Gary's first Convention 2022

Gary's first Convention 2022
Type of post: Choir news item
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: David Morris
Status: Current
Date Posted: Thu, 30 Jun 2022

I was asked to write something regarding my first Barber Shop Conference at Harrogate but before I begin, I have to state what preceded the conference - essentially: hardwork! Weeks and weeks - and then some - of practising our two songs When I Fall in Love, and Old Me Better.

We have worked on all aspects of the songs communicating the emotion, their light and shade, as well as noting the emphasis on certain words. Our movement (‘Dad Dancing!’) was another important aspect, minimising movement so it didn’t impede but rather enhanced performance. Our clothing was then considered - deciding on the shade of brown shoes we were to wear, and finally we looked to wrestling with the adrenalin of performance (that was a big beast!). What a journey! And that’s not to mention the actual journey - the 3 ½ hours to get to Harrogate; Simon Todd: thank you for the lifts and I’m sorry if I scarred you with my long chats! (Editor’s note: you really didn’t, Garry - you made the trip a lot more bearable! Todd).

So, onto the actual day: After the long journey, I registered at the front desk, making sure to prove I didn’t have the dreaded Covid 19, helping to keep all participants, and spectators, safe. Then I received my lanyard and conference badge; at this point I knew I was a conference virgin, pinning my measly single badge to my lanyard, in stark contrast to many attendees who seemed to be weighed down with the thousands of badges they had acquired over the years! But what was nice was that we were made to feel no less welcome! This was the first post-Covid conference and I was aware that it was a big landmark moment for everyone attending.

The conference itself consisted of a range of barbershop performances over the three days (though I only attended 1 ½ days). It was a delight! I listened to an array of quartets on the Friday - what a joy! I gained new insights into barbershop and was able to add to my growing bank of barbershop vocabulary - ‘mic warmers’ and ‘mic coolers’, to name but a few. The ‘mic warmers’, even though not in the competition, gave a great performance of two songs, and I suddenly realised the high bar of performance - one that I was about to try and meet! The MC encouraged equal ovations for all participants, and the audience kindly obliged. The quality of singers was diverse, however each had very similar levels of enthusiasm and passion. There were old and contemporary styles of barbershop; an array of ages; some with great movement and some with too much movement (for me!); there was even a parody of The Adams family! My admiration went to groups who sang songs completely new to me, yet their performance engaged me to even liking the songs on a first listen. My sympathy went to the judges who listened all day to this range of voices, with fairness and equity.

The time for the chorus competition soon came: there were 4 levels to the risers and the choruses ranged from 12 to… a veritable army of what looked like 60 plus singers! Our 11am slot crept up on us on the Saturday morning and it was great fun performing to the crowd (and judges of course)! We sang our 2 competition numbers, but it was so, so quick. Perhaps what almost eclipsed it for me was our 3pm casual performance in a little corner of the convention centre where we sang 4 numbers; two things stood out for me: there was a security guard really enjoying us singing (whilst still looking authoritative!), and a seasoned barbershopper passed by and clearly stopped en route to listen to us! OK, and a third: a lady who heard us sing our little set, including “Dance with my father” had to leave as it was quite emotional for her! She came back and said it was lovely - I know what she meant: It’s got great emotional hooks that just occasionally pull at me too!

All in all it was a fantastic experience: I saw a range of barbershop choruses steeped in experience; I learnt a lot about ‘owning’ the stage and having an original style; I also learnt other performance-related tips around choreography and syncopation; and last but by no means least, I got to know my fellow Telfordaires chorus members better! 

So my first Sing Barbershop Conference 2022 came to a close. We came. We saw, and we sang. Can’t ask for more than that can we….? Well, maybe we'll get to conquer in the future!