CA International Choral Competition 2007

wish us luck!

28 June 2007

The Choral Project is getting on a bus today down to San Luis Obispo for the inaugural California International Choral Festival, which is the first judged choral competition in the USA, modeled after judged competitions popular in Europe, such as Spittal, Austria, and Llanglollen, Wales, where we competed on our 2004 tour of the UK.

Thankfully we don’t compete until Saturday morning, and the “choir stroll” on Saturday afternoon should be fun, but we do start the entire competition by going FIRST in the compulsory round! At least that means we get to hear the other choirs…in Llangollen we went last, so had to be backstage during the other choirs and couldn’t hear them, and we only had one round to perform. This competition we have three rounds, compulsory + one of our choice, folk round, then Choir’s Choice, so at least we know we’re peforming all the way through Sunday. Even if we don’t win, it will be awesome for all the choirs, from Uganda, Finland, the Philippines, and from Spain as well as a couple American choirs, to sing the compulsory pieces together Sunday night, along with Be Still My Heart to the tune of Finlandia. My favorite part of our last “competition” was the impromptu sing-off late into the night with a Swedish choir, trading songs as long as we could. I hope we get to do some of that and meet others who obviously must love to sing as much as we do! :)

Now the last bit of packing & cleaning awaits, then I’m off to the bus…wish us luck!

SLO Day 1

29 June 2007

We made such good time on the bus that even including one quick rest stop, we were at CalPoly by 5:15. Of course that didn’t stop the back of the bus portable bar from going through a bottle of vodka with mixers in kid-style sippy cups during the ride…haha…

Since they expected us later in the evening, they hadn’t scheduled us to sing tonight at the farmers market downtown. We were glad we made it in time to hear the othe choirs sing…but due to a shuttlebus mixup, we didn’t get dowtown until more like 7pm, and none of the competeing choirs were singing then. I had never really eaten and Nathania eating for two was also wanting food as soon as possible, so we found some good street BBQ. By the time we strolled back to the performance area the choir from Uganda was going on…hooray! Due to the crowd not even Amazonian Nathania & I could see so we had to hold our cameras above our heads…the people behind us thanked us too since the were watching our camera monitors! Haha…The choir ws great but they sang their folk rep, so it will be interesting to hear them sing other styles too. I honestly can’t imagine trying to judge the folk round since all the styles will be SO different!

Funny thing is that we turned to mosey along and behind me was standing a tall blond man with his festival nametag with a name I recognized! I held out my hand and said “Weren’t you a teaching assistant at UCDavis?” He looked shocked but nodded. I said I sang the “halausta nyut minun oma armahani” solo in Finnish that year. We chatted a bit, & he doesn’t really remember me I’m sure but he’s now the conductor of the competing Finnish choir. Small world, eh? :)

We got back to the dorms before 9 so the portable bar was set up after a session of now-traditional tour DIY facials, but even after low-key fun still an early night for me. I’m very glad we don’t compete until Saturday so we can relax a little tomorrow.

Until next time!

SLO Day 2

30 June 2007

Buffet-style breakfast started the day when I found out that a Ugandan naturally pronounces my name properly when reading it off my badge! :) Panta seems to be the one introducing himself the most. I haven’t actually talked to any of the Basque choir or the Filipino choirs yet. We had rehearsal from 10-11:30 then lunch…didn’t we just eat? After lunch many of us rested, Melanie re-reading Goblet of Fire as a refresher for July as I tried to nap a bit. Then she said “Hey look what was at our door!” It was the cutest little plush spotted owl with a red envelope saying Brittahytta – Jack & Johnathon’s RSVP for the party…hahaha! When we met at 1:45 to go over for our sound check I raved about the owl being so good to find me to RSVP all the way in San Luis Obispo, and Johnathon said “Yay that’s the reaction we wanted!” They saw the owl at the campus store and couldn’t resist. Very cute!

While waiting for our sound check we saw a video feed of the Santa Rosa choir on stage, then a little of the Filipino choir before we went into the next room. Once we got on stage we were thankful for plenty of room on the risers and the stage. We started all our pieces, which sound fabulous in their shiny new performing arts center. Dan asked “Can we chop up this hall & take it home with us?” Gary Lamprecht, in charge of the festival laughed and replied “Build your own!” We heard that we impressed many who heard us, so hopefully that’s a good sign.

