Why is it still dark outside? Oh yeah, it’s 4:15am and me and my two roommates are trying to get ready and be functional. Ugh. I am SO not a morning person. This morning, to set a tone of unity, we were asked to wear black pants and our blue shirt that says “It’s Go Time!” So we put ourselves together and head down to breakfast. I am desperately seeking caffeine, and I don’t drink coffee. So I head to the little coffee cart near the breakfast ballroom which sells Redbull. Oh the horror! They don’t open until 6:00am. Come on…I’m not going to make it at this rate. But I sit down at breakfast and eat through my sleepiness.
During the meal, various announcements are made. Some people need their hair checked before going onstage, so the “hair helper” room numbers are announced. Also, some chorus members have a hard time putting on the fake eyelashes that are required for our unit look, so the “eyelash helper” room numbers are announced. A few last minute reminders are added, and breakfast is done.
After breakfast, we headed to the rehearsal hall, but it’s still just before 6:00am, so I have to beg the coffee cart lady to sell me a Redbull even if she isn’t officially open. She does, and I chug it. Not the best idea, but at least I’m caffeinated.
Rehearsal feels great. We sound good, we feel good, and more importantly, we feel READY. Let’s do this!!
We are dismissed to get all dolled up. Now the fun begins! I start with the stage foundation, which tends to turn my skin a strange orange color. I finish my eye makeup and fake eyelashes and move on to the blush. This blush is red. Bright red. Like, fire engine red. So my strategy is to put as little blush as I can on my brush, then remove as much as I can from the brush with a tissue and THEN apply it to my face. This stuff is almost impossible to get off of you put too much on, so I’m pretty much afraid of it.
Now to tackle my hair. I am one of those who was assigned a hair helper because I have trouble getting enough height on the front and sides of my head. Think Texas-sized hair. I try to rat it and hairspray the crap out of it, but I have a feeling it still needs to be fixed. Also, the hairspray process can be amusing. Hairspray in an enclosed space is nearly unbearable, especially in the quantities we use. So we usually go out into the hallway to spray it. If you’re on the right floor, at any given moment you can see several Sweet Adelines in various stages of dress spraying their hair in the hotel hallway. It must be really confusing for people who just happen to be staying in the hotel the week that we compete.
I get dressed and head down to my hair checker and then to the rendezvous point for the chorus. In my chorus, one of the members volunteers to take photos of anyone who would like a formal shot before going on stage. As people finish getting ready and arrive in the ballroom, different groups are assembled for pictures: an all-baritone photo, a roommate photo, a mother/daughter photo, a “Karen” photo (yes, we have enough Karens to justify a group picture), and so on. This is the beginning of “the pattern,” which refers to the movement of the chorus from the hotel to the stage.
First, we begin humming. Our chorus does not talk while in the pattern for two main reasons: humming keeps your voice warm, and the absence of talking helps us stay focused. After the entire chorus is dressed and ready, we practice a few beginnings and endings of songs and then make our way downstairs to meet the bus.
We board two buses to head to the convention center, and continue our humming. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough seats on the buses to fit everyone, so a little shuttle has to go back and pick up the last of our crew. We arrive at the convention center and are escorted to the warm up room.
Each chorus gets 10 minutes in the warm up room; no more, no less. It is monitored by one of the convention staff members. Some of us have also been designated as purse bag holders. You see, once you’re in costume, you don’t have pockets and you can’t carry a bag on stage with you. So each row of risers has 2-3 designated bags that will hold the bare essentials: slip-on shoes, wallet, maybe a scarf to keep warm. We carry these backstage and leave them so we know where to find them when we get off stage. I sometimes marvel at the small little efficiencies of this process.
Now the time has arrived. Our 10 minutes is up and we head down the escalators to the backstage area. As we are walking up the ramp, the last chorus to perform is walking down the opposite side of the stage. Jeff Baker walks by with Sasquatch, our bright green bear mascot and reminds us “sass patrol!” Then our director Pam walks by and squeezes each person’s hand before we walk onto the stage.
