Confessions of a Barbershopper !!
Day one … Are we there yet …
On a cold dreary morning when most people were rolling over and looking forward to a couple more hours in sleepy land, One person was contemplating a macchiato double shot and a piece of café style raisin toast to try and turn the switch of his already premature excited brain that was forced to close down earlier the night before in order to get up and somehow function at 4am in the morning.
With an ever devoted wife I made my way through the northern suburbs of Wollongong on his way to the place where the big birds fly every 10 minutes or less. Though as it was so early even they were enjoying a few extra moments of silence.
Today I was off to a land far far away to sing on a stage far bigger than I thought would ever be possible a year ago. As I wished my wife farewell and checked I had mobile, wallet and airline ticket I wondered what was in store and if all the work I had put in over the last year was going to be worth it .
After checking in at an on time 5.20am and somehow making it to the departure lounge of Virgin Airways I met up with a few others who were here for the same reason as me … to attend the 10th Bi annual Australian Association of Men’s barbershops society contest which was to be held in Hobart .. Yes Hobart which was going to be colder than even it could be all of the day not just at 4.00am ( So I thought )
Yep out of bed at 3.45am seemed hours ago .. Eyes open now and feeling a little nervous in the stomach in realisation that there was no turning back at this point . The Virgin flight down was as exciting as watching some one file his or her nails except for the friendly hostesses who were also unlucky enough to be on the earliest flight out of Sydney known to man !!! . I did have a chuckle at the hostesses as they gave us instructions in case we ran out of fuel or the pilot failed to observe a stop sign up there . I sat closer to the back as I have never heard of a plane backing in to a mountain so I felt safe there.
Flying and landing in Hobart was great and it only took two hours … I barely had time to drink my Hot chocolate and eat my think it was a cookie sort of biscuit thing muesli health bar with all the goodness of a card board box with added salt … .. Oh gosh it was 8.30am how time Flys !!!!!!!!
So on to Hobart City where my adventure was to begin ..
My diary looked like this
09.30 check in to motel
10.00 meet others in our chorus ( Illawarra Chordiality )
10.30 find way to Big Hotel at Edge of City near big harbour where boats come in
10.30 registrations (pick up nice show bag with treasure map, stickers and bubble gum)
11.30 pre rehearsal with heritage harmonisers (selected chorus to open the conference)
12.30 Mass sing out at Royal Theatre Hobart in front of 750 000 people (Ok 750 people)
13.30 Applause, adorations, flowers, thanks, fall down get up again and look for nearest bar!! Be carried on top of shoulder of complete strangers …..Yeah right!!!!
18.30 Gala Dinner with 1000 tired and emotional penguins in a great ballroom at big hotel near harbour where boats come in … Ok Barbershop singers from all over the world of Australia … eat drink sing drink sing fall over get up sing some more and try to remember where I was staying and which family of Penguins I belonged too …
" wheres my penguin family "
Mass Sing Out
Singing in front of 750 of my pears , sorry peers ,was the single most exciting experience of my life except for giving birth to my two children or at least being there with my wife .. I was so nervous but as soon as I was out on the stage of the theatre royal I was in the zone... You know you don’t see the audience which was good in a way as I didn’t want to imagine all of them naked ,, that would be way to much for me too handle at that time of the morning . On a serious moment I prayed at that moment before w e sang to get me through and to thank me for the opportunity to shine a little love on others …
We sang the national anthem in four part harmony. I sing tenor, so I song the highest notes we sounded wonderful considering we had not met before this time and had to sing to directors who we did not know. We sang some traditional Polecats songs to warm up the crowd. To finish we sang a beautiful rendition of I still call Australia home... Wow 45 minutes went so fast... after that refer to diary note above but include chanting of Darbz... Darbz... Darbz … and I shouts of I want to have your baby!! ..
The rest of the day we listened to the youth quartets and choruses. At this point a quick explanation of how barber shop works.
Barbershop style is four singing parts in Accapella style each part sings his or her own note . 4 notes making a chord which when sung together rings . Each part is specific Leads sing the melody of the song , the Bass sings Harmony notes below the Melody they sing the lowest notes on the music scale and are the engine room of the chorus .
The tenor which I sing harmonises above the lead .. We are considered to be special and closer to God as our notes are very very high and we add beauty to the sound . Last of all we have baritones who sing Harmony around the melody they are very good listeners and sing all the notes no one else wants ,, they have a blending voice … All together we sound amazing … and remember we have no musical accompaniment . If you want to learn how to sing properly learn accapella style first .
Town cryer announces us
Day 1 Galah Dinner at Big Hotel .