There was an afternoon reception, and I chatted with a couple of oeople from the host choir, finding out that on Sunday night the combined choirs get to sing Finlandia with their new pipe organ – can’t wait to hear that! The disappointing bit is the folk round is so sold out they’ve also sold the seats for the choirs to listen to each other, so we’re only going to be able to see them backstage on the video feed. The rest of our afternoon was free so after a supply run in Nathania & Kevin’s van (I unexpectedly splurged on a possible new party prop! Heehee)…too long for Treo!…

SLO Day 2 continued

30 June 2007

…we rested until dinner. Since there was food at the reception too not many of us wanted much dinner, but we went for the social time, then assembled as instructed at 7pm before the host choir’s concert.

We didn’t find out until we were inside that all the choirs would be introduced & process across the stage behind our country’s flag, just like the Olympics! We had all worn various “dressy casual” as we were told but we wished we had worn our matching choir polos at least! Oh well! Our choir is the largest here by almost double which is a big change from Wales. All the choirs sat in the front of the hall for the concert which was nice. All our flags are hanging above the stage and that pipe organ has some giant pipes probably large enough for my head! After a few other songs hey sang a welcoming song for each country, a Finnish folk song, a Filipino song which got standing & cheering from them, a Ugandan piece, to which the Ugandan choir jumped to their feet & hooted! Then not only a Basque piece but one arranged by the conductor of the Basque choir who is here, so of course they cheered for that! To welcome the 3 American choirs they sang the Moses Hogan Battle of Jericho which we sang last year, and all the choirs stood up…haha! They closed with Cindy that we sang my very first year in the Choral Project, then a little Amen encore.

We have three outfit changes tomorrow, and regardless of the careful ironing I did Wednedsay night before I put it in my garment bag, my white shirt was pretty wrinkled and I was not the only one. Funny enough it’s the gay guys who brought irons not the girls! After ironing, no centralized chat area tonight, just small pockets of conversation in different dorm rooms, and most people went to bed early. I had so many naps today I can’t try to sleep yet, but we do have an early morning to be completely ready by 9:15 to compete at 10am, so I’ll be going to bed soon myself.

Until next time!

(LJ went down for maintenance just as I was done at midnight last night! 😛 )

SLO Day 3

30 June 2007

Saturday morning started very early with Melanie & Ruth cutting their 6am run short because of a grass fire covering the mountain right behind us! We kept getting ready but also packed as much as we could just on case we’d be evacuated! Thankfully the flames were moving sideways instead of down the hill toward us, but those flames were darn close with plenty of smoke!

At least the fire had us all ready in concert attire & makeup with time to spare. We hit a couple spots, centered & focused, then were moved to the wings forever while the emcee was still going. Finally we went onstage and we felt our peformance was excellent, so at the very least we did our personal best. Nice to have it over with first! We went up into the balcony to hear the other choirs through intermission. We had been told we had to be at the busses at 12:30 in our polo shirts instead and it was 11:30 and we still needed lunch too, so we missed hearing the last 3 choirs perform the compulsory round. When we got to the bus and they told us how early we were, we were disappointed, but such is life.

(to be continued…)

SLO Day 3 part 2

1 July 2007

…We got to downtown SLO more than an hour before our 2-4pm slot of singing back & forth with the Basque choir, so we split up to stroll through town to get to our spot. We walked by the local Apple store and Ruth walked in. Our light changed to cross the street but she was still inside so I went in. She was trying to get her husband on the phone so she could get his & hers 8G iPhones! She got them, her husband was pleased since last night Palo Alto was sold out of 8Gs before he got through the midnight line. More of the choir walked by including Ben who had been tasked a month ago by Dan to get him an iPhone as soon as they came out. Ben got it, then we surprised Dan as he came around the corner. I said what Silicon Valley geeks we are to get iPhones out of town on a choir tour! Am I the geekiest because I didn’t get the product but asked for the cool bag? :)

It was really fun singing our rep & the Basque choir singing for us. We were all really supportive of each other, and audience strolled by and stayed to listen. The only drawback is so many of our choir got sunburned. Not me, thank you very much Clinique Cityblock SPF 40! We went to rehearsal immediately, hitting our folk round rep, feeling very comfortable and excited, then a little nap, dinner, then getting ready for the evening concert…

(to be continued…)

