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Baltimore Sightseeing Day 4 & Rehearsals Begin

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Even the sidewalks in Baltimore welcomed us!

The first rehearsals for my chorus started today! The atmosphere was so electric. We were extremely chatty because this was the first time many of us had seen each other this week. Also, we were excited to get down to business. This is, after all a business trip of sorts. We’ve been working for 18 months to prepare for this, and the anticipation of finally being on stage at “the big show” was clearly felt by everyone.

Our director arrived to thunderous applause and we went straight to work warming up and running our set of two songs for the semifinals.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the structure of the competition, I will break it down for you. Wednesday and Friday are quartet competition days. Wednesday is the semifinals, where 48 quartets from all over the world sing two songs with the hopes of making it to the top ten on Friday. Each winning quartet from 24 regions qualifies to be here, as well as 10 of the highest scoring non-winning quartets called “wildcards”. My region alone had two wildcard quartets in addition to the winners because of their high scores. The top 15 quartets from the previous year’s competition also get invited back without having to compete again at their regional contest.

This week, several quartets had to withdraw from competition. So only 45 quartets took the stage.

Thursday and Saturday are chorus competition days, and that’s why I’m here. Again, there is one winner for each region, but for choruses, the wildcard rule is the top 5 highest scoring second place choruses. So a third place chorus, no matter how large their score, would not be eligible. This year there are 33 choruses competing. Yes, there are some math issues here, but after conferring with my roommates, we discovered that a consolidation of regions last year is the culprit. Next year, there will be fewer choruses competing.

But back to the day’s events! After a fantastic rehearsal, I went to the inner harbor with two chorusmates. We visited the sweets shop, where I got seconds of everything they had that was gummy. So good! We wandered around the little inner harbor mall and decided to eat at a restaurant that serves Spanish-style tapas. Sadly, it was mediocre food and mediocre service, but we got our fill and a great view of the harbor.

The weather had warmed up a bit and we even had some sun, so we headed to the water taxi. To be honest, we had no other agenda than riding the water taxi around the harbor just for the experience and the beautiful views of the city. Upon boarding the water taxi, we found ourselves seated next to some other Sweet Adelines. The water taxi hostess discovered who we were (Sweet Adelines), and said “Oh! I heard that some of the passengers on another taxi sang for the staff and now I’m jealous! Will you please sing for me??”

Well, Sweet Adelines hardly need a reason to sing, and now we have a request. So we got to work discovering who sang which part and who knew which songs. Unfortunately, we were short a baritone. When does THAT ever happen? It’s usually the tenors that are hard to come by due to the proportion of tenors in the organization. Suddenly, we spot a few of our chorus members, one of whom sing baritone! We call out to her from the boat, which is still docked, and ask her to come aboard. She and her husband come aboard and then taxi hostess is nearly jumping up and down she’s so excited. One problem, not everyone knows the same songs. Some of the basses don’t know How We Sang Today, the tenor doesn’t know Harmonize the World, and we’re running out of universally known songs. We jokingly suggest that we could sing happy birthday. Well, it just so happens, one of the non-Sweet Adeline passengers is celebrating her birthday! What are the odds? So we call her to the front of the boat and sing happy birthday in melodious, if not exactly perfect, four-part harmony. The taxi hostess is too thrilled for words.

We leave the dock and take a relaxing tour of the harbor. When we get back to where we started the boat ride, we disembark and head back into the mall to visit the McCormick spice store. On the way out of the store, we see more of our chorus members gathered around the fudge store. Apparently the employee there had offered to give out free samples if we sang for him. So we joined in and sang a tag. For the uninformed, a tag is the last few measures of a song, and is easily taught and executed.

Hey, why not sing for free fudge?

It is at this point my companions and I split up. I have a mind to visit the Harmony Bazaar, aka The Glitter Mall, aka The Shiny Store. If you’ve ever wanted anything with rhinestones, sequins, music-related puns, or some combination of all three, this would be the place to find it. One large section of the convention center is filled with 20-30 vendors who sell specifically to Sweet Adelines, and boy do they know their customers. Glittery phone case with music notes on it? Check. Rhinestone holders for chorus and quartet medals? Check. Jewelry so gaudy you’re not sure you would wear it in public? Check. Sweet Adelines International also host several booths that sell quartet CDs, vocal lesson, sheet music, and Sweet Adeline logo items.

For months, I’ve been putting away cash just to spend at this mecca of all things glittery. My main goal is to find a necklace or medal holder for the silver and bronze medals I earned with my chorus at previous competitions. Lucky for me, there was a huge booth for just such a purchase. They have medal holders and necklaces for every size medal: quartets, small chorus, top three chorus medals, top ten chorus medals, and so on. I picked out a necklace, two medal holders, and some crystal encrusted spacers to hold the medals apart. I won’t even tell you how much I paid for it (yikes!), but I did budget specifically for this, so my guilt didn’t last terribly long.

Suddenly I see them. The crowns. Yes, that’s right. When a quartet wins the international competition, they receive four matching crowns and a gold medal. Each year, the crowns are put on display in the Harmony Bazaar for attendees to fawn over, covet, and speculate about who might earn them this year. See, I wasn’t kidding. Some people can even identify a quartet by their crowns. I had to snap a photo of a queen who was standing nearby. Once you’ve earned a crown, you wear it to every Sweet Adeline event. I mean, why WOULDN’T you?

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I perused other booths and ran into many other chorus members also looking for shiny objects to purchase. One of my additional purchases was a jeweled phone case that has pockets for credit cards or ID. It’s a great way to avoid carrying a whole purse, especially at an event like this where a lot of walking is involved.

Satisfied with my purchases, I returned to my hotel room and made plans for dinner. I won’t bore you with the details of my food. Today was a fun-filled day. You’ve put up with enough for now.

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