Personal view: the time of my life as a choir “Southern Belle”

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Lindsey Villarreal, Staff Reporter

From Thursday January 19 to Sunday January 22, I had the time of my life at the Midwinter Barbershop Convention 2017 in San Antonio, part of the International Youth Chorus Festival.

My choir group is the Southern Belles.We were with the Great Gulf Coast Region 10 of Sweet Adelines International, home to the International Rising Star 2016 Champion Quartet, “The Ladies”! We were conducted by our amazing and awesome choir teacher, Ms. Dane!

We start off with Thursday,we had to take in our luggage to the Choir room. I was at school for half of the day,and so were the rest of the girls. We all met at the choir room as soon as the bell for sixth period lunch rang.We were luckily able to eat lunch.

We were all stuck in traffic and running late and my mom had trouble finding a parking spot and we were stressed out,we found one,and went in with my mom lecturing me on how I should behave on the trip and she was also worried on it being the first time that I go away from the house, even though it was just THREE DAYS! I said goodbye to her and my little brother, forgot to mention she had to pick him up,because she did not want to be late to the car pick up line.

They left, and I was obviously with the group,and they weren’t ready with our rooms,but they had Miss Dane’s room ready, so we all put our luggage in there.We first went to the keynote address at the Hotel Hilton-El Mirador, and met The Father of Modern A Cappella, Deke Sharon! It was an incredible experience, and we also did some souvenirs, I got a pin that said “Lead,”my voice part in barbershop.We then went to another Hilton, but I don’t remember the name of it….oops.

We learned the songs that we would all sing together along with the other youth choruses,for the girls we sang“Guayacanal” by Luis Kalaff & Bienvendio Brens and arranged by Francisco J. Núñez and the other song was called “Unclouded Day” arranged by Shawn Kirchner,which we would sing together with boys,and the boys sang Hallelujah [Leonard Cohen cover].The conductor was actually Francisco J. Núñez for these songs and it was pretty awesome!

After practice they had a pizza party for the choruses and the donors for the Barbershop Harmony Society,and all the choruses including us sang a tag for them, saying thank you.We then went to our hotel which was the La Quinta Riverwalk to get our room assignments, my roommates were Chastity Hill and a high schooler from Steele named Tamara Typhair and Tamara’s mom as our chaperone for the room.

We got our keys and then we went to Miss Dane’s room,got our stuff,and put it in our room,we had an amazing view by the way,we were on the 11th floor! Then we headed off to the show at the Lila Cockrell Theatre, then we went back to the hotel and practiced our music.

On to Friday. We wake up early and head off to have breakfast and then to head off to sectionals for our group,and obviously the elevators take forever.We practiced our music, and then headed off to have lunch, but while  we were getting our food, people from different restaurant were trying to get our attention to buy their food. Since we had our name tags, they were calling us by our names, then one part of the group left with Miss Dane and the second group including me left with Ms. Laura, the Young Women in Harmony coordinator.

Then in the afternoon, we were getting ready for our performance with hair and make-up and obviously being me, I forgot my stash and to get my make-up okay from our performance coordinator, Serena Davis, and also to pay for my food. I luckily did that in the time of five minutes. We went to the theatre and got ready for our performance. “We were nervous, excited, terrified, and hysterical,” said Ily Saunders, 8th grader.

I was also feeling the same things except I was also incredibly scared.Our three songs were “Straighten Up and Fly Right” words and music by Nat Cole and Irving Mills and arranged by Mary K. Coffman and then we sang “If I Die Young” words and music by Kimberly Perry and arranged by Ben Bram. We sang “Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie” music by Andrew R.Sterling & Harry Von Tilzer and arranged by Warren “Buzz” Haeger and the photographers took amazing pictures by the way.

We then finished watching the Youth & Seniors Chorus Festival,and then went to a room at the hotel and got evaluated by three judges and then we headed to our rooms and took showers then lights out.

Saturday! This was all on major focus for the Youth Chorus Performances,and unfortunately there was a last minute schedule change and we accidentally woke up late and I only had a banana for breakfast. Then we went to Harmony University barbershop clinics and then had lunch,one group went to Subway and the other went to McDonald’s and me being really stupid and knowing if I drank a soda my voice would go flat, I still drank it anyways.

We went into sectionals with our voice parts and then we went to Lila Cockrell Theater again, to practice with the conductor, Francisco J. Núñez. We sang a total of six hours straight, but on the bright side I got a teddy bear given to me by the conductor for how hard I worked.

Then we went back to the hotel got ready and then went back to theater saw a few of the performances and then the boys sang “Hallelujah”and now it was the girls’ turn for singing “Guayacanal”and it was nerve-racking since I was in the front row, along with one of my friends, Marina.We finished and then we went back saw a couple of performances and then we all went together to sing “Guayacanal.”  Again, I was in the front row with Marina, and obviously scared to death about if I was going to mess up and we finished and got a standing ovation. It was awesome!

“Positive, they were all so happy to be there,” said Madison Gonzalez, 8th grader.

Sunday…..the most dreadful day, it was time to leave — it was time to go!!!!!!!!

We went down and ate breakfast,then after my mom called me saying that she was here and picked me up and then I left saying goodbye to the group and I came home.

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

“It was loving, mad you feel like you belonged, and wasn’t an outsider,” said Ily Saunders,8th grader.

“It was great, I loved it, I liked it very much, I miss it,” said Madison Gonzalez, 8th grader.

Southern Belles has been an amazing family for me and truly something I will never forget.

Thank you Miss Dane for letting us join this group and for letting us into the world of barbershop. Thank you Miss Laura for making this group looking good and putting this all together. Thank you Marisa for your awesome jokes and advise. Thank you Serena for making sure our make-up looks look just right. Thank you girls for being my second family. I miss you guys, and us as being a group. Hopefully there will be more to come for the Southern Belles.

Southern Belles Members:

  • Emma Anderson
  • Serena Davis
  • Ruby Duka
  • Marisa Garza
  • Madison Gonzalez
  • Alex Guerra
  • Chastity Hill
  • Lissmarys King
  • Cristina Marquardt
  • Marina Ramirez
  • Haley Roberts
  • D’Shonna Robinson
  • Ilyonah Saunders
  • Haley Sligh
  • Olivia Snedigar
  • Tamara Typhair
  • Sofia Urena
  • Monah Valentine
  • Lindsey Villarreal
  • Jasmine Williams
  • Director:Ms. Dane
  • YWIH Coordinator:Ms. Laura

(Credits for the awesome pictures to photographer Lorin May and our Young Women in Harmony coordinator Ms. Laura DeGraw!)

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