Harmony, Inc. Area 2 AC&C, April 1997, Laval, PQ (near Montreal)

Zing! impressions of Harmony, Inc. Area 2 AC&C (really long)
(originally sent to the Harmonet on April 28, 1997)

After the major contribution Shanno made last November I would feel like Zing! was shirking our duty unless at least one of us sent out our impressions of our AC&C this past weekend.

The weekend is pretty much a blur for me, since I was competing with both Zing! on Friday night and Women of Note on Saturday afternoon.

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The four of us ride up together on Thursday. (We learned our lesson in November to travel together and be there the day before on-stage time. No more abandoning luggage and pelting to the stage.) We meet up in stages. The three of us southerners (coming from central/eastern Massachusetts compared to Debbie coming from Peterborough, NH) get a late start. We of course don't feel that we have just the right balance of junk food versus healthy snacks, so we have to stop along the way. (Actually, Tracy has mistimed the opening of the health food store where they carry Clif bars, the Zing! bar of choice.) Once we get going for the last stretch before meeting Debbie, Shanno tries calling her from the car. No answer. We are feeling guilty because we' re running a half-hour late by this point. We aren't feeling overly guilty, though, since we are *on vacation*!!! We have to drive right Tracy's and my buildings which only remind us that we don't have to go to work. Yay!

A little while later the phone rings--for the first time ever while I'm driving, I might add. It's Debbie, who else The conversation lasts from our getting off the highway until we can see the hotel where we are meeting. I think she thinks we're lost It's pretty funny to think we can see each other while the phone conversation is going on, and from listening to Shanno's half of the discussion it sounds like Debbie still doesn't believe that we will be there within 5 minutes.

We pull into the parking lot to see Zing! signs on the van windows. Debbie wants to make sure that if we pass anyone on the road to the convention that they recognize us Transferring the stuff from my car to Debbie's van you'd think that we hadn't seen each other in months and that we are going to be gone for months. Between the number of hugs and the amount of stuff we cram in there. I have to admit that I am the heavy packer. After all, if you recall from November, I am the originator of Linda's famous Anal Retentive Contest Packing sheet. I'd hate not to live up to my reputation for being prepared for all occasions. We have bonus hugs today because we have a fifth person riding with us, Debbie's daughter Julia.

It is a very exciting event for Julia, because her grandmother, Joanne Dodge, affectionately known as DeeDee by her grandchildren, only invites her granddaughters to come "when they are old enough." Brittany, Debbie's niece, has come to a couple conventions already, but this is the first time Julia has been invited. She seems a little overwhelmed, the only child riding in a van with four adults. She has plenty of tapes and CDs to amuse herself, though, and when she sings to the tapes out loud we join in on "The Yellow Submarine" and songs from "The Sound of Music" even though we can't hear the tape, only Julia

Away we go, about four and a half hours of driving ahead of us. We have plenty of gabbing and singing to do to keep us going. Before we've even gone 10 miles we notice a bus from the Cape ahead of us. We surmise that it could possibly be the Cape Chordaires on their way to Laval. We decide to pass them to check it out. We know that one member of Women of Note is riding with them and figure we'd recognize her if no one else. Sure enough, in one of the back seats by the window we see Roberta. She doesn't see us, though. She's got her head back and is sleeping away When we see her later in the weekend, she tells us that she never even knew that we had met up on the road. We wave to everyone on the bus. The bus driver seems to be the most enthusiastic at waving back. We think that's the end of the game, but we are lulled into a false sense of security. A few minutes later the bus overtakes us. This time Joe Millett, the director, formerly of the Lowell, MA men's chapter, is standing in the doorway waving at us and grinning. The game doesn't last much longer, though, because the bus pulls off for lunch, and we keep going. Our lunch consists of McDonald's Happy Meals, so that all of us kids can get our mini-beanie-babies, to keep up with the hottest trends, of course Debbie, the mom, is the only one who walks out without one.

