A weekend of barbershop

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Land O’ Lakes District Fall Convention quartet and chorus competition, so it was really looking forward to a weekend chock-full of barbershop music. The event was in Rochester and featured 24 quartets and 18 choruses from around the region (Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota).

It was an interesting trip on Friday afternoon with the snow and rain and wind. It wasn’t too bad until we got to around Mankato. Luckily it wasn’t a blizzard or anything, and we made it to Rochester unscathed. Then came the task of trying to find the hotel we were staying at and a place to park. The convention was at the Mayo Civic Center, and it’s part of the skyway system that connects a few hotels, the University Mall, restaurants and other shops. After finding the parking garage and checking in, we made our way to the room in the Civic Center where we had to find our registration.

The quartet preliminaries had already begun by the time we arrived, so we watched the first quartet on the live-streamed television. The quartet that was based in Willmar was part of the first half of the prelims, so we for sure wanted to see them. Our designated seating area found us in the balcony (section 9); I kept calling it the “cheap seats.” It wasn’t that bad, just a bit far away. But the main thing is that you can hear the singers and the chords ringing. One of the quartets, Cranial Cabbage, performed “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” by Ray Stevens, which made all the judges scratch their heads, wondering how to score the quartet as the song wasn’t really in the barbershop style.

During intermission, we went in search of dinner and ended up at the nicer restaurant in the mall, Chester’s. But we didn’t go back for the rest of the convention’s competition as we were kinda tired from the trip.

Saturday arrived early as Ross had to meet his chorus at 8:30. We went to Pannekoeken for breakfast as it was just across the street from the Kahler. It’s always a treat to go there when we’re in Rochester. I always look forward to the banana chocolate chip muffin. There’s a good choice of muffins there, but I always gravitate toward banana chocolate chip (love that combination, but whoa, there were plenty of chocolate chips).

I managed to find my way from the Holiday Inn (where we were staying) to the Civic Center. On a side note, a woman who graduated from Somerset High School a couple of years behind me has a fiance who is in the Midwest Vocal Express, a chorus from near Milwaukee. We’ve seen each other at a past convention, and I was looking forward to seeing her again at this one. We kept in contact via Facebook messenger to find each other in the Civic Center’s auditorium.

Ross’ chorus, West Central Connection, went on at 11 a.m. Its first song was “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” which was a beautiful, haunting song. In one part of the song, the chorus gets really quiet. For the first half of the chorus competition, I was sitting next to the wife of a former member of Ross’ chorus on the ground level. I heard a member of another chorus that had already performed say “nice” when West Central got to the quiet part of the song. As the morning wore on, choruses did their best to impress the judges. The Racine Dairy Statesmen donned mouse ears for their Disney song medley. The Riverblenders Chorus from Mankato did a “Music Man” program with “Seventy-six Trombones” and “Sincere/It’s You/Lida Rose.” The choruses are placed in different plateaus based on their membership numbers. Plateau A, which contains West Central Connection, is chapters with 39 members or less. Plateau AA has 40-75 members, and Plateau AAA has 76 or more.

It wasn’t until 2:15 p.m. when we learned results. I thought the Capitol Chordsmen was going to give West Central Connection a run for its money in Plateau A, but West Central ended up being the plateau champion out of 9 choruses and fifth overall. Not bad for a chorus that had about 15 members competing.

I did manage to find my former schoolmate after the results. We chatted for a while until I caught up with Ross for a trip to Chocolaterie Stam in the University mall. We went there twice on Saturday, first trip was for gelato and the second was to buy bonbons. I think it’s one of my favorite parts of going to the convention, besides the singing, of course.

After the quartet finals, a few of the quartets and choruses and hosted afterglows. So there was more singing, beverages and popcorn.