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From: Kay Bromert

Hi Everyone,
It's 11 PM and we just got back from the first annual Rising Star contest. What fun!! There were 12 quartets from 8 states and 2 countries entered; rules say they must be between the ages of 13 and 25. Believe me, many more were closer to 13 than 25. Most were high school or younger, and I didn't see anyone who looked remotely close to 25! The auditorium where the contest was held isn't exactly like what we're used to in our competitions, since it is stadium style seating. The judges were at a table up front, as usual. Behind them, in sections sitting behind the respective category judge, were the people who are in the judges' track this week. They were in effect "trial scoring" the contest, and they will go over those score sheets as part of their classes tomorrow. The official judges were Marge Bailey, Music; Sharon Babb, Sound and Panel Chair; Carol Kirkpatrick, Expression; and Barbara Nielson, Showmanship. All the official contest rules like no flash pictures, no entering or leaving during a performance, etc, were followed, except that house lights were left up throughout the contest to accommodate the trial scoring judges. I should also mention that music for the Young Women in Harmony is generally pitched a little higher than SAI music. To give the Society members a point of reference, women's arrangements are usually pitched 4 - 5 steps above men's arrangements. The girls are probably another 2 steps above that, though as arrangers we have to be careful not to get the tenor up in the sky somewhere. YWIH tenors have generally the same range as a woman tenor. Let me also preface my remarks by saying that every single quartet who performed is a winner just for having the guts to get out there and perform. They all received a rousing applause from the audience, which they well deserved. A lot of hard work has preceeded their trips here.

We started right at 8 PM with the mike testing quartet, Natural High, Region 10 1999 Champions. They came out in black short skirts and gold bangle/rhinestone tops. Their two songs were Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which had the tenor ending on a high Bb, and Jazz Baby. They have a nice sound and sing with energy. This was an excellent chance for them to practice their package before Atlanta.

First contestant was Belle Tones from Sugarland, Texas. They had black slacks and different types of white blouses/jackets, with a black and white scarf tied at the neck. They did Ma, He's Makin' Eyes at Me, which had some cute choreography, and Lonesomest Girls In Town. They were obviously nervous - wouldn't you be with 1400 women in the audience, and you could see them??? But they perservered, to their credit, and they did a credible job.

Next up was Suspension and the Resolutions from Frankenmuth High School in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Their costume was a black short skirt, white long-sleeved blouses, and black vests with silver lapels, and they sported black bow ties. Their long hair was pulled back into high curls. They opened with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, pitched in the key of C - very high and tenor predominant, even though the melody was in the lead. They had a well-rehearsed bow and then went into Side By Side. It had great choreography, including the linked arm move that Ambassadors wowed us with in Anaheim. After they left the stage, the audience was buzzing, and everyone was trying that move!

Number 3 was Phoenix from North Miami, Florida. They came out in long black skirts with light gold shiny, long-sleeved blouses. Their first number was Ten Feet Off the Ground, followed by Somewhere Over the Rainbow. They have a nice, well-balanced sound and a great bass that most of us in my row would love to have in our choruses.

Then came Harmonettes (sound like a familiar name, Netters??) from Arsenal Technical High School, Indianapolis, Indiana. They had the flashiest outfit yet, blue sequin short full skirts with velvet black halter tops. The tops came down to a point in front and had rhinestone or sequin edges on the top and bottom. They did an intro that went "Harmonettes, we're the Harmonettes," or something like that, and it led into Ma, He's Makin' Eyes At Me and I'm the One You're Lookin' For. They did a wonderful job of selling their package and definitely got over the footlights. They did a cute little skirt flip on their exit that the audience cheered. In fact, the audience loved their whole package. They are the best ones yet. A funny little thing occurred when they came into the audience. They took their seats, which were down front, then they got up and went to someone seated on the side near them. Each came back carrying a pair of sneakers or jogging shoes of some kind. Even the young girls hate those Sweet Adeline shoes!!

