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Competition Day 1 – It begins!

Today (11/5) is the first day of quartet competition! Unfortunately we won’t be able to see all of the quartets because we do need to rehearse. The quartet competition is for all 45 competitors, remember, so it’s going to go all day long. Today we had one rehearsal scheduled for the early afternoon. So we got to sleep in a bit and see our queen Patty Cobb-Baker mic test with her quartet Touché.

This rehearsal we really explored the emotion of our songs. For the semifinals, we are going to sing Their Hearts Were Full of Spring and Sweet Georgia Brown. The first song is a poignant tale of love that lasts forever, even after life has ended. After working on that song for a while, we were finally able to let go of our left-brain analysis and sing with pure emotion. We made several people in the room cry including our coach Jeff Baker. That is definitely the reaction we want. The second song is pure sass. Seriously, if you haven’t heard my chorus do this, you need to youtube it. I love that song so much. It’s fun to sing and easy to get into the kind of character who would wear a feather boa to seduce her man.

We asked our guests to leave during the last part of our rehearsal because our director, Pam Pieson likes to share personal words of encouragement with us. Part of the Harborlites competition ritual is a small gift from Pam. She carefully chooses a small token that will remind the chorus of who they are, why they are here, and how much she cares about them. The token she gives us this afternoon is a necklace with a key that simply says “Believe.” It sums up everything we’ve talked about in recent weeks: believe that we are prepared, believe that we will leave it all on stage, believe that there’s nothing left to do but sing with our hearts.

After rehearsal, we had enough time to run to the convention center to see a couple of quartets. Lo and behold, whom do I run into but my new friends from Darbyshire! They wanted to take a couple of pictures together and we talked a bit about the quartet contest so far. They repeated their enthusiasm about seeing my chorus perform tomorrow and that they would be cheering for us. They wanted to cheer something specific so we would know it was them. So they told us to listen for “tally ho!” tomorrow. I may want to go home with them next weekend. They are too cute!

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We only saw a few quartets, then ate dinner and went back to the room to relax and watch the rest of the contest on the webcast. I brought my laptop and an HDMI cable to watch the webcast on the large tv in our room, which worked out perfectly. I’m going to be totally honest here, the great thing about watching the webcast is that you can react to the quartets and make comments that you just can’t make in the convention center. If you have an opinion while in the convention center, you give discrete looks to your neighbor and a promise to discuss it later. You just don’t want to risk hurting someone’s feelings or insulting the friend or family of a competing quartet or chorus. So instead, you go behind closed doors and discuss whatever you’d like: whether that outfit was a good choice, that chord was slightly out of tune, or that song was really appropriate for contest.

One of the benefits I missed out on this year was purchasing a Keepin’ Score booklet. One of the choruses prints up a booklet every year that contains all of the competing choruses and quartets, their placement at previous international competitions, regional scores, members’ names, and other fun facts. As you can see below, there is also room to draw their costumes. Some people really take this seriously. They bring their markers or colored pencils (always an extra black one because black is a popular color) and live and die by the stats. I’m sad I haven’t been doing this. However, I will admit that my slightly OCD tendencies will be offended if I have a book with blanks in it because I couldn’t see ALL of the quartets and choruses. Maybe next year I’ll get one for Vegas!

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Anyway, back to business…We stayed up a little on the late side to hear the “call off.” This is when the announcer pulls ten quartet names out of a hat. She is simultaneously reading the names of those quartets who qualified for the final round and telling them their order of appearance. I can’t imagine how nervous the quartets might be while they are waiting to hear if their name is called. Sadly, none of the quartets affiliated with our chorus are called. That is somewhat surprising, and my roommates and I comment that we can’t wait for the scores to come out so we can see where they placed.

The top 15 quartets will get an automatic invitation to return next year, but the remaining quartets must get back in the competition cycle beginning with regional in the spring. Once we see that none of our quartets made the top 15, we are disappointed for more than one reason. First, we always want our quartets to do well, and second, that means my quartet is competing against these same competitors at regional next year. We need to up our game if we’re going to be in the same league with all that talent!

At that point we really need to go to bed, because we are contestant #2 tomorrow, and that means a 5am breakfast call time. Yeah, I know, right? Why are there two 5’s in one day? But the reason we’re here is fast approaching and the excitement is building.

For a great recap of day 1, check out the video that Sweet Adelines International put together:

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