Melbourne, Florida

At the rehearsal last week in Sarasota one of the guys in the Chorus of the Keys told me that the Melbourne chapter was preparing for a show on Saturday  the 29th. He mentioned that “Round Midnight” would be performing on their show. It’s always a good thing when you get to hear one of the quartets that rank in the top 20 of the BHS. I enjoyed the show a lot. The chorus was entertaining and Round Midnight was great.

I was able to attend the Thursday night rehearsal that the chorus had. I asked if anyone could put me up for a couple of days and a gentleman responded that I could stay with him. He hosted me from Thursday night through Sunday night.  What a great guy. We had so many things in common that it was incredible. We were both born the same year within 60 days of each other. He is from a big family,  kind of a neat freak, was raised on a farm, loves music, lost his second wife to cancer, is a people person, was in the Air Force and there were several other things that we had in common as well. It was such a pleasure to get to know a little about him. He was an incredible host and I am so grateful to him for his hospitality!

I found out over the week-end that my sister Susan and her husband Bruce are going to be in Saint Petersburg, Florida this week. My brother David and his wife Donna will also be in the Saint Petersburg area this week. So . . . how can I not head back over to the area and visit with them a little while they are so close? This morning I contacted my host from Bradenton and asked if I could come back for a couple of days. He agreed so I will be heading back that way tomorrow morning. It will be a pleasure to visit with the Sarasota chapter again on Tuesday night. I was pretty impressed with those guys.

I will be leaving the Sunshine District soon.  I hope to visit a number of chapters in Georgia, South & North Carolina and Virginia during the month of April.

I am so grateful that the van is running great and that I have good health. Stay tuned.


Sarasota, Florida

I visited with The Chorus of the Keys in Sarasota, Florida last night. They meet at a huge church in downtown Sarasota on Main Street. What a great group of guys. There are lots of really good things happening there. I was impressed with their leadership, their talented director, their friendliness and their sound. The thing that impressed me the most is, though their membership is a little older, they are very interested in improving their sound. They were preparing for the Spring District Convention that will take place in early May. I heard many of the same things that I would hear if I were back in Indianapolis on the risers with CCS. They talked about focusing on adequate preparation before singing, forward placement, proper posture, matching vowels and breath support. You know, the basics.

I had a chance to sing with the chorus, sing a tag with a group of guys before rehearsal and also sing in a quartet before leaving the rehearsal hall. One of the most enjoyable rehearsals that I have been to since leaving Indy. One of their members had done a survey at their last annual show and the results of the survey were very impressive. They now have proof that their audience enjoyed what they heard and are planning to attend next year as well. Call them and ask them about it if you don’t believe me.

One of the guys shared with me last night that the Melboune, Florida chapter has a show this Saturday night. When I left my host’s home this morning I set a coarse for Melbourne. Thank you Ray for hosting me, I sincerely appreciate your hospitality!

I was talking with a young man at a Verizon store the other day and he found it interesting that complete strangers are willing to allow me to stay in their homes. I explained that the BHS is kind of like a big family. He expressed an interest in finding out more about barbershop so I was able to get information about the nearest chapter and also show him a YouTube video that he was pretty impressed with. Who knows, maybe another guy will get bit by the singing bug.

I am excited about attending the show this Saturday night. They are bringing in “Round Midnight”, a great quartet from New York, to sing on their show. I sent a lengthy e-mail out to the Melbourne chapter this morning and hope to hear back from someone there soon. I’m traveling across the Sunshine state through the agricultural area this morning. It’s a little cooler today. I’m loving this traveling thing.

Stay tuned.

Monday morning and still in The Villages

Well, it was an interesting week end. I haven’t left The Villages just yet. I was so impressed with the Sumter Landing town square that I just decided to stay for a day or two. I found a great place to rehearse my ukulele. It’s in a pass through area between two shops. It has great acoustics and the shop owners haven’t complained. As people passed by I received some nice comments. Even had one lady ask for my card. She wanted to know if I would come and play for her club. I’ve talked to folks from New Jersey, Canada, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, New York, Ohio and Indiana. Some were residents and some were guests.

Each night they have entertainment on the square. Last night it was a trio. They were pretty good, but not as good as the guy who played piano and sang on Saturday night. He had a great repertoire and a great connection with the audience. Lots of people up dancing, especially line-dancing. Seems to be very popular here. I saw the Peabody and Sherman movie yesterday. It was pretty good.

