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Keeping it straight

Since my last post I’ve been a busy boy. I really enjoyed my visit to the Alexandria Harmonizers and walking around Old Town Alexandria. My host was very gracious and allowed me to stay two nights. I stayed Tuesday and Wednesday nights (April 22nd & 23rd) in Oxon, which is just outside of Alexandria. I headed to Annapolis to visit The Sons of the Severn Chorus on Thursday, April 25th.

I didn’t have a confirmed place to stay that night but I really wanted to see Annapolis so I headed out and spent the day wondering the streets. The “Sons” were warm & welcoming and before the rehearsal was over one of the men offered to let me stay with him. He lives in Bethesda, MD about 50 minutes from Annapolis. He and his wife (Marge) also allowed me to stay two nights and offered to let me stay longer if I needed to. They are wonderful people and were very kind to me.

On Friday morning Marge offered to take me to the subway station so that I could go into DC for the day. I took the red line and spent the day on the mall. It was crowded with lots of buses and kids running every where.

On Saturday morning, April 26th, I left Bethesda and headed to Louisa, Virginia to attend a performance of “Soundworks” at the Louisa Arts Center. It took about two hours to drive down. I stopped at a McDonalds on the way and googled “Hotels in Louisa, Va”. There were no hotels in Louisa so I checked to see if they might have a Bed & Breakfast. I found a place called The Whistle Stop. You would never be able to guess why it was called “Whistle Stop”. That’s right, it was at an intersection where a train passed by. The whistle sounded around 11:30 pm and then again around 5:20 am. The train came within about 50 yards of the house. Lying in bed I could feel the vibration of the tracks.

At breakfast on Sunday morning I met three sisters. Tori was the sister who lived there in Louisa. She was receiving her 10 year chip from A.A. Her sisters Teri and Tami had come to support her and celebrate with her. Her daughter Becky was also there at the breakfast table. I really enjoyed meeting them and chatting with them over breakfast. They were delightfully interesting.

That afternoon I drove to Penns Grove, NJ and stayed at a Comfort Inn. On Monday night, April 28th, I attended the rehearsal for The Chorus of the Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware. After the rehearsal I followed my host to his home in Newark, Delaware. I really enjoyed meeting Neil and his sweetheart Dottie. I stayed with them Monday and Tuesday nights. Neil is a dual member of both the Chorus of the Brandywine in Wilmington, DE and the Chorus of the Chesapeake in Dundalk, MD. I was pleased to learn that the Dundalk chorus was going on a secret bus ride Tuesday evening to visit another chorus. It turned out that they visited “The Peninsulaires” in Salsibury, MD.

On the bus ride to Salisbury one of the guys got to talking with me about attending a rehearsal of The Brothers in Harmony Chorus in Hamilton Square, NJ. I told him that I was planning to head north to Connecticut and he said that it would be on my way. He made contact with someone from The Brothers and the next morning I received a call from Jeff Winik offering to let me stay at his home. Jeff is in the 2014 Seniors Quartet that won Gold at Mid-winter this year. His quartets name is “Faces 4 Radio”.

I arrived in Kendall Park, NJ at Jeff’s home about 5:00 pm Wednesday, April 30th, and we went to dinner before heading to the rehearsal of the Brothers. It felt a lot like being at a Circle City Sound rehearsal. They had a very similar sound to CCS. Their director has a very different style but it was obvious to me that he had a similar kind of connection to the chorus like Garry has. I really enjoyed their rehearsal and was a little disappointed to find out that they didn’t have an afterglow. Jeff said that they have a lot of guys who travel over an hour to get to rehearsal.

On Thursday, May 1st, I drove up through New York City on my way to Connecticut. I arrived at the home of Dan Fontaine at 5:00 pm. I met Dan in Marlborough, Mass. last September when I attended the NEHB (New England Harmony Brigade). When I met Dan I was really impressed with his voice and his humility. For someone who is so extremely talented and sings so incredibly well he is really down to earth. After meeting his wife, Lena, I couldn’t help but wonder why the dorky looking guys always seem to end up with the beautiful women. He definitely married up.

Honestly, I don’t think that Dan is really dorky looking, he just reminds me of Pee Wee Herman, if you like that kind of look.

Thursday evening Dan and I drove up to Concord, Massachusetts and visited the “Vocal Revolution Chorus”. They were having a coaching session with Erica Spyres. She was working with them on visual presentation. The visual presentation improved the minute she walked into the room.

