Review of 2013 Harmony Sweepstakes National Finals

On Saturday, May 18, 2013, at Marin Veterans Auditorium in San Rafael, CA, a nearly full house witnessed the National Finals of the 29th annual Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival.  People both familiar with and new to the Sweeps made up the audience.  I saw familiar acquaintances Angela Suraci, Diana Doan, Jackie and Steve Bishop; and met new acquaintances Ed and Leslie (they were not together).  Leslie was a first timer and had lots of questions about what she was about to witness.  I explained the competition to her, stressing that she should keep her ticket stub for the "audience favorite" voting tradition. 

It's easy to make new acquaintances at the Sweeps, and sometimes acquaintances run into each other again and again at subsequent Sweeps.  Scanning the audience for familiar faces is always exciting, and to see people one knows in a nearly 2,000-seat auditorium is a special thrill which gives the Sweeps its noticeable familial feel.  Last year I sat near some people who had met at the Sweeps 14 years prior and had made it an annual event.  Every year, for 14 years straight, they hooked up at the Sweeps.  I forgot what they looked like, so I don't know if they kept their tradition alive this year. 

The Sweeps are marked by many traditions, one being that last year's champs return to host this year's festival.  This year, the tradition remained unbroken as Six Appeal, those six sixy men from Minnesota, came bounding on stage to open the festival with the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music."  Yikes!, the vocally produced bass beat was oh-so-pulsing.  Suddenly I was 16 years old again and I heard a voice inside my head yelling, "Turn down the music!  The whole house is vibrating!"  It sure woke us up, not that any of us were sleeping.  The Nationals are always exciting, and the audience at the Nationals is typically an interactive one.  When Six Appeal encouraged us to put our hands together, we happily joined in.  We usually find it hard to contain ourselves, and it suddenly struck me how incredibly appropriate it was to open the 29th Annual Sweeps with a song like "Listen to the Music."  Great choice, Sixies!

After Six Appeal pumped us up, the podium was taken by a Mistress of Ceremonies both familiar and glamorous, as is her style:  Angie Doctor. Angie always glitters and sparkles in some way, and this year her dangling earrings caught the light just right and glittered seductively with every move, however subtle, of her head.  When Angie asked how many in the audience had been to previous Sweeps, there was loud applause, but when she asked how many were first timers, the applause was even louder. 

One of the jobs of the MC is to introduce the judges.  Angie lauded the qualifications of each as she introduced them:  Sunshine Becker, Robin Cohn, Craig Knudsen, Katy Leaver, and Scott Mathews.  If they stood up as they were introduced, I didn't see them, as the house remained in the dark during these introductions.  See their photos and read their impressive bios on the Harmony Sweepstakes Nationals home page here, where you can also read the bios of our Mistress of Ceremonies, our host group, and all the competing groups.

When Angie explained the rules, I was finally able to get straight a rule I've been confused about:  competing groups have 12 minutes in which to perform.  The clock starts from the first note they sing.  After 11 minutes, a bamboo pole with a "1 Min" warning sign pops up.  After another 30 seconds elapses, a bamboo pole with "30 Secs" pops up.  These non-battery-operated bamboo poles are highly efficient in warning the contestants that they may exceed the time limit if they don't wrap up their sets.  If the "30 Secs" warning pops up and the group continues singing BEYOND the 30 seconds, they do get an ADDITIONAL 30-second grace period in which to wrap.  If they go over that grace period, they effectively blow their chances to take home the National championship.  It was that 30-second grace period that has been throwing me for a loop.  So this year I paid special attention to the announcement.  Just in case you were wondering. 

With the judges introduced (but not seen), and the rules explained (and this time understood by me), the Mistress of Ceremonies turned the podium over to the hosts of the evening, Six Appeal.