The rest of the drive is uneventful until we get to Montreal I forgot what city commuter traffic was like. My commute goes against the major flow of traffic. It takes us quite a while to get past Montreal and into Laval. Tracy is playing navigator and gets us that far without any incidents. Just as we see the hotel, though, she misses the turn-off, and we are stuck in this commuter traffic with no idea how to get back to where we want to be--we're great at maps, but this part of the highway isn't on our map. Being ready for adventure, we keep going and look for an opportunity to get off the highway. We successfully follow our noses after an appropriate amount of debate, of course, for a while and manage to get back on the map. We even let Tracy take over again as navigator, since she is being possessive about the maps, and she actually gets us to the hotel without further incidents.

We check in and settle into our room Shanno and Tracy get the Zing! door in order with the now traditional Zing! sign in black on fluorescent orange, surrounded by a string of blinking white Christmas lights. We find out later that others on our floor had started using it as their beacon, "exit the stairwell, go past the Zing! door, and my room will be on the left." Ed, we tried hard to get the lights and hair dryers to blow a fuse in your honor, but the wiring of this hotel must be better equipped to handle the load than the hotel in November The lights stay on.

We're off to sleep to dream happy dreams of how successful the weekend will be, the four of us in the regular beds and Julia on a fold-away Suddenly we're all wide awake trying to figure out who's yelling in bed. It's Tracy having a nightmare. She's dreaming that a man is attacking her in an elevator and just as she's walking into the elevator she has a deja vu that the man will attack. Just then she feels someone grabbing her arm and realizes in the dream that it's just a dream and that the arm is from real life. Somebody is saving her from the nightmare. She wakes up to Shanno kneeling over her shaking her. Phew! The nightmare is over. She rolls over and falls immediately back to sleep. Meanwhile the rest of us are tossing and turning trying to figure out what happened. We don't find out until morning and don't sleep very well for the rest of the night. Thanks a lot Tracy!

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The next morning is the official start of the convention. Debbie deposits Julia with DeeDee and Brittany. They decorate their door, announcing themselves as the world champion barbershop fans. Then it is time for the Zing! workout ritual All four of us get jittery if we don't get enough exercise. Tracy and Shanno had explored the hotel options for getting exercise. They didn't cut it for them, so they take off for the Nautilus place up the street Debbie settles into

tile three pieces of equipment in the hotel exercise area, and I stake out a chunk of floor space near her with my walkman playing aerobics tapes, and I do the aerobics routine from my class at home. We meet up again in the lobby thinking we can quickly get our registrations and then hit the showers. Silly us. This is prime time for seeing your friends from the Area wandering around the lobby! I even meet the Harmonet's own Murray Phillips in my aerobics finery. Not generally my choice for first impressions! That's when you hope people recognize that this isn't your usual attire--even for conventions!

Well, I suppose our usual convention attire isn't much better. The choice for the day is our black t-shirts with embroidered Zing! logos, black biker shorts, brightly colored canvas sneakers, and fluorescent tights

We start singing, getting ready for on-stage time and the contest. We go down to on-stage time a half-hour early, finding a good corner to ring some chords in We decide our hotel room sings a little flat The nook near the ballroom is much better at staying in tune When we sit down to wait our turn on the stage Jeanne O'Connor comes by on her way to her craft class. She is teaching a class for directors. She gets a twinkle in her eye as she casually asks, "So what are you doing after your on-stage time?" and then proceeds to invite us to sing for her class full of directors so that she has somebody to direct We snatch that opportunity!

Singing for Jeanne is great. We sing a few songs that are off the paper, sort of We're pretty good at the spots, but we haven't put any real emotions into the songs, yet They are perfect vehicles for the directors of the class to pick apart and discuss how they would approach them. The ultimate for us is to have Jeanne directing us singing our new tag to "Brokenhearted." She is trying to relay to the other directors that by their stance and the emotion in their directing that their chorus members will hold a note forever We are definitely living proof of that. We make Jeanne turn around and direct the tag again with us standing in the back of the room, so the class can see what we see Wow!