So this week I visited five different choruses and was also in six different states. Only in the North East could you do that. I found it difficult to remember what state I was in and what day it was. It will be refreshing to be able to sleep in the same bed for the next several days. Dan and Lena have offered to let me stay with them until their son, Bailey, comes home from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

I should be able to keep things straight in my mind now that I have a home base for awhile. Thank you to Dan and Lena for hosting me and for being so kind!

A Windy Wednesday in Old Town Alexandria, Va

Yes, the wind is blowing and it’s in the upper 50’s. Supposed to get to 64 today. It just might. I’m strolling through Old Town Alexandria today. Stopped at the visitors center to get a map and talk to the cute girl behind the counter. She’s a fountain of information. I think she also works as a guide at one of the local museums. She was a pretty good listener too. Naturally I shared some of my story with her. She seemed genuinely interested. She kept asking me questions.

The Alexandria Harmonizers had a great rehearsal last night. Lots of men doing lots of different things. It looked like a well oiled machine. If you would like more information about the Harmonizers you can find their Wikapedia page. They are an impressive group! They are preparing to head to Normandy, France in June to participate in the 70th celebration of D-day. It’s a pretty prestigious thing to be invited to sing and represent our country in this celebration. They are up to the task. You can’t help but be impressed with this organization.

There is a lot more that I could tell you about my experience last night. If you really want to know, send me an email. My new email address is rfreeman6070@gmail.com. The other SBCGLOBAL address that I had for years is now gone. Please enter my gmail address into your contacts. Thanks!

I’m hoping to visit the Sons of the Severn Chorus tomorrow night in Annapolis, MD. Waiting to hear back from their contact guy. Stay tuned!

Soundworks

Midlothian, Virginia (just outside of Richmond) is home to Larry Kellogg and his sweet wife Linda, two of the most hospitable and wonderful people that I have ever met. They were so kind to put me up this past Sunday and Monday nights. I enjoyed some very stimulating conversation, a very comfortable queen sized bed, coffee and two blueberry muffins for breakfast on Monday morning and 9 holes of golf with Larry.

Monday evening I had the pleasure of visiting Larry’s chorus, Soundworks. Of coarse it’s not just Larry’s chorus, there are about 16 other guys who also call it their chorus. I was very impressed with this unique group. Their rehearsal and performance format is very different than all of the other chapters I have visited. They don’t use risers, every man in the group has a voice and is expected to provide regular input regarding song choices as well as how the ensemble is performing. They don’t end their rehearsal by singing “Keep The Whole World Singing”.

They have a different philosophy about how a barbershop chorus should operate. I was intrigued. They certainly sing very well! Their audition process is rigorous and only very good singers who are able to sing multiple parts are admitted. They are not looking to expand their numbers.

I’ll be very frank, I am still processing the experience that I had last night and the dichotomy between this group and the average chorus. There were several men there last night that have been Barbershoppers for a long time and there were guys that have been singing other genres of music in other groups. Soundworks is a delightful combination of several styles of music, including some four square barbershop. The basic concept of singing in a Cappella four part Harmony was the common thread. I certainly understand the appeal of what they are doing.

Of coarse anytime someone starts putting a twist on what has come to be accepted as the “norm” eyebrows are raised. Just as there are some men within the BHS that are skeptical and not in favor of what the Brigade guys are doing there are skeptics of Soundworks. It seems to me that there is plenty of room within the BHS for groups like the Brigade and Soundworks to do their thing and still contribute to preserving Barbershop. In my humble opinion the people who are raising their eyebrows now are gonna have a coronary when the next generation of Barbershoppers come into their own.

I’ll be thinking more about what I experienced last night and will have more to say. Stay tuned!

Life lessons from Jordan Lake State Park, NC

There’s nothing quit like a hike in the woods, communing with Mother Nature while climbing over downed trees and avoiding stepping in patches of black mud, the occasional mosquito buzzing around your ear.

I found a trail to hike yesterday in the Jordan Lake State Park. It was a little cool when I first started my five mile trek. Sweatshirt weather is always great for a hike. It took me a little while to find the right place in the park to start from because I didn’t have a map and didn’t bother to do the google thing before entering the area. After stopping at a gatehouse for one of the camping areas I finally found the info that I needed from a sweet lady with a southern drawl. You gotta love the Carolina’s and those southern gals.

It was a solitary walk. I didn’t pass a single soul on the trail. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. It was just me, Mother Nature, the birds, the sun and my thoughts.