All six Sixies came to the podium, one grabbed the mic and with the enthusiasm of a champion introduced the first competitors, another sextet:  Rezonate, the winners of the Pacific Northwest regional.  Well!  Right away and without prompting, the audience became involved in the performance.  When the singer sang the lyrics, "I've got a story to tell," the audience went, "Woooo!" The singer repeated the line, "I've got a story to tell," and his other five group mates said, "Tell us!"  At one point, the five singers behind the lead threw things—wadded up paper?  whiffle balls?—at the lead singer.  I don't know what the line in the song was that prompted the throwing of the objects, but the song was "Got No Rhythm,"  which was a lie.  They did too have rhythm.

Their second song, "Dark Side," had a pause in it which the audience took for the end of the song and began applauding AND cheering.  OOOPS!  The singer continued, and, realizing the song was not over, the audience abruptly ceased their noisemaking.  We, the audience, were all excited I guess, but we got a chance for release when the singer went into the third song of the set by announcing that the group wished to channel Freddie Mercury (of Queen).  We got to clap our hands and stomp our feet in the well-known-by-us clap-clap-stomp, clap-clap-stomp rhythm of "We will, we will ROCK YOU!  ROCK YOU!"  Then one of the singers who had been behind the lead took a spin to the front, passing the mic behind his back—flashy, flashy—and it was "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Bits of "Under Pressure" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" were part of the Queen medley, the man-powered "1 Min" bamboo pole shot up, but Rezonate was done.

Six Appeal came back on stage, one of the Sixies telling us the next group was Fermata Town.  The second Sixie said, "Oh!  Where are they from?"

First Sixie:  Boston.  They're Fermata Town."

Second Sixie:  "All the groups are from out of town."

First Sixie:  "No, these people are Fermata Town"

Second Sixie:  Yes, they are from Boston, but all the groups are from out of town," and on it went until finally, the first Sixie introduced Fermata Town, regional champs of the Boston Regional.

Because Fermata Town is a 12-member group, they could not all compete for the whole set.  Contest rules state no more than 8 people may compete, so after their first song, 4 members left the stage and 4 different members came back on.  This was a mixed-gender group, and for the second song, the lead was a lady who gave us a little bit of a jazzy scat during the song, "Starting Line."  After the second song, two Fermatas left, two more came back on and performed "Circus." They started with one lead singer in front center and seven back-ups in a line behind the lead.  They turned their heads to stage right at one point, then turned back to center, then did an interesting leaning kind of move that was done all in synch. In another part of the song, they all did some knee bends, again all in sync.  As far as the vocals, there was only one person singing lyrics.  The other seven sang different rhythms, you know, beat-boxy kind of stuff, jazzy stuff with everybody making different sounds but no one really singing harmonies to the lead, which, judging by this contest so far, seems to be a thing of the a cappella past. 

I spoke to three different audience members about this latest turn in a cappella style (Diana, sitting on my left; the lady sitting next to her on her left; and Ed, sitting on my right).  I wanted their opinions because I wanted to know if I was the only one who would rather hear vocal harmonies in lieu of imitated instrumental sounds.  We all expressed that we love a cappella precisely because it is sung without instrumentation.  So why would we want to hear imitated instrumentation?  We, the participants of my impromptu survey, just don't get it.  We get that it's difficult, and it's interesting if someone is hearing it for the first time, but to hear it over and over again doesn't thrill us like vocal harmonies do.  This was our unanimous opinion.  Anyhoo. . . .

So Six Appeal comes on and announces the next competitors by stating they were a quartet excelling in the Barbershop style.  Wait!  What did I just write in the paragraph above?  Harmony seems to be a thing of the past?  Nuh-uh!  Not with Barbershop.  Barbershop quartets are all about harmony and vocal technique—vocal slides, four-part harmony, glorious a cappella without imitated instrumental sounds.  Finally!  Here we go!