By then it is around 3:00 We decide 3:00 is the perfect time for supper on contest day Apparently we're not the only ones, since we run into Beacon Street and Starstruck, both from our chapter, also eating in the hotel restaurant. After a leisurely supper we make a quick stop in our room to get ready for the quartette briefing. Our wardrobe is not complete without our new "Go girl!" baseball hats that Shanno's mom found in a catalog. "You go girl!" is still the Zing! motto At the briefing it's announced that this is the first time an all-Harmony, Inc. panel will be judging the contest It's also the first time most of our Area 4 judges can be with us at Area 2, since most of them come from the Village Vocal Chords, and the VVCs have had their show on the same weekend as Area 2 AC&C for many years

After the quartette briefing it's time to start getting ready. We restate the Zing! makeup motto from November--when you look like a prostitute you're halfway there.. --and start smearing We actually allow Tracy to do her own lipstick this contest. She assures us that she has a lip pencil to help her contain the color and that she has mastered the technique. Needless to say, we shouldn't have believed her Shanno does damage control but can't resist repeating the name Tracy gave herself, calling her "horselips" for the next 10 minutes

About this time there's a knock at the door We look around to see who should open it. All four of us are standing there in our underwear, makeup brushes in hand. Hmmm. "Who is it?" Our coach Steve Tramack. It was our idea to have him come one last time to the room before we go on stage. Guess we should have timed things better. Too late now! A momentary frantic scramble for clothes from the nearest suitcase and we're ready for company. Steve directs the Nashua, NH chapter, and his wife, Renee, is the new director of the Chair City Pipers from Gardner, MA. Renee used to sing with the Champlain Echoes, in Burlington, VT Steve is attending the convention to support Renee. It is a nice bonus for us to have him there. He knows what we were doing in rehearsals and can be objective about whether what we put on stage is up to our potential or not.

It's show time! We are singing third in the contest, right behind two other quartettes from our chapter. We fly into our uptune. Things seem to be going well We're heading into the tag. Oh no! What is coming out of our mouths? We've never sung it that way before! Regroup! Regroup! We manage to find each other again for the final couple chords Now we're into the ballad. This goes much smoother all the way to the end. Suddenly we're off the stage and sitting in the audience Our part of the contest is done. Limited Edition, 1995-96 Harmony Queens entertain while the scores are being tallied. Tracy and Shanno are about to burst because they're waiting until the results are announced before they go to the bathroom. Finally it's time. Area 2 qualifies 10 quartettes! They're announced in alphabetical order. We are disappointed for our friends Beacon Street, who have not qualified and excited for our friends from our chapter, from other conventions, and from the Harmonet as their quartette names are read off. Finally we're at the end of the alphabet. Zing! Yay, a chance to do a better job in November! The qualifier ribbons are presented. The novice quartette champion is announced--F.L.A.S.H., with the Harmonet's own Lindsay Chartier The top four quartettes are announced (although only the first place quartette gets a ribbon), 4th: Skylark; 3rd: Zing!; 2nd: Starstruck; 1st: Conchordia.

Time for evaluations. Armed with four tape recorders and coach Steve we get ready for our first category. It's Singing, and Lynn Randall, who is in the final stages of getting certified, does our evaluation. She's great. She gives us some exercises which are right in line with the loose jaw techniques we've started working on with Steve and with Chris Peterson from The Management Unfortunately Zing! doesn't do well singing during evaluations, so we choose not to sing for the other two categories. Next comes Theresa Weatherbee for Presentation. She has some ideas that will help us get more bang for our buck during rehearsals. Finally is Lauren Lindeman and Music. She, like Lynn, dives right into the loose jaw issue. She does an exercise similar to Lynn's but different enough to add it to our arsenal. By now we' re totally fried and head off to bed. We listened to our tape as we' re putting our PJs on and poke fun at the horrible chords in the tag. At least we've gotten to a point where we can laugh at ourselves, which is more than you could say a few hours earlier.

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By now I am no longer denying that yet again I have a cold during a performance weekend. I was up in the middle of the night two nights in a row when the congestion had built up enough to make breathing next to impossible. This is getting to be a bad habit of mine. I'm now mega-dosing vitamin C and fending off as many of the symptoms as I can in other ways, too. Shanno decides that the key ingredient of the particular vitamin C tablets that I bought is the bioflavinoids. We really don't know what they are, but the name just sounds like it would be a powerful remedy I seem to be more successful fending off symptoms this weekend than I was in November as I still have both a speaking and a singing voice. I have my fingers crossed that it will stay that way.