SLO Day 3 part 3

1 July 2007

…The folk round was so sold out none of the choirs were allowed to watch each other except backstage on a slighty-out-of-focus projector with a live AV feed of the stage, so at least that was something albeit disappointing. Since we were second to last, we enjoyed being able to hear everyone else, except our new Basque friends since they were on right before us during our warmup time – argh! They had cool props, a horn, poles & everything! Thank goodness we were offstage in time to hear the Ugandans who went last. At the intermission I got a chance to stroll around the room taking photos of the cool outfits…boy did we feel boringly dressed but we knew we would. What the heck do you wear for an American folk outfit? :)

It was finally our turn, and it was awesome! Truly a performance to remember! We filled the room with not only our sound but our hearts, and the audience responded loudly! We have always loved the spirituals we did, and we nailed them, but the challenge of filling the minor-key shape note song with the joyous meaning of its lyrics ending in “and when from death I’m free I’ll sing on” finally succeeded in the whole group, and I heard someone in the audience say “fabulous”…! What a rush! We came back into the choir room, and all of us had been cheering the choirs when they returned, but they were all on their feet, and the Basques were even blowing their horn for us! That is a moment to savor forever whether we get any official award or not. :)

Speaking of awards, at the end tonight they read the 3 finalists from the compulsory round, in no certain order. We heard “The Choral…” and I exhaled immediately, knowing we placed in one round. What a night! Everyone was too excited to go to bed right away, so there was some winding down hanging out, but we have to be ready to sing at a local church by 8:15am so I’d better get to bed!

Until next time!

woohoo! :D

1 July 2007

Waiting for Round 3 to start, we just found out we placed in the folk round!!! We’re 5th today for our Choir’s Choice round, so back to the show!

SLO Day 4 part 1

2 July 2007

For the Choir’s Choice and final round, we sang our hearts out again, but since we ended with War Song, it was a completely different way to impress the audience, and they were impressed since they stood up! Nice to see that! The other choirs backstage also stood & cheered for us. The Ugandan lady sitting next to me said that War Song sounded a lot like what the army teaches you but shouting in Swahili…haha! We heard the last two choirs, then they wanted to announce who placed in that same round, so we waited and waited while the emcee and the hosts told stories about choirs singing to each other at other festivals. When we finally stood up to sing the Biebl for them, getting only barely through the first phrase, they came back onstage – darn! We kept thinking they were using alphabetical order to hide who was which place but this time they announced us second…I couldn’t hear it since there was still cheering for the first choir but I saw Dan turn around and say “We placed again?!?” Wow – we placed in all three rounds! Many former San Jose State Choraliers who have competed a lot said they’d never place in all rounds!

We quickly changed clothes and took a long walk across campus to a really nice BBQ with excellent live mariachi music. I thought we were giving away our “altos rule” necklaces at the party later, but enough altos were wearing theirs we found other altos to give them, so I got a few alto photos. :) Ruth started talking to Bettie from Uganda and found out they were selling jewelry they brought from home as more fundraising, so Ruth insisted on buying me one! There was a multicolored turquoisy one so I wore it with the dress I was wearing, then started showing everyone to bring more customers to the Ugandans. By the time I was leading people to Bettie they were setting up artwork, baskets, little purses and other cool things! We sent quite a crowd over to them so I hope they got some money and won’t have to carry so much back home. I bought a nice woven basket that is brown, cream and teal! :)

(to be continued)

SLO Day 4 part 2

2 July 2007

…Erin & I hiked the long way back to the dorms to change since we had to be back on stage at 6pm for our one chance to rehearse all the choirs together. That was a lot of fun! Needless to say our altos started a refrain of We Are the Altos to the tune of We Are the Champions and ALL the altos joined in! Alto pride is contagious! Hahahaha…the basses tried to sing something back but it kind of fell flat…heehee…

We had time before the final concert started, so since we knew we were singing once for each round, we tried to figure out how to squeeze on the smaller risers for the awards. We crammed ourselves into a mixed position the then Basque choir wanted to hear our Biebl, so we sang the short version…many of them were crying by the end and boy did they cheer! We stayed while they got on the same risers and they sang a very pretty piece with a soprano soloist who was worried how she’d sing since she was recovering from crying from our Biebl. They did a beautiful job, and everyone hugged the soloist on the way backstage, where we spent (too much) time rearranging our standing position yet again while waiting to go onstage.

Finally we went onstage to sit and wait while they announced the winners. The host and emcee traded back & forth, keeping us all on pins & needles. I felt a little badly for the choirs who knew they didn’t place but were still sitting on stage, and tried to keep a good attitude that at least we got third place in all three rounds!

