Youth Festival Garners Highest Praise . . . Again!

Mark Freedkin, Feb 22, 2012

The Masters of Harmony and the Southern California Vocal Association co-sponsored the 12th Annual Young Men’s Harmony Festival this past weekend. We had 203 young men from 19 high schools and one middle school attending this year’s unique musical event, and the feedback from students, parents and teachers indicates that this was our best festival ever. More than 70% of the attendees were first-timers, and the other 30% were repeat attendees from previous years.

The day started with introductions and a demonstration of the barbershop style with all the members of OC Times. After some physical and vocal warm-ups by Dave Tautkus and Ken Potter, we ran through all the songs, and we were pleasantly surprised with how well they sounded. The young men were more prepared than previous years, and their vocal quality was significantly better.

For lunch, we brought in 600 Arby’s Roast Beef sandwiches, and they were gone in minutes, with major assistance from the MOHers who were there as chaperones for the day. After lunch, we broke into section rehearsals, and OC Times and other MOH men helped the young singers work through some of the more difficult parts of the songs. When we reconvened on the risers, the improvement was obvious.

During the afternoon, we added a few simple choreography moves to “Coney Island Baby” and continued to refine the songs. We dismissed the young men for dinner at 5 p.m., and the Masters of Harmony took the stage to warm up and rehearse. The young men also changed into their performance attire, complete with red or blue bow ties and cummerbunds that were expertly packaged for each school by Jackie Palmquist. Then they joined the MOH on stage to rehearse “Fun In Just One Lifetime” and “America The Beautiful/Overlay.”

The evening show featured the young men’s chorus, performances by groups from Magnolia High School and Granada Hills Charter High School, along with Tenacious Q, The Crush, Boom Town Chorus (under the direction of Joey Buss), OC Times, and the Masters of Harmony, culminating in a combined finale with 275 singers on stage for the combined numbers, both of which received standing ovations from the appreciative audience of parents, families, teachers and friends. There were even several school principals in attendance. This year’s event brings our 12-year total to well over 2,700 students who have participated in one or more of our festivals.

We were fortunate to have a number of talented men joining me as clinicians and directors, including Dave Tautkus, Jason Remley, and Ken Potter. They did a great job working with the young men, and we appreciate their talent and dedication. All the MOH men did an equally “masterful” job of providing a positive adult male role model for the youngsters, and demonstrated that singing can and should be a lifelong recreational activity.

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