Thursday, October 12, 2006

Contest Day

Contest day starts early, with a chorus breakfast at 7am. (So if we're singing 17th and we're up this early, how early did the day start for the chorus singing 1st?!) Then its off to the Riviera for a final rehearsal.

The rehearsal pulses with energy but is very focused. We've been here before – we've done everything we can to prepare, we know the notes, words, moves and the story – now each of us has to choose to let the music out. It doesn't take Sandie long to get the sound and performance that she wants for each song. The rehearsal ends early – we're ready.

The rest of the day has the familiar rhythm of contest: makeup done, costume on, last minute check that we have everything in our baggy, assembling in the lobby, some warmup singing (the passersby especially liked "The Man Song"!), onto the busses for the stand-up ride to the arena, into the backstage pattern, and then we're heading up the ramp and onto the stage.

We have a few seconds on the still-darkened stage to take in the size of the crowd and try to find our "fans" that we can hear cheering, and then we focus on Sandie and the story we want to share. The pitch pipes sound, and as we hear the familiar words "...representing Region 16, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, under the direction of Sandie Nason – Canadian Showtime Chorus!", the lights come on and we have our "performer" dials set to FULL as the applause of 12,000 people thunders down on us.

Despite our efforts to prolong it by staying fully in the moment, our six minutes on stage seems like six seconds and suddenly – we're done. The applause thunders again, we strike our pose, wait for the photo flashes and then the lights go off.

The ride in the freight elevator (Moo!) and the walk around the concourse is full of chatter "How did we do?" and "Could you hear anyone else?" and "That stage was weird!" The adrenalin that has kept us going all day soon recedes, replaced by the sudden realization that we're desparately thirsty and starving.

Our performance marked the half-way point of the contest and we sit through several more hours of choruses, still asking everyone around "What did you think?" and analyzing our performance and how we felt. The final three choruses are a treat – definite top-10 performances with sound so big it completely overpowers the ability of the microphones and speakers in the arena.

Scottsdale Chorus, the outgoing 2006 champions, gives a wonderful, high-energy performance and then sings their version of "It's Your Song" as a tribute to all the chorus directors. We yell and scream when Sandie walks on the stage, hoping that in that enormous standing ovation, she hears each personal "Thank You" whispered from our hearts.

Finally the 10 finalists are announced, to screams of delight from the choruses "on the bubble" that finally made it to the big show. We add our screams and cheers as North Metro Chorus is announced as singing in the 10th slot in the finals – once again they manage to be right at the end, exactly where they want to be.

It's well after 9pm when most of us make it to the room in the Pavilion – the same room where we had gathered for breakfast so many hours earlier. Finally, Sandie shares the sheets: we finished again in 19th place, but Sandie is delighted to still be in the top 20 of this contest with so many more of the top choruses there.

Our marks are solidly in the B+ range and the judges' comments clearly point us in the direction we have to go to move up to the next level. They tell us that we have the techniques down pretty well – now we have to go beyond being careful and more consistently sing the story with passion and commitment.

Our contest day is done. For some, exhaustion takes over and they head for their beds. For others, there will be a few more hours of late dinners and/or drinks, all with much laughter and even some more singing before they too finally succumb to sleep.

Another chapter is written in the life of our chorus. Another shared experience connects us to each other. Another strand of purest friendship is woven into our hearts.

Chorus Candids
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