The Sixies knew about Barbershop and performed a little tag in honor of the next competitors.  One singer held his note so long that three Sixies left the stage while the other guy was still holding his note.  The other three came back on and told us they realized their tag lacked luster.  Oh well, give it up for Lustre, the Mid-Atlantic Regional champs!

On they came, eye candy in their matching royal blue gowns with light-catching diamond-studded waistband adornments.  They had class, they had pizzazz, and could they sing!  They did a four-song set ("Flirty Eyes," "Nobody does it Like Me," "The Moment I Saw Your Eyes," and "What Kind of Fool Am I?")  No beatboxing, no jazzy rhythms against one lead singer.  Instead, they relied on pure harmony.  Their chords rang, their slides covered octaves, they held notes, and they crescendoed and decrescendoed with equal grace.  Their harmonies covered lead, tenor, baritone and bass parts.  ("THIS is impressive!" from Ed on my right.)  They interjected humor.  They got a laugh from the audience when, in one number they did a little dance with their hands and another laugh when, after each member introduced a sister member, one said, "If Lori puts the lust in Lustre, you realize what that means for the rest of us.  RRrrr!!"  They had choreographic moves that were performed in synch, and their performance was a delight to both the ears and eyes.  The audience responded with explosive applause after their first song, but when their set was finished, there was not only loud applause, but also wild cheering and thunderous foot stomping, the first time I had ever heard such a reaction from a Harmony Sweepstakes audience.  At the conclusion of their set, Ed said to me, "I think we may have an audience favorite here."  I think we may, Ed.  I think we may.  But Lustre was only the third competitor, so we had to wait and see.

When Six Appeal announced the next competitor, two of them started playing "Scissors, Paper, Rock," the well-known game that we all used to play in grade school.  The game is also known as Roshambo, and as the two Sixies playing Scissors, Paper, Rock threw out their hands, they chanted "ro sham BO!  ro sham BO!"  which was, coincidentally, the name of the next competitors. 

Ro Sham Bo, winners of the  San Francisco Bay Area Regional, did a spoof of "The Dating Game," a TV show which debuted in the mid-60s and continued for a long, long time.  It was a show in which a bachelor chose one of three competing out-of-his-view bachelorettes, determining by a series of questions which bachelorette he would most like to date.  Ro Sham Bo had a giant board with "The Dating Game" written on it in the same lettering style used in the TV show.  (The lettering was so exact the board could have been the actual set piece from the show.)  They used it as a backboard in front of which the three bachelorettes sat, hidden from view of the bachelor, who was stage center.  Each bachelorette had to say hi to the bachelor (who "churns his own yak butter."  Hoo, baby, what a catch!).  When the third bachelorette said hi to the bachelor, she was revealed to be a he in drag.

After the hellos, the bachelor asked his first question:  "Bachelorette number one.  What goes through your head when you are kissing your love?" Bachelorette number one sang "Kissing My Love" while the other five members of Ro Sham Bo sang rhythms against the lyrics. 

After the song, the bachelor addressed his next question to bachelorette number two:  "If I could take just one of your body parts out on a date, which part should I take?"  With bachelorette number two singing the lead, Ro Sham Bo launched into "All of Me."

Then the third and final question by the bachelor: "Bachelorette number three, imagine we are on a date anywhere in the world you would like to go.  Tell me about it."  With "bachelorette" number three (the guy in drag) singing lead, Ro Sham Bo sang "Feeling Good." The lead had a nice, sexy sound. 

The Ro Sham Bo member acting as The Dating Game hostess wrapped the set by stating we would have to "wait until next time" to find out which bachelorette the bachelor chooses, ("Awwwww!" from the audience) and all six members of Ro Sham Bo lined up and threw that Dating Game kiss where they turn away from the audience, bring a hand up to their lips, then turn to the audience while simultaneously throwing us their kisses.  The audience reacted favorably, with applause and foot stomping after the last song. 

So tonight was going to be a foot-stomping night, I guess, now that Lustre brought it out of us. 

