That headline seemed unlikely in the weeks leading up to the contest, but with months of hard work and rehearsals and a performance at the successful OntaFame show on Canada Day (just four days before contest), we felt we were ready. We still held our breath until the chorus contest call off, but the result was gold for the Toronto Northern Lights, by just two points out of a possible total of 3,000.
OK — how did we get here?
Our own creative genius David McEachern came up with the idea of dressing everyone as vegetables for the up-tune medley and John Mallett and Rick LaRosa came up with the wonderful vegetable puns. Our director Steve Armstrong created the arrangement, and we worked on the material starting in spring of 2012. As with any piece of comedy, there were major revisions, performances, minor changes, and a final tweak just a week before contest so as to get the most ‘bang for the buck’ out of the all of the jokes.
That was the music — the costumes were a labour of love, spearheaded by Pat Brown. Let’s just say that many hula hoops and pool noodles were used in ways not anticipated by their manufacturers. Beth Roher, John and Judy-Anne Alexander, Joanna McDonald, Bobbi Ackerman, Chris and Elisabeth Scappatura, Bill and Bernadette Wells and Hayley Sziklasi worked many long hours creating and revising the costumes. The sunflower ‘hats’ alone were updated twice. Darryl Marchant out-did himself with the onion and beet costumes, as well as designing and building the contraptions for raising the giant bunny ears to the tune of the ‘Jaws’ theme. Harry McKew designed and built the fence sections, and Gary Morton created the fantastic vegetable peeler ‘guitars’ that the carrots played.
Then there were the coaches. We had Rick LaRosa up to coach us on how to move, how to react, and how to time the delivery of our expressions for best effect. When it comes to comedy, you can’t get much funnier than the lead of quartet champion FRED. Brandon Guyton gave generously of his time, and helped us sing at a much higher level than before, and David Wright made sure our music was pristine.
Within the chorus, we had Jordan Travis and Steve Armstrong reinforcing the lessons from Brandon and David, while Pat Brown and Bob Gibson were making sure our performance was a heartfelt one.
We finished our contest set with the powerful ballad If I Can Dream, a song inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, made at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1963. This song was originally recorded by Elvis Presley two months after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
We had great press coverage from the Toronto Star’s reporter Katie Daubs, both before the contest and afterwards. The articles include Toronto barbershoppers suit up as veggies for international chorus competition, followed by Toronto barbershop group hopes to take the gold and finally our gold medal result. The unstoppable duo of Jonathan Foster and Joanne Fong were behind this, while at the same time taking care of PR for the International Convention.
The chorus call-off is viewable in this video, provided by the Barbershop Harmony Society.
We would like to thank our families for their love, support and patience while we worked for hours and hours on this set. It seems crazy to sing two songs dressed up like a bunch of vegetables (and flowers, fruits and bugs), but performing is what we love to do.