Monday, October 18, 2010

Reminicences ... An Oral History of the MVE - Scott H

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration in 2009, the chapter newsletter editor asked several of the founding members to share some comments with the rest of the chorus. These are their stories.

I’m a Charter Member who joined in January 1989. My first Contest was April 1, 1989 – and I’ve been in every one since (except one Badger contest in ’97 to witness the birth of my son, Nick). Also, I’ve been at or in every show performance (except maybe one or two. Not bad for 20 years!). I haven’t missed a single Division, District, or International competition in which the MVE performed.

The special thing about the MVE is that a group of regular guys – no stars – can come together and just sing so well. We can be entertaining to the point where we make a difference. We can touch someone’s heart for a moment. Even as a regular guy, you can still make such a difference through the power of the group.

I have so many favorite memories. The one that sticks out is 2003 in Montreal, the Green Army Set. We drew the first performance position for the International contest that year.

Beforehand, our bus was slowed due to a parade, and we were late arriving at the contest site. We were running like crazy to set up; on top of that, the contest officials wouldn’t allow us to use our smoke machine (at first). The rushing around made everyone sweat like crazy inside our green plastic suits, and we were all frantic. One of the toy block pieces was missing, and I ran all the way back to the loading dock in my socks to get it!

My heart would not stop racing. Finally – the curtain goes up. I’m frozen in my toy soldier position, eyes closed, feet glued securely to my platform. The audience applauded forever, just from seeing us. I was crying.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reminicences ... An Oral History of the MVE - Walt Z

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration in 2009, the chapter newsletter editor asked several of the founding members to share some comments with the rest of the chorus. These are their stories.

I am a charter member of the MVE. I had been singing with the Menomonee Falls chapter, and realized one day that because of business travel requirements, I would miss both the spring contest and the spring show.

Some of the Falls members had been talking about this “new” chorus that was starting up at a church in Caldwell, WI. It was composed of quartet guys who wanted to compete at higher levels than any of thelocal choruses were willing to commit to (or were capable of). I walked into the rehearsal in Caldwell that first night and heard the best, cleanest barbershop sound I had ever heard. I have been hooked on the MVE ever since.

I have held a variety of MVE chapter officer positions over the years, including chapter secretary and Music VP. I have also been active in a number of chapter quartets over the years, the most popular being The Chord Sharks. I have sung with Last Minute Decision, Vocalion, Breaking News, Sonix, and Easy Days over the years - and I’m probably forgetting a couple others.

The MVE is special in many ways. First, I think the camaraderie of the guys is second to none anywhere in the society. We have all grown older in the years that followed the formation of the chorus, and I don’t think any of us party as well as we used to - but the party attitude and having fun doing what we do has always been, and continues to be, a big part of the MVE culture.

Second, our goal is to change lives by entertaining people, and we are one of few choruses who can really do that well. I get great comments after every show from people who have never seen us, who are just blown away by what we do. They don’t understand why we aren’t better known. We ARE solving that problem, and changing lives in the process.

Our first medal in Portland in 2002 was my favorite memory I think, after we did the Waiter Set. When they announced the MVE as the 5th place Bronze Medalist, our section just went nuts and held up the next announcement for a few minutes. It was a great moment. We had a huge party in the hotel afterwards and everyone was just immersed in the celebration of our success.

My second favorite moment was Anaheim in 1999. We did the first version of our New Orleans Set that year. It was our first time at International and we were all pumped. There were three standing ovations during the chorus contest that day: The Masters of Harmony, who won the contest; the second place chorus, Northbrook, IL (second by only 2 points out of 3000 - ask Dennis S. about this); and the 9th place Greendale Midwest Vocal Express. Dick Van Dyke was a special guest of the Society that year and was one of the first to stand for us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reminiscing . . . Favorite MVE memories from Bill K

Bill blows the pitch for the National Anthem
I moved down from North Dakota in the Fall of 1989.  An acquaintance told me about the “New Chapter on the Block” and I showed up the next Monday at the MVE meeting.

During my twenty years in the MVE, I have been involved with the Administration, Performance, Music, Show and Quartet Promotion.  Oh yes - and setting up and hauling risers.

In my opinion, there are several things that make the MVE so special:

  • The Fellowship and Family feeling in the Chapter
  • The Quality Sound (singing) of the chorus
  • The informality the MVE maintains.
I set a personal goal many years ago to:
  1. Sing on the International Stage with a Quartet;
  2. Sing on the International Stage with a Chorus; and
  3. Sing on the International Stage with a Seniors Quartet.
Mission accomplished thanks in great part to the MVE, and all the Men of the MVE!

My most memorable moment:  The Standing Ovation in Anaheim in 1999
My most exciting:  The announcement of our first 5th place Medal (in Portland, 2002).
My warmest fond memories:  Singing in the hotel lobby at 1999 (Anaheim) and 2000 (Kansas City) Internationals (not to mention some of the great hospitality rooms the MVE provided at LOL District Conventions!)
My most prideful memory:  Our first LOL District Championship (2002)

My most embarrassing:  Thanks for not asking!
My most personally satisfying:  Receiving the Barbershopper of the Year Award (BOTY) my second year with MVE.