Our Mistress of Ceremonies, Angie Doctor, came back to the podium to announce there would be a 15-minute intermission.  But first, a few announcements.  There had been a discovery of a glitch during the first half of the competition.  It is tradition for the audience members to vote at the end of the competition for the group they like best.  The voting is done by dropping one's ticket stub into a box bearing the name of the group one wants to vote for.  But because we now live in a high-tech world, some of the audience members had obtained their tickets electronically over their phones and had no stubs, thus prohibiting their ability to vote.  This high-tech glitch could be resolved by good ole' low-tech means:  those needing a stub to vote with could obtain one at the ticket window during intermission. 

Next announcement:  Six Appeal, last year's champs and this evening's hosts, released a CD just three days ago.  Be the first to obtain a Six Appeal CD, on sale at a table in the lobby during intermission.  The name of the CD is "Plan A" because there is no Plan B.  :)  For those reading this review who wish to order a CD, go to the Six Appeal web site.  There is a contact link you can utilize to get in touch with them about a CD.

Next announcement:  Being one of the Bobs, Angie laid out the upcoming calendar for the Bobs.  To hear the Bobs live, check out their concert dates by clicking the "concerts" link on their website: www.bobs.com/‎

Okay, so during the 15-minute intermission I went to go find Six Appeal to find out how winning last year's National impacted their careers.  I spoke with Michael, who said the win did indeed make a difference.  People who weren't interested in having Six Appeal perform for them suddenly became very interested upon learning Six Appeal had taken the 2012 National Championship.  More opportunities had opened up to Six Appeal as a result of the win.  One such opportunity was the singing of the National Anthem at the ESPN–broadcast 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl in Los Angeles where Six Appeal was announced as the 2012 National Harmony Sweepstakes Champions.  (See/hear the performance on YouTube.)  Another great opportunity Michael mentioned was that they got to headline the Friday Night performance at the Chicago A Cappella festival (October, 2012). 

I asked what, if any, disappointments they had faced after winning the National competition.  The only disappointment was that in spite of winning, in spite of how high it got them emotionally, they could not afford to slack off.  They still had to maintain the same level of dedication and hard work it took to get them to the Nationals in the first place.  The Sixies sing full time.  Singing IS their day job.  They live together, they drive everywhere they are booked, and they are booked all over the United States (as can be seen if you peruse their schedule on their web site).  This kind of closeness, this working together, living together, and travelling together, has destroyed many a marriage. It takes quite a bit of determination and focus on the common vision to keep it all working. 

While Six Appeal wasn't really looking for instant fame from their Nationals win, they do aspire to National fame, but their ultimate goal is to bring the power of a cappella music to the forefront so that it is a widely recognized art medium.  This is the vision that keeps the six of them in tune.  And a fine job they're doing so far, don't you think?

So on my way back to my seat, I stopped at an empty table to straighten out my papers and get my notes in order.  I had a green rope thingee around my neck, like the ropes people hang their security badges off of, except my green rope had a small flashlight dangling on the end of it.  Apparently this made me look very official.  People kept asking me questions.  Where is the ladies room?  Can you tell me where a water fountain might be?  I directed the people to where they wanted to go, then I went back to my seat for the second half of the show. 

Six Appeal came back on stage to introduce The Rainbows, winners of the New York Regional and hailing from Canada.  To make them feel welcome, the Sixies tried to remember all the French they had learned in high school.  What came back to mind was Oui (Yes) and La plume est sur la table (The pen is on the table).  Heck, if that didn't make The Rainbows feel welcome, au revoir.  JUST KIDDING!  The Rainbows felt very welcome.  I could tell by their performance. 

