. West Central Connection is in Plateau A and won champion. Fargo-Moorhead was named the Plateau AA champion and Midwest Vocal Express was the District Chorus champion and Plateau AAA champion. Overall, a good showing.
Then came the quartet finals. Ross, as well as other barbershoppers, were giving their own scores to the performances. Each quartet did its best. And I heard "Drivin' Me Crazy" four times on Saturday - once by the West Central Connection, by two separate competing quartets and then by the chorus from the Youth in Harmony Explosion camp. Sound Image placed fourth overall. St. Croix Crossing won third and did a great rendition of "Auld Lang Syne." Taking second was Ten Minute Intermission, and Grand Design took first place. It was a long day, but it was filled with good music.