Intermission ends, the lights dim inside the auditorium at South Lakes H.S., and a hushed silence comes over the crowd as Diana's 'radio' voice signals the commencement of the 2nd half of Friday night's event, Aca Idol @ Sing Strong 2010. The audience had just finished watching five vocal groups perform their hearts out on stage to all different types of musical genres all in a cappella form.
I am backstage, in complete darkness with my band, breathing in and out silently, furiously trying to calm my nerves.
" I've done this three times before!", I tell myself, trying to rationalize away the undesirable amounts of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I should be NOT be having this much nervous energy before a show, even if it is something as big as Sing Strong. We've done the national anthem in front of 20,000 fans for crying out loud! However, there's something different about tonight.
"I can feel it coming in the air tonight"...starts to play in my head as Diana announces our group name, 'Euphonism', which was coined in my head a fateful four years ago. Something definitely does feel different about this performance and I begin to realize what it is. It's the first time in four years where I truly believe that we can ____. As in we can do anything. There aren't any weaknesses that we have to mask, only strengths to build upon going forward. Tonight could be a night where the door of potential finally gets unlocked and done away with.
Will our past four days of non-stop rehearsing and cramming of music, dance moves, and staging all pay off or will there be glaring mistakes that are obvious to the judges and the audience?! Will we blame snowmaggedon for cutting out 2 weeks worth of rehearsal time that we needed? All of this hung in the balance and caused everyone including me to focus on having fun, regardless of whatever transpired in the next ten minutes.
The mics are 'hot', and someone plays the notes on the pitch pipe for our beginning number as we walk out in line formation to the cheers of the a capella community mixed in with some of our loyal fans that were able to make it to the show.
Now that I've heard my starting note, I start to hum the first two notes of my bass part in 'Love and Memories' to myself to make sure that it will be right when Theresa and I start off the show.
John counts off the beat, the lights come on, and the notes sound loud, clear, AND IN TUNE to start off the song, and I'm smiling from ear to ear so that you really cannot see my eyes anymore. We are all in position as Charlie rumbles in broodingly with his solo in the first verse, and I can see members of the audience begin to be truly engaged as some of them either recognize the O.A.R song, or are drawn in by Charlie's tender beginning. We definitely start to feel the energy level on stage growing bigger and bigger as we approach the middle of the song and Charlie launches into the chorus with abandon. STEP! BACK! STEP! I am filled with glee as the entire group is synchronized and is moving as one with each choreo. We descend into the bridge of the song with the funky chord arrangement that we hope will win us some bonus points with the barbershop judge and the arrangers in the audience. One of our most troubling spots during rehearsal, and we knock it out of the park (!) as Charlie goes into vocal loco mode unleashing a WMD in the last part of the song. The crowd is definitely vibing our sound and movement as they cheer us on to the finish of the song.
No break. We go immediately into the 2nd song of our set, Respect Re-Mix. This song has been one of our crown jewels and holds a special place in our hearts as it was forged by fire via our 1st Sing Strong performance. Unveiling it two years later, after it had been recently nominated for a CARA award was going to be not only rewarding, but (in Theresa's poignant words) 'soooooooooo necessary'.
Amanda dives into the song with her powerhouse vocals, drawing gasps from people in the crowd that wasn't expecting it, and I manage to switch mics with Charlie in time to go down on one knee with the rest of my group. It looks as if we are either all proposing to Amanda or simply admitting to the fact that we consider her as a cappella royalty.
The cry of "REMIX!" from John, enlists the soldiers of laughter to come marching out of the mouths of many in the audience that night, and officially begins the group's grand entrance into the song. I sneak a quick peek to my left and see Laura, Charlie, Rachel, Theresa, and Amanda moving in perfect formation before we transition to the next part of the song that has us in 3 pairs of boy/girl and Amanda in the middle leading the charge.
I'm paired up with Rachel in the middle of the stage and we play with each other in an almost effortless manner, and play to the crowd before my 'guitar solo'. I attempt to do my best vocal funk electric guitar and then go into the box step that had been throwing us off all week. For having learned the choreography on Wednesday night and performing it on Friday night, I think we more than just pulled it off.
We are GROOVIN' as we approach the trademark section of the original hit (R E S P E C T!), and hit our carefully choreographed and timed hand and body gestures to the 'T' with smiles on our faces because we realize that all of those hours of rehearsing are paying off!
We build to the climax of the song where everyone is silent on stage except for Amanda as she launches into another diva solo to bring the song to a close met with a thunderous ovation.