As you might expect, each Rainbow wore a shirt of one of the colors of the ROY G. BIV spectrum (excluding indigo, as there were only six Rainbows and who has an indigo shirt, anyway?).  Their black pants tied them all in as a unit.  The one gal in the royal blue was some belter, I gotta tell you.  She sang "I Feel Good."  But it's hard to belt it out without coughing, you know?  This accomplished singer did not cough at all.  During audience voting, I ran into her and asked, "What is the technical term when you belt out your lyrics like that?"  My surprise, it's actually called "belting"!  Who'd a thunk it? 

The vocal style of The Rainbows matched all the other contestants who had beatboxers—one lead singer against all other rhythm singers.  Someone made noises that sounded like a bird, three members did "trumpet" solos, etc.  They had some light choreo, feet shuffles and arm pointing and yes, they were in synch and they sang with crescendos and decrescendos. 

The Rainbows performed "Soulman," during which they did some shoulder bouncing and leaning back and such.  The lyrics were in French which most of us did not understand but appreciated nonetheless.  Nationals audiences are like that.  We don't really care what language you sing in.  It's all music to us.  The audience stamped their feet and clapped quite loudly.  (The foot-stomping trend really took hold tonight.) 

Six Appeal had to pass time after The Rainbows, so one of them (I think it was Michael) addressed the audience, asking, "So, what did you guys do today?"  Hardy har har har—we all had a good laugh about that one.  Those funny Sixie things.  So once the stage crew finished setting up for the next contestant, Six Appeal introduced them with an original limerick.  At this time I must extend special thanks to Jordan Roll of Six Appeal for filling in the line that I couldn't read.  I had written my notes in shorthand and in the dark because my flashlight was by this time failing.  One line of the lyric was beyond my ability to transcribe it.  I had to call the group while they were on the road.  Jordan graciously took my call.  So thank you, Jordan, and here's the introductory limerick that brought the next contestants to the stage:

The Honey Whisky Trio
Has captured the heart of mio.
These talented ladies
Are hotter than Hades.
I know that you will agree-o. 

(Clever, eh?)

The Honey Whiskey Trio were the winners of the Los Angeles Regional.  They opened their set with "House of the Rising Sun."  My first impression was that their version of "House" would make a great soundtrack to a movie about a female gambler down on her luck, scraping the bottom of the barrel and contemplating suicide.  It had that kind of "Valley of the Dolls" quality to it, but their second number, "Freight Train Blues," was just the opposite.  With an upbeat tempo, the trio had this rhythm thing going where they brushed their hands together, tapped their thighs, brushed their hands again, brushed their thighs—it was delightful to watch and the song was delightful to listen to.  They sang lovely harmonies.  Their dresses looked adorable on them.  They had on mini dresses cinched at the waist with belts.  The two Honeys on the ends matched with a blue color and the middle Honey wore a different color. (Greenish? Ecru? I forget now, and they were under stage lights) 

Their third number was "You're The One That I Want," but unlike the happy tone and ambitious beat of the John Travolta and Olivia Newton John duet, the Honey Whiskey Trio slowed it down so that to me it sounded like they were on the verge of divorce and they were begging their husbands, with tears in their eyes, not to go.  Please!  You're the one that I want!  Really you are.  I didn't mean to cheat on you!  Then *poof!*  They changed the tempo again for their last number, "Come On Around to My House Daddy."  Fast and peppy, perhaps the divorces mentioned above came through and they found new flings whom they were excited about.  Again, they had some great a cappella rhythms going, not by beatboxing but by using hand claps, foot steps, thigh taps, all in synch and with lovely vocal harmonies that never got lost through the choreo.  The audience honored them with very loud cheering and the by-now familiar stampeding of the feet.  They did deserve it.  They were that good.