I have sent out several e-mails to chapters within a three hour drive of here and hope to hear back from someone very soon. I slept in my van Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Even if I don’t have a chorus to visit tonight I will still sleep in a bed. I’ll get a hotel if I need to. I’ve just been trying to be frugal.

I’ m sitting in a Panera Bread this morning so I can have access to WiFi. I just talked with a lady who moved here 12 days ago from Indianapolis. I was in the sales office this morning and one of the ladies I was talking to told me that there are lots of full and part-time jobs here. It seems that someone is trying to tell me something. Though I am not through traveling yet, perhaps I have found a place that I will return to when my traveling days are completed. At least it’s something that I can and will be considering.

This past week was great with visits to four different chapters.
Monday-Hernando Harmonizers in Weeki Wachee
Tuesday-the Toast of Tampa Sweet Adeline’s in Tampa
Wednesday-Sound of Sunshine Chorus in New Port Richey
Thursday-The Heart of Florida Chorus in Lady Lake (The Villages of Florida)
And a fun week-end at Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages

Pictures to be posted soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Since leaving Indianapolis I have been extremely fortunate. I have had a bed to sleep in every night. My hosts have been incredibly kind and hospitable. Today is the first day that I have been unable to locate a place to stay. I have contacted two choruses in Orlando, Florida but I failed to take into consideration that this is spring break and lots of people are flooding into Florida to enjoy the sunshine and the hospitality of family members who live here. Hotel rates are at their highest and most places are crowded. Poor planning on my part has put me in an odd position. Fortunately I am the proud owner of a tent and I have an air mattress and lots of bedding. I am considering spending a night or two at the Ocala National Park which is not far from where I am right now. I visited with the Heart of Florida chorus last night in a place called The Villages of Florida. What an unusual place! Tons of golf carts and people walking. I am sitting at a Panera Bread restaurant enjoying an absolutely beautiful day. People are bustling all around. It’s like visiting a resort. Seems like everyone is on vacation. I guess that’s what retirement is like. I’m sitting in a shopping area that looks like a town square. The sign by my table says “Lake Sumter Landing”. I’ll take lots of photos today and when I finally get my new phone figured out I’ll get them posted.

There is so much that I want to share about the different chapters that I have visited but I really can’t right now. Last night was chorus number 12. It was a very interesting rehearsal and a great group of guys. They were preparing for the Sunshine District Convention in May. Their director, Scott Werner has quite a pedigree in Barbershop. He has directed District Championship Choruses and has a won a number of medals in both Quartet and Chorus competitions.

My host last night was such a great guy. I didn’t have an opportunity to meet his wife because she was already asleep when we got to his home last night after rehearsal and I left before she was up this morning. They have been married 47 years and are still very happy together. I told him that he is very fortunate to have that kind of relationship.

I really hate to leave this area, it is so beautiful. I may just hang out here for most of the day.

Stay tuned!

Week two in Florida

This has been an interesting week. I was able to visit three different choruses this week. On Monday I drove to Tampa and visited with The Heralds of Harmony chorus that is directed by Tony De Rosa. Lots of interesting stuff going on there. On Tuesday I drove back to Ft. Myers and was able to visit with The Spirit of the Gulf Sweet Adeline’s chorus which is directed by Mike Slamka. What an impressive chorus! Those ladies put so much into their performance and sing so well that you can’t help but be impressed. Wow!

On Thursday I drove to Naples and was able to have lunch with a friend from Indiana who was in Naples on vacation. I persuaded him to come to the Everglades chorus rehearsal with me that night. Some choruses are all about improving the level of singing and preparing for the next contest. Other choruses are focused more on the social connection and singing for the community. The Everglades chorus does not compete but they enjoy each other’s company and have a great time singing. They were preparing for their annual show which is coming up next week.

I was able to persuade my brother Mike and my sister-in-law Linda to watch the movie “American Harmony” with me on Wednesday. They liked it and said that it was very well done. If you are reading this and haven’t seen it yet be sure to ask a Barbershopper about how to find it and watch it with some friends very soon. At the very end, as the credits are rolling, there is a boy who is reciting from memory all the quartets who have won 1st place gold medals at the International Conventions beginning from 1939 up through the date the movie was filmed. His name is Patrick McAlexander and he was the tenor in my first quartet, Timeless. Patrick was 13 when we first formed. He is a student at Vanderbilt today, still singing barbershop and . . . an amazing young man! If you would like to see a video of Timeless performing just type in “timelessquartet2009” on YouTube and a video of us in our black suites with different colored shirts and ties should come up. It begins pretty dark but then shows us taking the stage. I would love your feed back.