I'm up and out early since I'm the only one of the four of us singing with Women of Note in this contest Debbie and Shanno have left the chorus, and Tracy's on leave of absence My only consolation seeing them still in bed is that they're meeting me at the chorus breakfast, so they can't sleep *too* late. I have an adventure during on-stage time with my fellow front-row-ers in WON. We have some pretty vigorous moves in our package and find out that the way the stage is setup we're bouncing out and back. Reminds me of that amusement park attraction the moonwalk, where you go into a room created by inflating the floor or of the spring floor they use in gymnastics. Now it's time for FOOD!

The rest of Zing! does make it to breakfast, decked out in WON shirts and sweatshirts and Zing! accessories. It makes an interesting combination. After breakfast we go back to the room. It takes me a half-hour less time to get ready for the chorus contest since I'm the only one who needs to use the bathroom. I leave the room to join the chorus near the elevator. Before the whole group has assembled I can hear Zing! working on one of our new songs. I can't resist sneaking back, poking my head in, and singing my part, too. Then it's time to focus on the chorus performance for real. We're off! Just as our director lets us go with enough time for one more bathroom run and instructions to meet on the first floor I realize that I have forgotten about Zing!'s box lunches. We were supposed to have picked them up already. I cruise by the area I expect them to be sitting No lunches. I cruise by the auditorium but can't see Zing! Oh well, we'll have to get something else later. WON gathers in our warm-up room, talks through a few more things, and then is led to the stage Here we go!

We're settling on the risers. As I'm waiting for the rest of the chorus I can hear Debbie on the other side of the curtain. Well, now I know where Zing!'s sitting. The curtain opens. We launch into our new song for the contest, "Lonely Nights Medley." Hey, this is going pretty well for such a new song. We finish it and do our final pose. I have the pitch pipe ready and am waiting for the applause curve. OK, blow. Uh oh. There's a surge in the applause. How long should I blow, now? Yikes! It's stopping now. Phew! I stop. The director yells, "5, 6, 7, 8." And we're off into "The Original Dixieland One-Step." This seems a little faster than usual Wee, here's the bouncing floor. Phew, managed to get through all the moves without knocking each other over The curtain closes Yay!

After photos it's out to the audience for the rest of the contest. We sang sixth out of 11 choruses, so the rest of the contest goes by quickly The Capital Chordettes, our reigning chorus champions entertain while the judges tally the scores. Time for announcements. 5 qualifiers to International. Then the top four: 4th: Barre-Tones; 3rd: Montreal Chapter --our hostesses; 2nd: The Harmonettes; 1st: Women of Note. Big hugs all around. We go back on stage and perform "I Had Someone Else Before I Had You." Boy am I drained now! We gather in the hallway to receive our ribbons and instructions. Next stop, evaluations.

The evaluations are coaching style with the whole chorus on the risers. We start with Singing. Lynn Randall does the evaluation. Amazingly enough the chorus needs to work on similar things as the quartette. Lynn coaches us on "Lonely Nights" and we keep working with that song for the other two sessions as well. Next is Music. Beth Ramsson works with us Finally comes Theresa Weatherbee for Presentation. She confirms that we have good plans by suggesting changes to the performance that are in the plan but weren't executed. As soon as she points them out and we sing for her they fall right back into place. Guess we could stand to go back and reinforce what we supposedly learned...

Now it's on to dinner and Fun Night. I'm very jealous of my quartette-mates. They're in their comfy clothes. They're jealous of me, too, though, because I've got the blue chorus ribbon on Women of Note performs once more for Fun Night. Once the organized festivities are over it's into my comfy clothes and off to the party rooms This is my first opportunity to switch from contact lenses to glasses Time for memory loss number 2. I have absolutely no idea where my glasses are! I had put them in my knapsack for the contest but had rearranged things for Fun Night and can't remember seeing them. After going hysterical for a couple minutes and having everybody ransacking the room I remember where they are. Sorry for the panic!