I am often surprised by the amount of gratitude that I feel in my heart. Gratitude for life, health, family, friends and for the life experiences that I have had. As I hiked I was feeling particularly appreciative that I have been able to travel this year and meet some of the wonderful people that I have met along the way. I spent a little while reviewing each of my hosts in my mind. I pictured their homes and recalled some of the conversations that we had as gratitude swelled up in my heart and I got a little choked up. A warm tear trickled down my cheek as I walked.

I stopped for a few minutes to look more closely at some blooms on a patch of trees where the sun was shining in. My mind went to my grandson, Brenden, back in Indiana. I was wishing that he could experience this hike with me. I wanted to talk with him about the gratitude that I was feeling, to explain to him why I am not in Indianapolis right now. I wanted to reassure him that he is very important to me.

If he had been with me I would have spent some time as we hiked explaining that we were following a trail that had been traveled by a lot of other people. I would have talked to him about the people who hung the markers on the trees to make it easier for us to find our way. I would have talked with him about the people who thought about those that would be coming behind them. I suppose that I would have acted much like Ward Cleaver would have acted if he were taking his sons for a hike in the woods. I’m certain that I would have found significance at every turn and that I would have been in teaching mode all day.

I would have said “Brenden, there are lots of lessons to be learned as we hike the trail of life”. It’s pretty normal for a Grandpa to want to pass down some of the knowledge that he has gathered as he walks with his grandson.
I really would have loved having him with me yesterday.

At one point I diverted from the trail and couldn’t see any markers. I simply backtracked about 80 to 100 yards and found my way. I would have discussed that with Brenden explaining that sometimes in life we have to do that. We have to go backwards to be able to get back on track. I would have warned him about walking through areas where the ground was really soft and muddy. You can slip and fall when the ground is wet. When you are walking alone it could be awhile before someone might find you. Or you might have to just keep going on, struggling through the pain of an injury.

Lots of lessons can be learned while hiking through the woods. I can say that I have learned a few things that are worth passing on. I like to think that Brenden and I would have had a good time and that he would have listened to me. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to hike together when I am back in Indiana in June. Yes, I think that I can make that happen.

Mathew Gorman

I am so proud to be able to tell you all that I met Mathew Gorman last night. The Mathew D. Gorman of Durham, NC. He is without a doubt one of the most unique, interesting, intelligent, handsome, talented and interesting guys that I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Did I say interesting? I am thinking about nominating him to take the place of that guy in the commercials that they call “The most interesting man in the world”. That guy is starting to bore me now that I’ve met Matt.

Besides his rugged good looks and charming personality I was just blown away by his rich, crystal clear tenor voice. He is one forth of a quartet that goes by the name of “Whammy”. All I’ve got to say is “Watch out BHS, these guys will blow your socks off!”

At the afterglow last night Matt insisted on picking up my tab because that’s just the kind of man that he is. Generous, kind, thoughtful, the kind of man that every guy would be proud to call “Friend”.

Besides the other qualities that I have mentioned I could add to the list “Funny”. What an incredible sense of humor. He had everybody in stitches.
Bill Cosby, Robin Williams and Billy Chrystal could take lessons from Matt.

I just want to say that if you are extremely lucky maybe one day you’ll get to meet Matt and I am confident that you will come away saying “What a man!”
Every woman wants him and every man wants to be him.

Thanks Matt for just being you!

A Sweet Adeline’s Convention & three rehearsals

I woke up on Friday, April 11th in Atlanta, Georgia. Gary,Plaag had also been a guest of Clay & Becki Hine and we left at about the same time that morning. He was headed to Florida and I was headed to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I drove directly to the convention center downtown and heard the region 14 SAI quartet contest. I returned on Saturday to hear the chorus contest and the Show of Champions that evening. My sister LuAnne was happy to have me there. Her chorus competed and did a wonderful job. The judges were not very kind but they meant well. It was my first SAI convention. Probably not my last.

My host lives in Greensboro and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a little bit about him. We are the same age. He lives alone and has a beautiful home. We attended the rehearsal of the Greensboro Tarheel Chorus on Monday night and the Triad Harmony Express Chorus in Winston-Salem on Tuesday night. He asked me if I would be interested in power washing his wood fence on his back patio before I left. I said “Yes, I would be interested”. So on Wednesday I power washed the inside of his patio fence. I must say that it did look a lot better when I was finished. He seemed very pleased.