After visiting only eight different chapters so far this year I am beginning to see a pattern within the BHS. It seems to me that there are two distinct types of choruses, one that is interested in competing and one that has no interest in competing. There are many differences between the two. I am reserving judgement because frankly I haven’t decided which is better. Both have good points and bad. In future blogs I may talk more about that topic.

Stay tuned!

Ft. Myers is a beautiful place

After spending the entire month of February in South Carolina I left on Saturday, March 1st and headed to Florida. On the 28th I had called the Gainesville, Florida chapter contact and asked if they might have someone that could put me up for the night. I received a call from a gentlemen and he told me that I would be welcome to stay with him. I arrived in Gainesville late afternoon and drove by his house. He wasn’t home yet so I drove into the downtown area to look around. I enjoyed checking out the music store, the theater,
the restaurants with outdoor seating and just watching the people as they were enjoying their Saturday. I eat some tasty pizza at Big Lou’s. I made it to my hosts home around 6:30 p.m. He was very gracious and we talked about barbershop for several hours. He showed me YouTube videos of the chorus that he sings with when he travels to New York. I showed him the YouTube video of my first quartet, Timeless. He shared with me that he checked me out to make sure that I was being honest about who I am? He checked out my Facebook page and also found out that I had been in business under the name “One Man and a Van”. That was smart of him. I would encourage anyone who is considering hosting me to check me out.

I have been experiencing a boost in my serotonin level as I have been driving away from my hosts homes. As I drive away I have such a keen sense of appreciation and feel so grateful for having been the recipient of such kindness. I have just expressed my gratitude to my host before leaving but I get the urge to call them just to say thank you one more time. I want the folks who have hosted me so far this year to know how grateful I am for their hospitality, kindness and generosity! Since leaving Indy on February 1st I have stayed in six different homes and have visited five different barbershop chapters.

I arrived in Ft. Myers, Florida on Sunday, March 2nd. I visited the Cape Coral chapter on Monday night and the Mariners of Stuart on Tuesday night. I am planning to visit at least two more chapters next week. The Spirit of the Gulf chorus (SAI) rehearses on Tuesdays and their director is Mike Slamka. I’m looking forward to their rehearsal.

Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with Paul Ellinger of the Mid Atlantic district. Paul is a sought after vocal coach and has been traveling the country presenting his seminar “Supercharging Your Chapter”. He is introducing a teaching method called “Wave Box Singing” and talking with chapters about recruiting new members. I believe this is something that the Society desperately needs. I shared with him that I have been studying and considering presenting Chuck Greene’s workshop. He talked with me about a conversation that he had with Chuck before his passing in 2012. Both workshops have the same goal to increase membership and help directors teach proper vocal technique. I am hopeful that I can somehow become involved in doing what Chuck and Paul have both been so passionate about.

Meanwhile, I will visit and talk with Barbershoppers everywhere and figure out where I fit in and what I can contribute. Stay tuned!

One month in South Carolina

When I arrived in South Carolina I wasn’t planning to spend the entire month there. It worked out pretty well though! I was able to pick up a couple of jobs. Thank you Brian and Keith for taking me up on my offer. I felt that it was mutually beneficial and I am so glad that I got to meet you both! I’m also glad that I could help my sister Lu and her husband Ray with their four legged children while they were in Washington. It was great to get to spend time with Lu and visit her chorus. Ray was great as well, though he’s not as much fun as Lu! I can talk barbershop as much as I want with Lu. She is a Sweet Adeline and loves barbershop almost as much as me!

I departed Leesville, SC this morning. I had contacted the chapter president of the Gainesville, FL chapter yesterday and asked if anyone in his chapter would be willing to put me up tonight. I got a call from one of the members of his chorus in less than an hour letting me know that I would welcomed at his home. Gotta love my barbershop brothers! I arrived here in Gainesville late this afternoon and found my way to the downtown area. Sitting here at a great pizza place in a short sleeved shirt thinking about the snow that is predicted for Indianapolis tonight. My host is expecting me within the next hour.

I have already been in contact with the Cape Coral Chapter and plan to attend their rehearsal Monday night. They are the closest chapter to Ft. Myer, FL. I would like to visit as many chapters in Florida as possible during the month of March and perhaps the first of April.

I stopped in Georgia around lunch time. I told the kid that served me that I was just passing through and he responded that Georgia was the greatest state. I asked him how many states he has been able to visit. He answered “five”. Seventeen year olds have so much to learn!

I spent most of the drive time today just thinking. No music, no NPR. It was good for me.