So now one lone Sixie comes to the podium with a mic in his hand.  He has on bright red pants.  By now you may have labled me a beatbox basher.  And you would be correct.  I am not a huge fan of beatboxing.  When it was new, it was just that—new and interesting.  But now with EVERYBODY doing it for every single song, I don't like it.  I don't see the point of seven people singing sounds with only one person singing lyrics, and I hope the beatboxing trend doesn't remain a dominant one in a cappella music.  But the one lone Sixie in his bright red pants did something that made me eat most of my words.  He did a beatbox solo, and holy wowdittywow, he was awesome! He went fast, he went slow, he spit out sounds I've never heard before.  He went on and on.  He was a real crowd pleaser.  All the participants of my heretofore-mentioned impromptu survey liked him just as much as I did.  He finally finished up with an odd sound.  What was that sound?  Oh, it was a cat mewing because the next contestants were the Chicago Regional champs, a quintet:  The Cat's Pajamas.

It always amazes me when the last contestants of the evening come bounding on stage with the energy of people wired out on triple-shot espressos.  The Cat's Pajamas had that much energy when they began their set with "Some Kind of Wonderful," and they were able to sustain that energy level throughout.  They hopped from side to side, in synch and in tune, which requires above-average talent.  It's hard to sing without a jiggly voice when you're jumping around, but they did it.  One Cat did a turn we've already seen tonight, the flashy turn-around-and-pass-the-mic-behind-your-back move.  They sang falsettos and had nice slides. Their second song, "Daylight" was followed by what they called their British Invasion Medley.  During one of the energetic bouts of jumping around, the lead Cat ended up on the stage floor on his side, vocalizing an "Ow!"  I wasn't sure if I had heard correctly and had just witnessed a fall or not, so I kept my eye on him.  When he joined his three other band mates in a back line while another Cat came forward, I noticed the Cat who had fallen was the only one no longer doing the choreo. Oh dear.

 The last song of the medley was "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Just as they sang the very last note, the "1 Min" bamboo pole popped up.  This was simultaneous and could have been a choreographed move, the singing of the last note and the popping up of the sign were so together.  At the end of the set, the Cat who had taken the spill limped, ever so slightly, off stage.  You gotta be careful with so much energy.  You can get hurt.  But it hadn't hurt the sound of The Cat's Pajamas, and I believe I speak for the entire audience when I say I hope it was only a minor mishap and not a serious injury. 

With the exit of The Cat's Pajamas, it was time for the audience to vote for their favorite competitors.  It's amazing how smoothly this process goes when there are close to 2,000 people all going every which way.  There were no mishaps that I was aware of, and while the votes were being counted, Six Appeal took the stage to sing for us one last time as outgoing champs. 

Six Appeal had been good hosts.  My expectations for them had been quite high because I had spoken to two of them rather briefly last year and their humor had shown through then (read their bio on the Sweepstakes webpage to see what I mean).  They were gracious to all the performers, they used humor and wit in their introductions, they entertained us in their capacity as hosts and they looked and sounded like they were enjoying every minute of hosting.  And I believed that they were.  I believed this right up until they took the stage at the end of this year's competition.  When they took the stage, I felt them explode, and it suddenly gave me the feeling that all that hosting stuff had been a bit of a sham—just a way for them to pass the time until they could once again perform for us themselves.  They seemed relieved to have taken back the stage as performers.  To my great delight, they sang what I consider their signature song, "Circle of Life."  I don’t know if it is their signature song, but it is to me.  It was the song that endeared me to them when I heard them for the first time as 2012 regional competitors.  "Circle" had been their opener.

Hearing "Circle" charmed me then and it charmed me again this year.  The guy who does the animal sounds really put everything he had into those monkey calls.  He has to do those full out or he will come off as mediocre and not funny.  I noticed in their YouTube video of "Circle" the animal noises didn't have as much energy as is necessary to pull them off as antics.  But on stage they certainly did.  And the audience ate it up, even though some of us have seen "Circle" before.  For us, it was like an encore.  But I don't recall hearing the elephant trumpeting this year.  What happened to the elephant?  I hope they didn't shoot it.  Perhaps the elephant is on safari.  Will it come back?

