I don't like getting up early on a Saturday. Especially if I hadn't had much sleep the night before. That was the case when Ross and I were heading to his chorus' competition in Nicollet last Saturday morning. He had to be there at 9 a.m., so we had to leave around 7:15 from Wood Lake. Bleary-eyed, I sat and listened NPR and tried to read a book I had started. I did get a bit of sleep the night before, but it really wasn't enough. But I was excited to see his barbershop chorus compete.
We get there right around the stroke of 9. After checking in, Ross headed to the room his chorus was in. I went in search of the rolls that were advertised on a sign. The venue for the competition was the high school in Nicollet, and food was going to benefit school activities. So I sat and ate a roll and drank some orange juice, waiting for the 10:15 a.m. start time. I read and looked at Facebook on my phone, got annoyed that a blizzard watch was predicted for Monday and just got plain antsy. It was probably the lack of sleep getting to me.
A wife of one of the chorus members came up to me and asked if I was dragged there. Well, no, I went by choice (I also didn't know about the contest till earlier that week). Apparently she's not into any kind of music. ANY kind of music? What? She's more apt to listen to talk radio or a book on tape. Her husband didn't even tell her about the chorus' spring concert last year because he knew that she wouldn't really be into it.
We walked into the auditorium, which was strangely cold, like the air conditioning was on or something. There weren't too many spectators for the contest, so we couldn't rely on body heat to warm up the room. The West Central Connection Chorus now competes in the 10,000 Lakes Division, going up against such choruses as the Commodores from Minneapolis, the Singing Saints from St. Cloud and the Croix Chordsman Chorus from St. Croix Valley. During contests, chorus members are judged on musicality, presentation and singing. The first on stage was the Riverblenders from Mankato, singing "Where the Southern Roses Grow" and "Alabamy Bound." I've gotten used to listening to barbershop these last 5+ years, and I've heard all kinds of songs. It seems like most barbershop music involves love found, love lost or a beginning of some romance. They may be a little quaint and old-fashioned, but there are others that can be more upbeat and interesting, like songs by the Beach Boys or Ricky Nelson, or "For the Longest Time" by Billy Joel. Choruses try to make their routine more interesting with some choreography or props. Or in Minneapolis' case, a pop of color with vests.
The West Central Connection Chorus went with a couple of songs it's had in its repertoire for a while - "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad" and "Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair." The chorus sounded good and had a strong ending on "Jeanie." I could sense from the audience, which by now included other choruses that had performed, that the chorus had done well. Even the chorus member's wife who doesn't like music said that the guys must have done well.
I still managed to stay awake during the quartet portion of the competition. Willmar was represented by long-time quartet Sound Image. And since I've heard the quartet perform quite a few times throughout the years, I've heard most of the songs it does. There are times I wish Sound Image would venture out into something new. One of the choruses from Hilltop (Twin Cities area) is named Cranial Cabbage. The second song it performed involved props - "Down By The Old Mill Stream." One of those props was an inflatable shark. It was funny, especially when the shark ended up on the judges' table. But even with the old standbys, Sound Image was the 10,000 Lakes Division quartet champion. Cranial Cabbage actually got the 10,000 Lakes Division seniors quartet champion.
As for the West Central Connection Chorus, it got Most Improved Chorus award in the 10,000 Lakes Division and was the 10,000 Lakes Division Plateau A champion. The Commodores of Minneapolis was the 10,000 Lakes Division champion as well as the Plateau AAA champion. There were only 19 in Willmar's chorus and more than 60 in the Commodores. The Commodores scored a total of 916 points; West Central Connection had 908. Eight points. Not bad when the chorus that beat you has three times more members competing. Choruses that scored 720 points or more qualified for the District Chorus Contest. Pretty much every chorus that graced the stage made it.