Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Harmony Leads the Way

I was honored by a friend who made a comment who said "...you may have found yourself in your writings... and have the ability to express yourself it in words." No greater honor could be bestowed from a friend. Imagine what might happen if I actually took the time to edit the thing, and not rely solely on the "stream of consciousness" approach. It is kind of fun to write stuff that is all my own, from my own perspective and just put it out there.

I am no stranger to writing on a computer, however. I pretty much grew up with them. Not quite the Wozniak and Jobs in the garage soldering together what would become Apple, but as a someone planted in front of a screen and told to make this happen or make that happen. Even though I spent years in the financial world, I often was the go-to guy for computer issues that did not rate calling in the IT crew. I guess I was the "user-friendly nerd", who could explain the basic stuff the user needed to know, not hit users over the head with techno-jargon.

For the last 8-10 years I have been part of the "internet community", like almost everyone, starting with AOL and quickly growing beyond. I found discussion groups, and that opened up a whole new world. Presently, I am subscribed to over thirty of these groups, ranging from railroad history to politics, to barbershop harmony. To be sure, most of these low activity, but some of them have a lot of "traffic". For a few years, I spent a fair amount of my spare time (and some that was not so spare) hashing out political issues on some of these forums. I learned a whole lot about my own political views and the kinds of political opinions I (and my political philosophy) was up against. Sadly, it soon became pretty clear that my opposing folks entire political stance was based on being "anti" to mine! No new ideas, no core values, just opposition to anything I might believe in. And usually any salient point I made was met -- not with equally salient counterargument -- but a stream of personal invective, and the belief that the counter view need not be justified. As one can guess, that gets old pretty quickly, but it was good training ground for putting my thoughts "on paper" in this new cyber format.

A few weeks ago, I returned to one of the greatest hobbies a guy could have. Barbershop Harmony. I had taken a few months off from my chorus to sort out some things, and upon returning, I again experienced the pure joy of thirty-odd voices all coming together to create what I feel is the best music on earth. My "out with the boys" nights are usually filled with chorus rehearsal, quartet singing, and vocal training. While it might sound a bit corny or trite, hard work does not feel hard if the improvement is evident. And it is fun to watch a learning curve steepen under a great director. That's Dain, our chorus director, who beats us up every week, but brings out a great sound from thirty or so diverse voices and personalities. It is like herding cats, but he makes it work, and we are a pretty dang good performing unit. Now, if I can figure out how to do the upload, I will share with you all last spring's contest set from our Divisional competition. There are always going to be better choruses, but we were very proud of our performance and our third place finish!

This week our chorus/chapter (we are part of the Barbershop Harmony Society) will be delivering singing "ValenGrams". Along with virtually every other chapter in our Society, hundreds upon hundreds of these singing greetings will be delivered to wives, girlfriends, mothers, and even the male counterparts! At the request of our customer, a quartet will go to where the recipient is, usually at work during the day, present a rose, sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" or "Heart of My Heart". We then take a Polaroid photo, place it in the card, and off we go to the next "victim". (That's me, along with three of my chorus buddies a couple of years ago, serenading a sweet girl at the request of her fiance.)

It is not unknown for us to see tears of joy or whole offices gathered around for the performance. The recipient might feel initially shy about the whole thing, as it is a heck of a surprise. But along with the card and photo, this will be a lasting memory! And almost to a man, every barbershop singer considers this among the best days of the year for himself and our music style as a whole.

My quartet this year will deliver about 20 of these Valentines, and we have five quartets going out that day. And if all 800 chapters in our Society have similar numbers, there could conceivably be 80,000 of these singing Valentines around the US. Pretty neat numbers!

If anyone reading this is out of the Central Valley area and might want to have one of these Valentine delivered, go to the BHS's Singing Valentines page, or shoot me an e-mail and I will try to get you set up. (The preceding was an unpaid advertisement!)

Off to go earn a living.....

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