At this point, I am just beaming. The crowd really appears to be genuinely excited, and even blown away. New faces that have not heard of us before are wondering who we are and old faces are hopefully pleasantly surprised with the metamorphosis that this group has undergone not only within the past year, but also in the past couple of weeks alone. It is undeniable to me that we are gelling as a group off stage, and as bona fide performers on the stage for the first time.
All of these positive emotions and the energy from the crowd is starting to make me lose my state of calm yet again, as we make our way to our designated spots for our most powerful song of the night.
Smooth Criminal. Michael.
The idea of learning and performing this song was hatched over 6 months ago, but was not fully learned (musically) until maybe about a month ago. Even then, we were not fully certain that we as a group could do Michael justice in our performance. However, with Chris' wonderful choreo boot camps last week, we started to see the pieces of the puzzle start to transform into a solid performance that would become our signature, anthem, or crowd favorite.
I can hear my hearbeat thump in my chest as I put on my aviators to pay homage to MJ. Amanda finishes her short speech about our group and everyone is frozen in the hands of time, until the pitch pipe and the beat count breaks the silence.
"1, 2, 3, 4!"...Charlie and I sing the bass riff as a teaser. The audience immediately recognizes the one of a kind bass line from an iconic song from the world's most extraordinary performer. Shouts, hollering, and laughter is elicited from the crowd as we are in our 'voyeur' pose at this point. We get the rest of the introductory part of the song going with some classic MJ poses that start to get the crowd anticipating the beginning of the song.
*GASP* ANNNIEEE!!! 2! 3! 4!!!
And we're flying to an amazing start! Theresa aka Tbow is owning the solo with fire coming out of her eyes and bolts of lightning from her arse. Okay, maybe not so much that last part, but seriously she is captivating the crowd with her sultry vocals. The force is STRONG in this one, especially for a SingStrong and a cappella rookie.
The arrangement put together by Amanda and Charlie is seriously rocking the auditorium at this point with all the intsrumentals, sound effects, and the vocal percussion really taking the song to new heights. Oh, and did I mention that this was the first public performance for this song?!
"You've been hit by! You've been struck by! *POW* A smooth criminal!"
I start the bass line again to begin the second verse and see everyone position themselves in a circle around Theresa as we are about to go into the heavy breathing section. The "ha chi" duet between Rachel and Laura sound Ha May Zing on the splendid sound set up provided by Blue Jupiter. As we breathe and sing, we start the coolest part of our choreography of the night. We all strut in a circle counter clockwise around Theresa and then start the "V Lean" during the second chorus that draws oohs and aahs all around. Chris' genius is really paying off for us now!
But hey, we're far from being done impressing or wowing the audience in this song. We've been building up the energy for the bridge/last chorus. We start our sirens and finish up the chord that precedes the climax.
1, 2, 3, 4! goes off in my head as we hold out the note. *BOOM* We have arrived at the climax as John and Theresa split up from the middle of the stage and head to opposite directions.
Theresa is passionately singing the chorus, and John is channeling Michael's voice and dance moves singing "Dag gone it baby! Woo! Woo!" that gets the crowd roaring in approval. The rest of us are in a V formation in the middle attacking our parts with sheer joy and uninhibited musical fervor.
We're blazing our way to the finish and my breathing is starting to become ragged as the constant 8th notes in the lower register are finally taking their toll. One more 'ow!' from John and I'll be good.
BAM! There it is and Theresa sings her last 'I don't know' with conviction. That's my cue!
I end the song with a low, guttural 'bwahh' to give the effect of a bass coming from a subwoofer as everyone goes into their window pane Michael Jackson poses.
I realize, in that moment as the cheers and ovations roll in that we just had Euphonism's best performance yet. It did not matter to me if our performance was going to win us awards, new fans, admiration and praise from the pros in the crowd, or mp3 sales. We literally just had a moment (that lasted ten minutes) in time where everything (music, choreography, lighting, energy, band chemistry) seemed to flow together into a performance that was like a piece of art. From my point of view on the stage, I did not see nor hear anything where I would go back and say, 'oh we clearly messed up here'.
There was nothing left to do now except to put my arms around six people that I adore deeply and take a collective bow together, as a band that was announcing their arrival by stepping into a promising new era full of opportunities to grow even closer and better as a group of friends and performers.
We had finally lived up to the meaning of our name Euphonism: a nickname for a pleasant sounding or harmonious combination or succession of words.
A big thank you to the Sing Strong team, for making this event possible in the graceful manner that only you guys were able to achieve. This is only one of the plethora of magical memories that transpired during a short ten minutes this weekend, but it'll last us a lifetime.