(to be continued)

SLO Day 4 part 3

2 July 2007

…They announced the Basque choir as third place so they sang. It was better to hear them live than on the video feed, but still odd to hear them from behind. They announced second place…conducted by Daniel Hughes…us! We performed the Rotala (Vidu!) which felt very odd being sideways to the audience but got great response anyway. That left Imusica Cappella from the Philippines, who rehearse something like everyday all year subsidized by their government, and win competitons worldwide, so coming in second to them is no shame!

On to the folk results, where we were surprised we placed at all. As Dan joked, “We know we didn’t place for our ‘folk’ outfits” of red white & blue jeans! There it was…third place conducted by Daniel Hughes…still nice to place! We sang Wade in de Water, then sat down to hear the Basque choir get second, leaving Imusica Cappella first again…onto the final round judging!

(to be continued)

SLO Day 4 part 4

2 July 2007

…Onward to the Choir’s Choice round, where we thought we had the most varied rep. Pin & needles again! Third place – the San Francisco Filipino choir…we were at least second! Second place – Imusica Cappella! OH MY GOSH! I was two seats away from Dan and he looked extremely shocked and said “We won first?!? We actually got first?!?” Of course we stood & cheered for Imusica Cappella as they filed over to sing, and many of them were telling us congratulations on their walk forward to sing. Then there it was – first place The Choral Project! Since we were going to sing War Song we had to move the awards table out of the way as we heard the emcee egg us on by reiterating our mission is to heal the world through song…haha! Dan explained again that it’s a song of intimidation instead of violence then we did it again…twice onstage in one day is quite a workout & a lot of adrenaline rush!

Backstage at intermission was a flurry of congratulating each other and lots of photos of smiling faces & new friends. We went back on in sections – a chant of “Altos! Altos!” was heard! – and blew off the roof singing the two compulsory pieces with almost 300 voices combined. Then we sang This is My Song to the tune of Finlandia with the pipe organ AND the whole packed house of audience joining on the final verse. The words were praying for peace among all nations, so quite a moment. Our host Gary Lamprecht of the Vocal Arts choir, whose dream it has been to host this festival, got up, thanked everyone and said “That is how the world SHOULD be!” to rousing applause from everyone. Then he also said “I think we should all take on the Choral Project’s mission to heal the world through music!” to more cheers. Yay! Onward to the after party at the Madonna Inn!

The Madonna Inn is famous for its theme rooms, like a laser-triggered waterfall urinal in the men’s bathroom, a stone grotto for the telephone, and I didn’t even see any of the actual bedrooms. When we got there it was already packed, so we went to the upstairs bar instead. To save myself the line time later I got a double amaretto sour…yummy! Back downstairs where it was a packed dance floor with a DJ, which was fun, but if I knew it would be that kind of party I probably would have done more chatting with other choirs at the BBQ in the afternoon, since it was too loud with all the dance music. However, it was a lot of fun to dance! Great way to blow off the steam & energy of the competition, since we were ALL DONE – woohoo! We were kicked out at midnight, so back to the dorms, but most of us were too awake still to go to bed. Again it was chats in various dorm rooms, until I packed it in at 2:30am to get to sleep. We had to check out by 9am you know!

home again!

2 July 2007

This morning at breakfast I said hi to a couple of the Santa Rosa choir guys I danced with at the party, but the other choirs weren’t around, so I still didn’t get the chance to give away my alto necklace. :( I do have a Finnish email to send photos, and I heard we got contact info for the Ugandans to make more necklaces to send to them. Best of all, the Basque choir is doing a concert on Friday night in South San Francisco at the Basque Cultural Center, so we’re trying to get as many of us together as possible to go see them! 😀 It also sounds like there will be a bunch of Vocal Arts members driving up from SLO to hear our concerts! They specifically told us that and asked when our next concerts are! I happened to have a Choral Project magnet in my folder so I gave it to them to be sure they had our URL to check for next season’s events. Yes, I’m a good little choir marketing girl whenever I can! 😉

We had a fairly uneventful and quick bus ride home, but before we got on the freeway, they decided some of our $500 first place award could go to paying for Starbucks for the entire bus…which was only $100.05 exactly so we still have some prize money left! Back home & back to reality, but since the rest of today is still official vacation time for me, I’m not checking work email unless they CALL me…tomorrow reality will set in like a ton of bricks, but I can enjoy the rest of today at least!

Hope everyone had as fabulous a weekend as we did! 😀