Wow I thought I was at the Dally M awards or the Brownlow Medals awards or the Oscars . This was the biggest dining room in the world or at least in Australia nearly 1000 guests . the evening kicked of with all of us singing a song called “ the old songs “ and then it was on for young and old . 8 buffet stations .. “ Crikey “ we ate and drank and see diary note for 18.30 … I had no idea there would be so many people dressed up in penguin suits in one place I think we double the population of Hobart that night and the share price of James Boag went up the next day as a consequence .. Well dinners are dinners eat drink photo opportunities talk to my people and talk to you people and let s do lunch and Mwa Mwa to wives of penguins of influence .. It was a great night and not too late .
Day 2 Friday
More quiet affair of rehearsals with my chorus ( plug coming ) “ Illawarra Chordiality “ . and watching the quartet semi finals and finals . We had dinner at a great pub where the meals were Huge I tell you huge .. Do they really eat this big here . We saw our singing coach win Gold with his quartet “ Alliance for the second time in 4 years or so . Our music director was thrilled , As he had given up his time to help us get here to compete .
He is a baritone so I expect such shenanigans
Day 3 Saturday ..
UP at 6.30am dressed by 6.35 in our performance outfits and off to our music directors apartment for a dose of tuning uop of our voices , breakfast , coffee , more coffee and then it got really really quiet as we contemplated the task ahead . We are were the smallest chorus competing, were we really god enough to get to compete on the national stage .
OF COURSE WE WERE!!!! .
Then with the stroke of an eye liner pen it was down to getting dolled up
I have to tell you I secretly enjoyed getting mascara put on my face … but don’t tell ant one in my team here at Hurstville that . They will never let me have coffee with them again . By 845am we were dressed in our 30s and 40s gear ready for anyone … I wore a lovely black and grey number with push out braces and a Dilby hat for a more sensual look which was gorgeous with my wide black and white tie .. and matching lippie .. Hey big spender !!!! …
Yeahh Baby !!!
Does my head look big in this ???
9.30 We arrived at the big hotel again where we would be performing at 10.20 against 20 other dolled up choruses of sizes ranging from 14 up to 85 . we were the smallest entry with 11 singers on stage . One of the smallest ever entries .. actually we were just legal !!!! …
A serious personal moment …..
Between 9.30 and 10.20m we were ushered in to various rooms for countdowns to our performance . Now it was really serious ( Note the change in tone of my writing ) . As I listened intently to everything that was being said to me my mind wandered back to a year ago when I was in a different world in so many ways ., You see as jovial as I have written this article there serious tone that must be added . For a year and a half I had been battling with depression . Yes the black dog that would not leave my side . For me taking up singing was a part of my therapy . Depression yes Depression . there have been days where I have thought I don’t want to play anymore and thought like ending it all …
You know thanks to great support and help and the outlet of singing I made it through some very very dark days . singing was the one thing I really looked forward to and would never miss a practice no matter how down I was . The other support was my very patient wife and children whom I am so luck y to have in my life, Bless them all ..
Any way just before I went out on stage tossing to the masses I said a silent prayer to myself and thanked all those who got me through the darkness and in to the light again and al those who may be going or whom have suffered from the black dog of depression in this world that this performance was for all of them too .
I walked out on to the risers opened my eyes wide and sang to the world that I was free and alive again to enjoy all my life had to offer me and the sun was shining in my life again !!!! Six minutes later we had finished out two songs . I was very emotional by then but as professional as I could be
I didn’t even tell you what we sang !! Our first song was a ballad called
“ Dear little boy of Mine “ a very sweet song about losing a child and to have it come back again later in life . The second song “Tootsie “about a guy saying good bye to his love on a train hoping she would wait for him ..
After the other choruses had finished the winners were announced and we were given third place in our section out of nine other choruses whom were much larger than ours . Wow third place in our section with a bunch of guys 7 of whom had been singing together for less than twelve months. our overall placing was twelfth out of 20 . Our biggest surprise was we came 3rd out of 20 based on a handicap score based on previous results against the winning sore for this year . WOW!!!!
The rest of the weekend was glorious except for the weather. I was fortunate to be able to sing with the International 3rd paced quartet State Line Grocery as a tenor.. very cool experience
Om the Sunday I did lunch with another 1000 people and caught up with two other barber shoppers Chris Sheehan and Joseph Gasendo who also work with me . we are forming out own quartet so watch this space …..
As some of us were leaving to attend two day singing workshop we said our goodbyes and wondered just what had happened.. Secretly I know how ity was an experience which had changed me . for the next three days I sang and sang sang and though how wonderful it was to be alive a thought a year or so ago I didn’t have much faith in .. A motivator whom I have listened to Wayne Dyer says in one of his books
“ Don’t die with the Music still in you !!!!! “ Well it is in me know and wont go away ….
So Sing till you smile and smile till till it hurts ,, then sing again its good for your soul ….
Bless you all………………
Thats my story and Im sticking to it .....