Harmony Weekend with Amigo

Like much of the world last year, the barbershop harmony world was largely shut down. Amigo’s chorus was rehearsing on Zoom, waiting for a vaccine so they could rehearse together again. Amigo took voice lessons, also via Zoom, once a week. The annual district fall contest was cancelled, as many other events in 2020. Fall of 2021, the Land of Lakes District of the Barbershop Harmony Association gathered in Minnesota.

To summarize briefly, Amigo’s chorus did well. They scored well and got some good constructive comments from the judges. They didn’t win, but they were pleased with their performance and feedback.

Summaries, however, don’t really show what the weekend was like. To feel the atmosphere of a barbershop crowd, imagine attending a banquet. On the surface, it seems like a regular banquet, with good food and a nice group of people at each table. But listen closely: you’ll hear a pitch pipe, followed by a table of guys singing standards, or Polecats in barbershop lingo. When one table finishes singing, another pitch pipe will sound at another table in the room. The ambience couldn’t be beat.

As the banquet program began, the entire room joined together in the National Anthems for Canada and the U.S. Four part harmony, of course, and a lump in my throat just listening. An all-chapter chorus followed, with Amigo representing his chorus.

As the announcer declared, it’s great to be at a conference that brings their own entertainment! Sitting at this banquet was a highlight of the weekend. Singing and listening, making new friends, enjoying coming together after a long separation. It’s a wonderful irony that Land of Lakes District abbreviates their name to LOL. There was laughter, out loud laughing, all around. Harmony and laughter? Now that’s a sweet weekend.

 

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RIP Bob Dorough

You might not know his name, but you would recognize his voice. If I named one of his hits, you’d be able to name several more.

He set an skater on ice with a song that, despite its simple subject matter, sounded magical and bittersweet.

He reminded the world that zero is a powerful number – superhero powerful.

He sold the world on enriching their language with adverbs.

He taught the legislative process through a first person perspective and a few catchy rhymes.

He modeled a train that hooked up words, and phrases, and clauses.

His name was Bob Dorough. If you haven’t started singing yet (you’re welcome), he was the creative genius behind Schoolhouse Rock.

He was a session player, lyricist, songwriter, and all around talented musician. Dorough was tasked with creating a song based on multiplication facts – eventually, several songs with several sets of multiplication facts. His job was simple: write something memorable for the kids who don’t know their multiplication tables, but can rattle off any song on the radio.

Boomer children heard his three minute tunes in between the pre-cable era Saturday morning cartoons. As the math series proved popular, Dorough branched out with (my favorite) Grammar Rock. America Rock, the American history series that followed, helped many a child comprehend the three ring circus made up of our three branches of government. Hey, he said it first, folks. Three may be a magic number, but Schoolhouse Rock didn’t stop there. Remember Interplanet Janet? She’s a galaxy girl, and she was part of Science Rock.

I use his music in my virtual classes – English Language Arts and Music. I haven’t brought them into the ancient history of middle school social studies, but give me time. I’ll find a way. Schoolhouse Rock songs were written to be entertainment, and also to be memorable. That’s where the teaching value comes from. That, and the idea that and, but, and or will get you pretty far.

No matter why you remember these short animated pieces, it’s certain that you will at least be able to hum a few bars.

In Schoolhouse Rock, Bob Dorough left a legacy that has already lasted through generations, and is destined to last through many more. Any questions? Oh, I forgot to remind you: Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says he does.

Indubitably.

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