Contestant #5 was Fruit Salad from Arnold Hill School, Arnold, Nottingham, United Kingdom. They had blue sleeveless short dresses, blue scrunchies in their hair, which was pulled back off their faces. They sang Keep Your Sunny Side Up and Alexander's Ragtime Band. I really liked their choreography on Alexander, especially the way each of them "played" a different instrument. They had a nice blend.

The next contestant had scratched, so #7 was The Dazzling Diamonds from Grand Ledge, Lansing, and Dewitt, Michigan. They looked so sophisticated in long black v-neck, sleeveless dresses with shimmery red flowers beaded into the overlay fabric somehow. Very nice effect under the lights. They had over-the-elbow black gloves and rhinestone bracelets. The baritone blew the pitches and kept the pitch pipe in the top of one of her gloves. They sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and By the Sea. Their choreography was wonderful, and they had a very mature, adult sound, even though I found out later that they are all going into 9th and 10th grades. I was impressed by the nice baritone fill....of course, being one of God's chosen makes me appreciate them even more! ;-)

This was followed by the Rising Star equivalent of FRED, In the Spotlight from Arnold Hill School, Arnold, Nottingham, United Kingdom. Out came 3 of them dressed in blue pajamas with gold stars and moons on them and blue fuzzy slippers. They were each carrying a teddy bear and all were sucking their thumbs. They had two ponytails in little girl style, one with a blue ribbon and one with a gold ribbon. At last the fourth and smallest of the group shyly peeked around the curtain, and the others convinced her to join them on stage. She did, and when the pitch pipe blower blew the pitch, the pipe was hidden behind her teddy bear's head. The audience loved it! They sang Teddy Bear, a darling parody on Baby Face, and Have You Ever Been Lonely, in which the bears did a costume change and appeared with medals or ribbons on them. Well planned and very entertaining, and they sang well, too. Later I saw them up close, and they had drawn freckles on their faces to complete the effect. Great job!

Number 9 was Kut the Kord from Round Rock High School, Round Rock, Texas. They surprised us by coming out in choir robes, 3 wine colored ones on the harmony parts and the lead in a gold one, each with a flower on the right side of her head. The first number was Mary You're a Little Bit Old Fashioned, sung in a way I've never quite heard it before. They held their hands in front of them in more or less an operatic pose, and their treatment of the song was almost jaunty, certainly not a ballad. The audience seemed to enjoy it a lot. Then, predictably, they shed the choir robes to reveal a polynesian costume of grass skirts, leis, black leotard tops, and a stage hand brought out long sticks for the bari and tenor that were supposed to represent torches, I think. They sang.....The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and it was a riot! The lead began to get carried away with her choreography and wild moves, as she told the others twice, "Back me up". The third time, however, the bass answered her with "I don't think so!" The crowd went wild!! A very entertaining quartet.

Next was Vivace! from Seattle, Washington. They wore black slacks and a raspberry colored blazer with a black sequin top peeking over the top. They had a nice sound and Miriam and I discussed afterwards that they have great potential. They sang Last Night on the Back Porch, with some creative choreography, and For All We Know.

Songbirds from Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, and North Hollywood, California, were next. They had lovely long black spaghetti strap velvet dresses and sang Side By Side, with choreography that the audience enjoyed, and Mary You're a Little Bit Old Fashioned. I was interested to see that the bass blew the pitch and then put the pitch pipe into a pocket on the back top of the bari's dress. Rather creative, because the dress certainly didn't lend itself to a regular pocket.

Number 12 was A Cut Above from Arnold Hill School, Arnold, Nottingham, United Kingdom. Miriam and I feel this quartet is a diamond in the rough. Their costume was beautiful, a shimmery navy blue spaghetti strap long dress with a net top that had cap sleeves. Their choreography was some of the most inventive and appropriate to their first song, By the Sea/Row, Row, Row medley (the only medley we heard all evening). They followed that with an enjoyable version of Summer Sounds.

