As a barbershop singer, I was in Sacramento to participate in what is called the Far Western District (FWD) Spring Convention & Contest where choruses and quartets from several states come together to compete, namely, California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and St. George, Utah. The parent organization is called the Barbershop Harmony Society, formerly, SPEBSQSA which is the acronym for the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. Some years ago this name was changed for a couple of reasons. First, mostly because it is a cumbersome title for our organization (or any organization for that matter!). And second because barbershop singing is no longer strictly an American musical art form. We’ve gone International! In fact, last summer when I was singing with the Alexandria Harmonizers in France for the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, we made a side trip to Germany where we sang with a bunch of our German brother barbershoppers.
I sing with the Golden Valley Chorus (GVC) which is a chorus of 20 men. I’ve known some of these men for more than 25 years. They are a fine bunch of friends who all share the love of singing four-part harmony.
Our convention was held at the Convention Center on the former McClellan Air Force Base. Even though it is only 70 miles from home, I chose to stay in a hotel since the days are long and late. Friday night, things kicked off with the first round of quartet competition. This is always a great event. You get to hear and see some of the best quartet singing anywhere. The successful competitors move on in hopes of winning the Division competition which secures a spot for them to sing at our 2016 International next summer in Nashville, Tennessee. The champions are awarded the coveted gold medal. This places any quartet in the elite status among barbershoppers.
The various choruses compete as well in hopes of moving on to Division and then International. Our chorus placed 5th in the Northeast Division which means we qualified to move on to the Division Competition in Mesa, Arizona in mid-October. But if you ever have a chance to see VoCal (Voices of California – Sacramento) or Voices in Harmony (San Francisco Bay Area) perform, make sure you buy those tickets. There are many fine choruses of varying size; these two are definitely a cut above
One unexpected blessing for me occurred when my friend and chorus director, Bruce Sellnow, asked me if I would step in as the emcee for the High School Quartet Competition. I was delighted to help out. With a convention/contest of this size and caliber, you can imagine all the moving parts in order to successfully pull it off. There were five high school quartets all from California competing, from Las Flores (2), Milpitas, San Diego, and Santa Maria. Man, some of these young men are really good! Of course, as older guys we love to see the young guys take up a love for this hobby we all love so much.
Sunday morning I drove from Sacramento to Iowa Hill to attend a church my friend, Jim Crawford, has been pastoring. You have to know where you’re going in order to get there! Jim has asked me to preach for him there twice before so I knew where I was going. But the road from the freeway exit is nine miles of some of the most beautiful scenery around. The road is also extremely dangerous with its innumerable switchbacks and sheer drops of more than a thousand feet. I was driving my five-speed PT Cruiser, so I was good to go. But you never quite know what you’ll see. I came around one curve and was confronted by a turkey hen who didn’t grasp the immediate danger she had placed herself in. I waited until she cleared the road, and then continued on.
When I arrived at the town of Iowa Hill, population roughly 100, I stopped at the old school building that is used for numerous things today, but for our purposes, it’s a church on Sunday morning. I got out of my car, and immediately recognized Kathy coming out of the building. I smiled as she said, “Well, look who’s here!” I responded, “You just never know who’s going to show up in Iowa Hill.” It’s been almost two years since I was last there. It was good to see everyone again. Unbeknownst to me, this was their planned work day for the church, so I grabbed my PT gear and changed out of my coat and tie. I spent the majority of the time trying, unsuccessfully, to get two weed whackers to work. Got one started, but it would not stay running. The other had aged plastic fuel lines which simply broke in my hand. Eventually we cleaned up and then spent some time in worship.
After saying goodbye, Jim and his wife Diana headed for Sacramento, with me bringing up the rear, as we headed for the Filipino church where Jim was taking over as the new senior pastor. Saw some old friends there and enjoyed more times of worship with these saints of God. After the service we enjoyed a potluck lunch which included fish heads, chicken adobo, and a variety of other foods. Sufficiently sated, I finally took my leave and headed for home.
What a weekend! I had the harmony of friends and music with my barbershop compadres, plus I enjoyed the fellowship of Christian worship with two churches.
But the best part was coming home and being greeted by my wife, Isaura.
I am truly blessed!