Monday, July 09, 2007

Just blew in from Denver, and boy, are my lips tired

I'll cut right to the important stuff: We came in sixth.

"We" refers to my chorus, Voices in Harmony. The "came in sixth" refers to the Barbershop Harmony Society's International Chorus Contest, in which VIH competed last Friday.

This was VIH's first International as an ensemble, although about half of our members — myself included — had previous International experience in other choruses. From that perspective, being judged sixth-best in the world in our musical discipline is an awesome accomplishment. But for a contingent that had worked diligently for months hoping to debut in the top five at International, falling short of our goal felt a good deal like failure. At least for the first 36 hours.

Now, Denver's in the rear-view mirror, and we're looking ahead to next July's International contest in Nashville.

Onward and upward.

Post-competition disappointment aside, Denver was a blast. VIH performed in a talent showcase on Tuesday evening, and merited a standing ovation from one of the most accomplished chorus directors in the Society. We had three terrific rehearsals and enjoyed a fun dinner celebration on Thursday evening. We witnessed a spectacular quartet contest, won by a fine foursome of vocal musicians known as Max Q who'd finished second three years running. We cheered as our southern California neighbors, the Westminster Chorus, emerged victorious in the chorus contest. And we were treated to a warm welcome from the good folks of the Mile-High City.

For me, Denver was a pleasant surprise. Never having spent any time there, I expected something far less cosmopolitan than the city I discovered. The downtown area, highlighted by the 16th Street Mall — a mile-long outdoor pedestrian shopping stroll, complemented by free shuttle bus service, a Hard Rock Café and five Starbucks outlets — would be an asset to any American community. Even the weather was a surprise — the altitude suggested cool, breezy mountain days, but instead it was hot and steamy (and at brief times, thunderstormy) all week.

The city of Denver rolled out the red carpet for our International convention. Everywhere one wandered downtown, banners proclaimed, "Denver Welcomes the Barbershop Harmony Society." Practically every shop and restaurant window bore a similar sign of greeting. Sure, I know the idea was to charm more money out of our wallets, but still, it felt nice to be so politely suckered.

Another surprise: I savored one of the tastiest sushi lunches I've had in a while, at Sonoda's Sushi on Market Street. I walked in skeptical that a mid-continent burg could dish up the quality of sushi to which this West Coast/Hawaiian homeboy is accustomed. I waddled out 90 minutes later stuffed to the gills, to borrow a cliché. If you're in Denver and hankering for the raw stuff, stop by Sonoda's and they'll hook you up. Tell 'em the chubby brother from the barbershop convention sent you.

My accommodations at the Adam's Mark Hotel were satisfactory, if unremarkable (no pun intended) for the price. On the plus side: the air conditioning in my room delivered nice, cool air nonstop for five nights; the room service staff delivered decent food promptly whenever I ordered a meal; the free in-house high-speed Internet connection delivered consistent bandwidth throughout the week, justifying the hassle of toting my spanking new Dell laptop all the way from Cali. On the down side: the view from my window (which prominently featured a mammoth AC unit on an adjacent gravel-covered roof) was lacking; TV channel selection was sadly limited (three flavors of ESPN, but little else in the way of variety); and the one meal I ate in the hotel's restaurant took forever to arrive. In addition, the Adam's Mark is easily the most confusing hotel I've ever attempted to navigate, and I'm a veteran visitor to Las Vegas, where hotels are intentionally designed to obfuscate logical movement.

The cheerful minions of Southwest Airlines managed to transport me safely to and from Colorado without crashing or misplacing my luggage. I did, unfortunately, find myself stuck in a row either fore or aft of a screaming infant on each leg of the trip. But I can't blame Southwest for other people's procreation.

I missed my girls, my dog, my own bed, and my pocketknives. (Fortunately, scans of my comic art collection can travel with me anywhere.)

It's good to be home.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger BRWombat offered these pearls of wisdom...

Personally, I loved VIH's set and thought you did awesome -- and to find out here that Denver was your first international, your sixth-place finish is amazing! You were up against tough competition and have nothing to regret. This VM Bari is looking forward to hearing from you again and seeing what you accomplish in the future -- "onward and upward," as you say! Thanks for an incredibly entertaining set.

10:26 AM  

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