Saturday, April 28, 2007

Reinterpreting Failure

Blogging live today from Ogden, UT, where my barbershop quartet, Baseline, went belly up last night in the semi-finals of the Rocky Mountain District preliminary competition. We were a little shakier than usual on our first song ("Listen to that Dixie Band"), but then halfway through the second ("Each Time I Fall in Love"), we inexplicably segued into four different keys, and couldn't pull it back together until the very end. We tied for 17th out of 18 quartets.

Afterwards we went out to Dee's, one of the only restaurants in Ogden that stays open after the sun goes down. We drank hot chocolate, ate hash browns with gobs ranch dressing and pepper, analyzed our performance, and discussed the breasts of other late-night restaurant patrons.

The barbershop world is strangely numerical and anal retentive: although there are no time limits on quartet or chorus performances, the contests are scheduled to the minute, and every deviation is lamented by the MC. Scores from 1-100 are assigned by a panel of 6-8 judges, where a 50 means you officially don't suck (you can sing in public with the blessing of the society), and a 76 means you "qualify" (you can compete at the international competition in Denver in July)

Well, we scored a 51.5 overall, and a 56.5 on "Dixie". I suspect that one and a half points is not statistically significant, so, strictly speaking, it is impossible to conclusively determine whether we suck or not. However I would like to mention that one of the judges said that we looked very sharp in our tuxes.

I really like this group of guys I'm singing with and I'm sorry to be leaving them soon to move out of state. We were all pretty philosophical about the results, trying to find what we could learn from the experience, willing to share the blame about what went wrong, and the credit for what went right. I think we've gotten to the point where we're really singing approximately the right notes with confidence (except last night, of course), and we're ready to pay closer attention to musicality and presentation issues. I'd be pretty excited about that if I were staying; but sadly they'll be needing to bring a new baritone up to speed, and I'll be back to singing in the shower for a while (where I sound great, I should mention, but I don't look so sharp without the tux hiding 40 years of gravity).

We get what will probably be our last chance to sing together tonight at the afterglow party. For me, that's the fun part; I like the supportive camaraderie of the afterglow far more than the competitive spirit of the prelims. I think we'll claim the ancient right of do-overs on Each Time I Fall; then we've got a couple other songs that are sounding pretty good, so I think we'll be able to redeem ourselves a little bit.

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