By Meryl Kelleher
I love autumn for many reasons, but most of all because that is when Sweet Adelines International holds its International Competition! I mark the dates in BIG letters on my calendar, and count down the days until it is here. As excited as I get, you would think I was making the journey to the contest myself, along with thousands of other chorus members, directors, families, friends and fans, but that is not the case. I may not be able to be there in person, but being able to view the entire thing on the Sweet Adelines International Webcast is the next best thing!
Each year, Sweet Adelines puts on a live webcast of the entire event, starting with Tuesday’s Harmony Classic contest for small and mid-sized choruses, Wednesday’s quartet semi-finals & Friday’s quartet finals competition, and Thursday’s chorus semi-finals & Saturday’s chorus finals contest. It is completely free to anyone; all you need is internet access and a device, and you’re in. It could not be easier. Even though the webcast is completely free to me, that doesn’t mean it is free for SAI to put on, and so I always make a modest donation, to help keep it going for the following year.
This year’s contest was held October 16-19 in St. Louis, Missouri. Since some of the contests are held during school hours, I have oh-so-cleverly found ways to watch parts of the webcast while teaching my kindergarten class (Don’t tell the School Board). Oh, I made sure to teach them all their lessons. But, during “choice time”, when the kids had free play, I treated them to a little “background music”. I even planned that if my principal happened to stop in, that I would say that I was educating my class about this true American art form. They were still allowed to talk and have fun (Except when Class Ring did their semi-finals package-I made sure they all watched it in complete silence along with me.) Guess what? They LOVED it! I told them that this is what I do on Thursday nights, and they were thrilled and proud when I showed them one of SFJ’s old contest packages from YouTube. (5 year-olds love sparkle!) When they were at lunch or at special class, you can bet the webcast had my complete focus. I even took a sick day on Friday so I could see the quartet finals (I did go to my chiropractor in the morning, so that makes it legit, right?) Rushing home from work each day so as not to miss a moment, I caught the rest of the contest from the comfort of my sofa.
Year after year, this is a highlight for me. I really get into it, just as if I was sitting in the front row seat in the auditorium. I cheer and clap my hands. I holler at the screen when I see members of SFJ who are competing with the amazing Spirit of the Gulf Chorus, and others who I have sung with in the past. I hang on every word that the MC’s say (you can really learn a lot during the between- contestants chatter). I especially enjoy hearing the amazing Karen Breidert’s commentary. Her speaking voice is almost musical. She never runs out of things to say! All the comments she makes are stated so tactfully. My cat, Keiko feels slightly ignored until Saturday night, when the festivities end with “The Winner’s Song” and “Harmonize the World”. You can bet that I am singing and right along with the crowd! I’ve laughed and cried, and cried some more.
It’s a bit of a letdown when the webcast ends, but I can’t wait until Thursday night, when I can hear about the contest from the perspective of James and the ladies who were able to make it there. Seeing the webcast invigorates me, and reminds me yet again why I love being a Sweet Adeline!