Zing! has a new set of comfy clothes this contest. Tracy was on a vacation trip to the pacific rim for close to a month and brought us each back a sarong--different colors, of course. Not being adept at sarong styles, we go the safe route and wear biker shorts and t-shirts under them. (Shanno runs into Lauren Lindeman at Fun Night. Lauren declares that we're weird. Shanno thanks her for the compliment, for who from Zing! would want to be a conformist!?! When we see her later we of course threaten to wear some of our fluorescent clothing to our coaching session with her the next morning.) Shanno discovers that the biker shorts route was the right one when she's washing her hands in one of the hotel bathrooms along the way and it drops to her ankles. Gee, what's that sudden rush of air?

We're off on the party rounds. We run into the Villagers in the Cape Chordaires room and do an octette. Jacquie Jensen remarks that we're tough to sing with because we bounce to the music The Villagers aren't your bounce kind of quartette, although when they got to the WON room Jacquie did an imitation of us. I wish I could have seen it!

Julia is thrilled when she sees a clock and notices that it's past midnight This is a first for her.

Another highlight of the party rounds is to see/hear Lindsay sing in her two quartettes back to back. The Mixed Nuts sing a few from their vast repertoire, and then F.L.A.S.H. sings their complete repertoire of 3 songs.

We enjoy visiting with different choruses, although we know for sure that we haven't found all the parties. We've now run out of bottled water, we' ve made it back to the WON room, and my cold symptoms are settling in in force. We decide it's time to get our beauty sleep, which will be too short to do any good before our coaching session with Lauren in the morning, but maybe it will be long enough to help us have just enough voice for the coaching to be helpful.

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We send Tracy out for the biggest Dunkin' Donuts coffee she can find. Lauren is not a morning person and warns people ahead of time. Meanwhile I'm trying to find my tape recorder. Slight panic, although I at least have a vague memory of what I did with it the night before. Shanno insists that it must be in the same bag as my glasses. I retrace my steps and find it. We're off to the coaching session. Tracy meets us there with a truly large cup of coffee. We have a great time with Lauren. It is fun and productive We do have to laugh at Tracy, though, who has developed a mental block on one of the notes of our ballad over the course of the weekend.

Now it's time for the bad news. Debbie's back side window has been smashed. It appears to be a smash-and-grab thief looking for a quick take The thief got Julia's cassette walk-man and portable CD players. Tracy's faced with the damage when she's on the way to Dunkin' Donuts and waits until after the coaching to break it to Debbie. We pow-wow on what to do. We decide to pack all the stuff and bring it to the lobby while Debbie works with the hotel staff to contact the police and her insurance company.

Tracy drives the car behind the hotel where one of the staff pulls out chunks of glass and tapes plastic over the window. Debbie talks with the staff at the desk and contacts the police. Shanno and I make the rounds of the room. I have another panic attack because I can't find my purse which I thought I packed in my knapsack. Shanno is now disillusioned. Now she knows why the packing list was started. I'm really not as on top of things as I have appeared. I've shattered her image. We get everything to the lobby and wait for Tracy and Debbie to finish.

The other convention goers and the hotel staff are great The plastic they taped over the window lasts no problem to get us home. The staff helps clean out the glass and lets Tracy vacuum the interior to within an inch of its life. "Thorough" just wouldn't be a strong enough word. We think the guy who is working with her is a little intimidated by her vacuuming gusto.

Once we get on the road the trip home is uneventful. Looking for my keys in Debbie's van when we get close to my car, Shanno does have to point out that they, too, are probably in the bag with my glasses We're all back to our everyday reality today

Our morals of the weekend: we're a 10 gallon quartette when it comes to bottled water; don't forget to remove or cover your valuables when you leave your car in the parking lot; Linda isn't the organizational wonder the rest of the quartette thought she was; we prefer not to crash and burn on the tag of any of our songs; we prefer not to crash and burn at any point in any of our songs; Zing! can weather the storm and be ready to face the next one stronger than before.

Linda Bober
Tenor, Women of Note chorus
Tenor, Zing! quartette
Harmony, Inc.
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