Six Appeal also performed "On Your Love," which won them Best Original Song at the 2012 competition.  On "I will Survive,"  they started out very slowly.  Their vocals covered a wide range, they did some fast-stepping choreo, which the audience cheered for.  While some of the steps were simple, they covered some distance on the stage (which kicks the difficulty level up a notch).  At one point, the men reminded me of Mexican jumping beans, with members alternating their high jumps.  This is while they're singing, mind you.  And managing to stay in tune.  Again I must express that it amazes me when performers do that because I've tried it.  I huff and puff and lose all my notes.  But I digress.  Six Appeal used lots of theatrics to entertain us.  They ran around in a circle, with Michael keeping up but stating into the mic, "My legs are so short!"  The audience got a kick out of that and responded with laughter, but it was their chorus line kicks with jazz hands aflutter that really got us cheering.  We were having a hard time containing ourselves at this point so when Six Appeal asked for audience participation, we were ready and willing to oblige with our echoed "Ba-de-op-ah" during one of their songs.  At the end of their set, the six Sixies collapsed on stage, after which the audience gave them not only loud cheering, not only wild foot stomping, but also the one and only standing ovation of the evening. 

By now, the votes for audience favorite had been counted.  Guess who won?  It was ** Honey Whiskey Trio ** who came back onstage to sing as audience favorite.  They performed Grace Potter's "Nothing But the Water."  They walked off looking absolutely struck that they had been chosen as audience favorite.

Then all the groups were called, one by one, to come back on stage for the presentation of the plaques and the announcements of places and championship.  In addition to audience favorite, other prizes were:

Best Original Song: "Starting Line" by Fermata Town

Best Original Arrangement: "I Feel Good," The Rainbows

Third Place was a tie (unusual for the Sweeps): The Rainbows and Fermata Town

Then, proving that more isn't necessarily better,

Second Place was taken by the Lustre quartet and

First Place was taken by the audience favorite, the Honey Whiskey Trio, the 2013 National Champs of the 29th Annual Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival.  We'll look forward to next year, Honeys, when you return to host the 30th!

Time for "Goodnight Sweetheart."  I turned to my left to acknowledge my new-found acquaintance Leslie, to encourage her to join in in the singing of "Goodnight Sweetheart," but her seat was empty.  What a shame.  The singing of Goodnight Sweetheart is a lovely tradition which is the way the competition is closed.  Because the audience gets to sing along, it's an experience rather than just an impassive observance.  Every year the experience is different.  Sometimes the participation is less accomplished, while sometimes the entire house breaks out in harmony along with the performers on stage.  Do you know what it is like to be part of such a sound?  It's spiritually uplifting, so I was very sorry to see Leslie's empty seat, especially since she was a first-timer.  I assume she left to get a jump on the traffic, but that really isn't necessary at this particular venue.  The traffic flows quickly and smoothly and the highways are quite near, so there is no bottlenecking to battle.  Oh, well.

I turned my face back to the stage.  Hey, who are those kids up there?  I didn't see them competing.  They are the mystery kids.  Maybe they are the stage director's kid and her friends, and they negotiated a place on stage in exchange for some work they did.  Maybe their places on stage were a bribe to get them to do something.  Maybe they are performers in their own right, with a recital coming up, and wanted to get in a little practice singing in front of an audience.  The unknown story belongs to the mystery kids. 

Anyway, this year's "Goodnight Sweetheart" got off to a false start and we all had to start it over.  So we did.  The first verse was very soft, it got stronger by the second verse, and then one of the Sixies sang a witty original verse about a cappella which I can't remember the words to because I was singing and I didn't write it down.  I can't call the Sixies again because by now it is 3 a.m. and hey, they travelled all day and I'm sure they're tired.  But it was a lovely verse, and they were grandiose hosts.  A good time was had by all, I think, and I hope everyone made it home without incident.

Goodnight, sweethearts.

Stacy Lynne
Campbell, CA
2013 National Sweeps
May 18, 2013

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