The final contestant was Beautyshoppe Quartette from Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona. They had lovely red below-the-knee satin dresses with red sequin vests. They ran onto stage, which didn't seem appropriate with what they were wearing or the music they sang. They all stepped to the back ot the stage area to take the pitch, then walked the 3 or 4 steps back to the mikes to sing. They had a false start as one or more of them started the wrong song first. They stopped and started over, but it shook them, I think, and it was a little while before they were all singing in the same key. The first number was Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody, followed by Ma, He's Makin' Eyes At Me. By the end of the second song, they had gotten past the stage nerves and were more confident in what they were doing.

We had a 15 minutes break while scores were tallied, and it was fun to watch the quartets as they all gathered on the stage for pictures by what seemed like every Mom and Dad in San Antonio. They stood by the mikes, they stood together, they stood with other quartets, they acted silly, they smiled, they giggled, they jumped around, and they hugged a lot. There was no doubt they were having a great time! We should have so much energy, though I'm not sure I want to be that age again! I just want the energy that seems endless and comes out of every fiber of their being. I do wish I had discovered Sweet Adelines when I was that age. What a lifetime of fun is ahead of them!

After the break, the official drawing for Harmony Classic 2000 order of appearance was held. For division A, the order is as follows:
1. Prairie Echos
2. Gainsville Chorus
3. Prairie Gold
4. Golden Triad
5. Capitol Showcase

Division AA:
1. Acapella Express
2. Queen Charlotte Chorus
3. Royal River Chorus'
4. Top of the World
5. Columbia River Chorus

Then we were treated to something special. If you were paying attention as you read about the quartets, you noticed that 3 of them were from Arnold School in Great Britain. International President Kathy Carmody has visited there, and she told us that the most important and prestegious event at the school is barbershop! It is all due to the hard work and efforts of two people, Glen Chaney, a science teacher there, and Allison Allen, a foreign language teacher. Kathy went at noon hour to visit, because that's when the barbershop groups practice. She expected to see a few people in a room, but there were 84 girls singing! The younger kids in the school also sing barbershop and are appropriately called Baby Barbies. The boys who sing are called...what else...the Kens! The three quartets from Arnold School who competed also sing in a group together called Sweet Adolescence, and we were treated to a performance. The first number began with a piccolo solo on the Yellow Rose of Texas, and then they brought the house down with a wonderful performance of Achy Breaky Heart. Outstanding!! However, it was a kick to hear those two southern US songs sung with a British accent!

Then it was time at last to announce the winners. The Young Singers Foundation provided $3500 in price money for the top three quartets, and Julie Kendrick shameless asked all of us for contrubitutions which we could generously leave at the table which would be set up at door #2 when we left. Those who chose to leave by another door were told their names would be duly recorded! And the winners were:
3rd - Harmonettes ($500)
2nd - In the Spotlight ($1000)
1st - Dazzling Diamonds ($2000)
In addition, Dazzling Diamonds will be performing tomorrow night on our closing show, and International will fund them to attend the convention in Atlanta. Those of you who will be attending want to be sure not to miss them. What a treat you will have! I am so glad we are moving in this direction, because as the Society has recognized with the College Quartet contest, the young people are the future of our organization. Now is the time to "hook" them on a hobby that can bring them a lifetime of enjoyment. And now it's time to call it a day, since I have to go forth and learn more arranger stuff tomorrow. If I ever do this contest coverage thing again, I want to see if I can take my laptop into the auditorium to take my notes. I type much faster than I write, and I struggled a bit here, trying to translate what I wrote down in such haste. I do hope you enjoy hearing about it from my perspective.

In harmony,
Kay Bromert, Approved Music Arranger
Baritone, Harmony Central Chorus (formerly Des Moines SAI) and Special Arrangement Quartet

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