But - perhaps my favorite memory (which gets renewed, maybe not every week, but at least once a month) is the MVE getting truly involved with a song.  The emotional atmosphere and musicality is truly wonderful.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Quartet Highlight - Easy Days

This is another posting that features of the many quartets associated with the Midwest Vocal Express - Easy Days. The current edition of Easy Days was formed in March of 2008.

From l-r, Bill K, Frank M, Dick R and Bo G

Bill is 40-year member of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), and has sung in many Land O'Lakes District (LOL) quartets. Bill has been a District officer, judge, coach and is on staff at Harmony University.

Frank, a 43-year member of the society, was MVE's first director. He is known throughout the BHS and Sweet Adelines International as a composer, arranger, coach and director. He was honored in December by the BHS, and recognized for his achievements and efforts in promoting our art-form around the world. Frank sang lead with the popular show quartet Shear Delight for 25 years.

Bo is a 58-year member of the BHS, a 3-time LOL District Quartet Champion and 3-time International Finalist with The Fanfares Quartet. Bo sang with Frank and Shear Delight, entertaining audiences throughout the Midwest.

Dick is a 12-year member of the BHS, and has sung with several MVE quartets in competition and performances. Dick is Easy Days' newest member, and it's hard to believe that he started with MVE singing lead.

Easy Days has competed in the Senior's International Prelims, achieving the Top 10 in the Illinois District in the fall of 2008, and qualifying for the competition in Anaheim, CA. In May of 2009, Easy Days won the LOL Senior's District Championship, and competed in the District contest in October of 2009.

Easy Days sang 150 performances in 2009. They are featured performers at the Harmony Inn the Village in Greendale, and are proud to represent MVE at all of their performances.

Top Ten Best things about being in Quartet (collectively speaking!):

10. Experience unusual, novel venues
9. Meet great people
8. Self improvement
7. Expose our art-form to new audiences
6. Entertain audiences
5. Sing great music, arrangements & ring chords
4. Allows us to fulfill our “Ham” urges
3. Fellowship
2. Change people's lives through music
1. IT'S FUN!!!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reminicences ... An Oral History of the MVE - Harry H

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration in 2009, the chapter newsletter editor asked several of the founding members to share some comments with the rest of the chorus. These are their stories.

After 13 years in the Society I decided it was time for more challenge. Rather than transfer my membership to another competitive chorus I decided to explore the possibility of creating a more highly motivated chorus in our area.

I called 12 or 13 quartet men that I knew were hungry for a challenge as well, and we held a meeting to determine if this was a feasible undertaking. After a short time at this meeting it was determined that we would form what has become the Midwest Vocal Express we know today.

I served as President for the first two years and Music VP a couple of times. I have
been very involved in the Performance Team, and have taken on the costume and prop design for several of our most memorable contest packages (notably the Green Army, Fish and Penguin sets – Ed.). I have also served on our Director Selection Committee twice.

I love the environment created when 75 men have a common goal of changing people’s lives through our excellent performances. It feels good to be a part of something so special that people all over the Society talk about our performance packages, and set us as their benchmark.

There have been so many great memories. Our first International competition (New Orleans Set, Anaheim, 1999) was special. I remember that after the curtain closed following our performance, I was literally picked up and bear hugged by one of our “Big Guns” Keith S. 

I’m not sure anything will top the feeling I had when we got the 38-second standing ovation in Montreal before we even sang a note as the curtain opened to reveal our “Green Army” set. And then there were the “Fish”.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Choosing Our Future

The Midwest Vocal Express (MVE) recently raised a large banner at our rehearsal hall that hangs on the front wall facing our risers. On it is the phrase that we are going to be using and referring to as we push forward this fall and winter and throughout next year on new music and membership.

You see, after twelve consecutive appearances at the Barbershop Harmony Society's annual International Chorus competition, the men of the MVE decided to take a year off from formal competition. Instead, we will focus our energies on growing the chorus, both in terms of our musicality and our membership.

Like many great organizations, we chose to adopt a phrase as our rallying cry for these efforts.  Many great suggestions were put forth, but one stood out:

Bigger is obvious. We are aggressively working to grow the chapter with the strongest of performers, and each man should work to bring a person into the fold that is a better singer than he is.

Better is meant to be taken two different ways.  First and most important is that we need to take this opportunity to make ourselves better.  We only become better if each man gets better.

The second meaning of this part of the phrase is that if we attract better performers to our ranks, we will become better. Our talent pool will be deeper, our performances more exciting and vibrant and meaningful to the audience.  We will change more lives.

Notice, this does not say that we will be better because we are bigger, but we will be better if we grow bigger with better performers.

Best is both the result of the other two legs, but also an important reminder. We will be at our best ever, if we choose to work our BEST at becoming Better and Bigger – at the same time.

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