We can hear the crowd beginning to chant. They know we’re up next. The front row is given the signal to head out on stage, and the cheering gets louder. Each row walks on stage single file and loads onto the risers together so it looks organized. We wait for the judges to tell us that they’re ready, and Pam gives the emcee the signal that we are ready as well. Here come the magic words “We are ready for our next contestant! Under the direction of Pam Pieson, from Anaheim California, the Harborlites Chorus!”
We’re from Huntington Beach, but that’s ok. The lights suddenly flood the stage and we can no longer see past the first row or two of the audience.
It goes by so quickly! All the planning and rehearsing for 6 or 7 minutes on stage and then it’s over. We felt really good about our performance and were greeted by friends and family members as we came back into the convention center. I even got a surprise hug from one of my New Zealand friends. These are such awesome experiences. I mean, if it weren’t for Sweet Adelines, I wouldn’t have international friends!
We stayed to watch one more chorus, and then headed back to the hotel to change and go get lunch. We went to a place called Noodles and Company. It pretty decent fast food noodle dishes, but I only seem to find them on Sweet Adeline trips. I guess we don’t have that chain in California. We enjoyed our food and mostly ignored the stares of people because even though we were in regular clothes, we still had “show hair” and stage makeup on. I imagine it must have been a little frightening.
The next thing on my agenda is a nap. I’ve been up since way-too-early o’clock, and all I can think about is getting a little sleep before our afternoon rehearsal. So my roommates and I head back and set our alarms for 2:45pm so we can relax and hopefully sleep.
The alarms go off, but I don’t feel very rested. Oh well, time to put on rehearsal clothes. I grab my black workout pants and as I pull them up, a very peculiar look comes over my face. So much so, that my roommate notices.
“Is something wrong?” she asks.
“Well,” I respond, “something is wrong with these pants…”
She looks at the pants and says slowly “Could they be MY pants?”
Now I’m just confused. She’s already wearing black pants.
“Well then what are YOU wearing?? What’s going on?”
“Kim, I have more than one pair of black pants.”
“Oh, then yes, these are probably your pants.” And then we all burst out laughing. Give me a break, ok. We’re exhausted.
Our director knows how tired we are, but we have very few chances to work on our Saturday night set. So the work needs to happen now. We run through our set of 4 songs: When Day Is Done, Cuddle Up A Little Closer, When October Goes, and Oh Lonesome Me. We’ve been building up our stamina for over a year for exactly this reason. This set is emotionally and physically demanding with virtually no rest between songs. So we get a few repetitions in, and then Pam dismisses us to rest, and possibly head back to the convention center to hear the call off and cheer for her as she goes on stage for a part of Ronningë Show Chorus’ swan set (i.e. their last performance as current champions).
When we get back to the room, I decide to change out of my black pants and into jeans. I get one leg into the air and halfway down the one leg of my jeans before I muse out loud “I should probably take the black pants OFF before I put the jeans on.”
Once again my roommates and I laugh ourselves silly. I think it’s a form of delirium…but we’ll survive.
Ronningë Show Chorus is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. They are so…mesmerizing. Wonderful sound, exciting showmanship, and fantastic sense of humor. They explained what Sweden is like in the winter, and in the “summer.” And Even explained the history of how Sweden conquered America and brought barbershop back with them.
At the end of the evening, the order of appearance of the top ten choruses was announced. As soon as they announced contestant #1 and it wasn’t us, we were thrilled. No more early morning wake up calls for us, thank goodness. We ended up as contestant #9.
At this point I don’t even know if we had dinner…sounds about right. By Thursday the week of competition, you just eat to survive. Eat what you can when you can, and every day feels like two days. Things that happened this morning, I referred to as yesterday. So our brain cells are fading. Definitely time to go to bed.
Tomorrow is the quartet finals and we get to see who wins the beautiful crowns!!