April 27, 2009

What a feeling!

Today's post is a bit different. It isn't about monuments or memorials or tour groups. It's about one of the things I love most in my life -- music! This past weekend, my women's barbershop quartet competed at a regional contest for the very first time. Wow! What an experience that was!

We've been together as a quartet, known as Hearts Content, for a little over five years. We've performed countless times at our chorus shows (follow my link to the Heart of Maryland Chorus website), nursing homes, fairs, charity events, parties, etc., but this is the first time we really put ourselves "out there" to be judged by a panel of Sweet Adelines International Certified Judges! This was the first time we were on a stage in front of approximately 2000 people, performing just two groups after a quartet that ranked #4 in the International Competition last year! Talk about an adrenaline rush. Holy cow! But there was also a huge sense of vulnerability. These weren't just our friends that we were singing to; these were JUDGES! What if we totally "screwed the pooch", so to speak? Would we fall apart or would we be able to pick ourselves up and go on as a quartet?

No wonder It took us all of these years to convince ourselves that we could do this. Competing is so much more stressful...so different from just performing for fun. We spent hours upon hours learning music, refining our performance, being coached, rehearsing, performing for our chorus, and on and on and on. We had discussions on every aspect of our performance -- costumes, make-up, planning, how would we react if we came in last, how did we think we would do, etc. It's been on my mind for months. And just like a wedding or a big party, after all of that planning, practicing and worrying, it was all over so quickly.

In fact, it was done in just 6 minutes, the maximum amount of time you're allowed onstage to do your two songs. It was the fastest 6 minutes of my life! It was also the most fun 6 minutes of my life! I can't even begin to describe the HIGH that I felt being up on that stage. I was the first one of the quartet to enter from behind the curtain and as I walked onstage, I glanced towards the area where I knew our chorus was sitting. There in the darkness I saw dozens of glow-in-the-dark sticks being waved at us. Our "Hearts" -- the members of the Heart of Maryland Chorus -- were out there cheering us on! I also knew I had non-chorus friends and family in the audience and all of that love pouring into our hearts onstage lifted us up and helped me overcome the nerves that I had felt earlier.

We sang our ballad, took our bows, then launched into our "uptune". In a matter of seconds (or so it seemed), we were taking our final bows and leaving the stage. We had done it!! We had lived through the experience of competing without losing our nerve and without leaving any bodily fluids on the stage (a suggested goal for first-time competitors from one of our coaches). We had performed well enough that we didn't embarrass ourselves, our chorus or our families! Just the opposite -- as we walked into the auditorium following our performance, we were enveloped with congratulations and hugs from our fellow chorus members, friends and family, telling us that we had never sounded better. They were all so proud of us for getting up there and singing. I have never felt such a strong feeling of love and support as I did at that moment! I was flying high as a kite and I'm not sure I've yet come down for a landing even though it's three days later!

So, you're probably wondering how it all turned out. Well, I'm proud to say that of the 44 registered quartets in our region of Sweet Adelines International, we are the 15th best quartet! To be just a little more specific, there were 15 quartets that competed on Friday night and we came in #15. That's right, we were in last place....but you know what? IT DOESN'T MATTER! It was such a wonderful, positive experience for our very first competition that the score just wasn't all that important! We didn't compete for the medals; we competed for the pure joy of singing....for the feeling we got by standing up in front of that huge audience and saying, "We've got the guts and confidence to do this!"....and for the renewed spirit of pride it helped to bring to our chorus because they once again had a quartet to cheer for! Sure, we'd like to do better and, hopefully, next year we will. We have a starting point now -- a measure to work from to show our improvement. If we work hard enough in the coming year, maybe we'll get the "Most Improved Quartet" prize at next year's contest. But even if we don't, we'll be proud of ourselves for getting up there and competing. After all, there are 29 other quartets still behind us because they chose not to compete. We used to be one of them....but not any more!

The positive spirit of the quartet competition also carried over to the chorus competition on Saturday. The Heart of Maryland Chorus went up 33 points over last year's performance and moved up one place to 14th in the region! We were thrilled! That was a huge improvement for us, event though it wasn't enough to get the "Most Improved Chorus" award. We're heading in the right direction, though, and had the best score that we've had in about 4 years! Hooray and hallelujah!

Now I have to put the competition weekend in the back of my mind and move on with the rest of the tour season. Today was a day off to relax, refresh and enjoy the peace and quiet. Tomorrow it's back to work with the first day of a 4-day tour. But the memories of the weekend will linger in my mind for a long, long time.

1 comment:

  1. I am so very proud of you!!!! What an amazing night it must have been. I know what your singing and what your quartet (chorus) means to you! Did anyone video the performance? Is there a chance you can YouTube it? (I'll bet your son can figure that one out)
    I am so very happy for you! Hopefully, you are now feeling a bit better... We will definitely do a matinee afternoon,once we discover 'normal' once again!
    Love ya!!!!