On Thursday morning April 17th I left Greensboro and headed for Durham. I attended the rehearsal of the Heart of Carolina Chorus that evening. I followed my host home from the afterglow and stayed at his home last night. I’ll be back there again this evening and then I’ll be heading for Virginia on Saturday. Larry Kellogg has offered to host me for a few days when I arrive in Virginia. I know Larry from the NCHB. He is a very interesting guy and seems to know hundreds of Barbershoppers. I am looking forward to hearing his chorus on Monday night.

Last night I met some great guys at the Heart of Carolina Chorus rehearsal. One of the guys that I met was Mathew Gorman. I really need to devote an entire blog to Mathew.

Stay tuned!

Randall Flexible Freeman

I’ve always liked my middle name but there have been a few times when I have given some serious thought to changing it. If I ever did, I would change it to Flexible. What do you think? There have been so many times in my life when I have talked with someone who comes across as just too stubborn. You can hardly get them to admit that there is even a possibility that they might be mistaken. They are inflexible. Though I do admire people who stick to their principles and know what they want, I sometimes have a difficult time understanding people who are unwilling to bend or adapt. I really have a hard time with people who take a stand and won’t even listen to someone with a different point of view.

I guess what got me started thinking about being flexible was a conversation that I had yesterday with a lady at the SAI convention. She was asking me about my travels. She asked if I had a plan. I told her that I have a general idea of the direction that I want to go but that I am just living in the moment and am very flexible. She said “I could never do that”. When I told her that I have no idea where I will be or who I will be staying with next week she gasped. The whole idea of having no security was very scary to her. It is not scary to me. It’s exciting!

When I was in Gainesville last week I had no idea that I would be in Atlanta, Georgia before the week was over. I didn’t know that I would be sitting across the table from Clay Hine after attending a rehearsal of The Atlanta Vocal Project. I remember the first time that I saw Clay. He was performing with his quartet, FRED, in the ladies hospitality room in Denver, Colorado at an International Convention of the BHS. I was blown away by FRED. They were so funny and sang so incredibly well. The gold medals around their necks were mesmerizing.

Now I am hoping that I will be able to tell all my friends that I was at a rehearsal of “A Mighty Wind” just a few weeks before they won their gold medal in Las Vegas in 2014. I’ll tell everybody that Clay and I are good friends. That’s the way he made me feel.

The hospitality that I have experienced since leaving Indy on February 1st is so incredible! I am so grateful to my hosts and their spouses and families!

This week I am staying in Greensboro, NC with a gentleman who is a member of The Triad Harmony Express chorus. I am looking forward to attending their rehearsal this week. The adventure continues.

Awesome April

So far this month has been incredible! I loved my time in Florida which just came to an end yesterday morning when I left Gainesville. I stayed with my host in Gainesville from Saturday the 5th through Tuesday night. I visited the Barbergators chorus on Tuesday evening. They had a young man named Jason who was filling in for their director. He called on me to direct the final song of the evening “Keep the Whole World Singing”. A couple of the other choruses that I visited in Florida also invited me to direct that song. Maybe that’s why I just registered to attend Directors College at Harmony University this July. I can’t say that I would have made that decision had I stayed in Indianapolis all winter.

I arrived in Alpharetta, Georgia late yesterday afternoon. The van is driving so smoothly now. I haven’t been naming my hosts to protect their privacy but I made an accept ion in my last post when I mentioned the name of the current BHS president Shannon Elswick. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t think that he would mind. (at least I hope not)

Last night I stayed in the home of Clay and Becki Hine. Clay directs The Atlanta Vocal Project and is also the baritone in a little quartet called
“A Mighty Wind”. Becki directs The Song of Atlanta SAI chorus. I was very fortunate to sit in on a coaching session that “A Mighty Wind” had with Gary Plaag. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this International caliber quartet. It was easy to see how they could have a third place finish at the International Barbershop Convention. Besides doing some absolutely incredible singing they will be one of (if not The best) the most entertaining quartets on the stage. I’ll be rooting for them this July in Las Vegas.

In conversation with Gary this morning over oatmeal we talked about a number of things including, being your authentic self. I think that is part of what this year of travel is partially about for me. Or maybe I should say primarily about. Learning to recognize my authentic self and taking steps to make some of my dreams come true. Last year in Toronto, Canada when CCS sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” I was inspired to remember some things that have been previously been put on the back burner. Now is a good time to dream again. After all, dreams do come true.

Tell me about one of your dreams!

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