“What will be even more amazing is when we win a crown and have this as a story…”
—Anne Albright in a text from the Emergency Room, 1:31 a.m., Friday
From the moment Epic formed, we have been on a certain trajectory as a quartet. The Universe has had a certain plan for the quartet and often, as individuals, we sort of feel like we’re just along for the ride. From the way we met and formed to the fact that we had our first gig and our first outfit before we even knew our first song, we could all tell that some special things were in store for Epic. Of all the many amazing things we have experienced, none has come close–or is ever likely to come close–to the week we just experienced at the 2012 Harmony, Incorporated, International Convention & Contest (IC&C) in Orlando, Fla. We walked away as the 2012 Harmony Queens–but those who were at the event know we had a few obstacles to overcome in order to have our dream come true. This is probably why it hasn’t really sunk in yet that those beautiful crowns came home with us.
We’d like to share the story now (and it’s going to be LONG), not only because it’s somewhat unbelievable, but because it will always help us remember what turned out to be a magical milestone on this crazy journey.
First we need a bass…
The week had an interesting start because bass Shana missed her flight. She misjudged the reliability of public transportation and her original plane headed to Orlando without her. Luckily, the kind airport folks got her quickly rescheduled to the next departing flight so the trio at least knew she was on her way! She missed a rehearsal and a fun dinner with the Epic fan club, but we were happy to have her in our collective arms later that night.
Airport employees = 10 points
We cannot share often enough how instrumental our coach, Richard Lewellen, is to our success. Starting bright and early at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Richard took Epic through a disciplined and focused (but still fun!) series of rehearsals throughout the day. He lovingly guided us in that final day to dig deep and to bring Epic heart and personality to the stage–and nothing more. If you are in a competing quartet, we cannot recommend highly enough doing everything in your power to bring a trusted coach with you to contest. Release yourself to him/her and let him/her pave the way to your goals.
Richard Lewellen = 200 points
We also had our amazing Harmony Queen coach, Lynn Jacobs, on Thursday. We impressed her with the progress we’ve made since our last Skype session with her and we made her cry because she was so proud of us. We are very grateful for her support–even when we were stubborn about sticking to our ballad set/uptune set song order. True love is when you get support from a person who questions your choices but falls on train tracks anyway to show her unconditional love. We’re like the teenagers she wishes she never had!! Just kidding :-) We love her more than we can express!
Lynn = 2 points (the most important 2 points… because those are the ones she wants and deserves!)
We are also very grateful to Gene Butterfield, a lifetime barbershopper and gifted reflexologist. During our final rehearsal Thursday, he drove from his home a little more than an hour away to help us get centered and address problem issues like breathing, anxiety and other woes. It was relaxing and fun. Kris may have a newly discovered talent in this area! It was fun and relaxing and just what we needed!
Gene Butterfield = 25 points
Let the games begin!
Now to the part about which you may be the most curious. How in the world did Anne end up in the Emergency Room just hours before the contest?
On Thursday after an intense rehearsal, the Epic gang headed downstairs for lunch. Anne often needs time to let the new information from a session sink in, so she headed to her room for some down time. Her fatal mistake, we later learned, was ordering a spinach and salmon salad via room service. It never quite settled right and she decided after dinner that she would skip the Queens’ show and get a good night of sleep. Later, when Chris and Richard returned to the room, she was sick and sharing that the stabbing pain in her abdomen felt just like the time she had terrible food poisoning. She tried to sleep and get comfortable for the next several hours, but she was getting no relief. At shortly before midnight, Chris visited the front desk of the hotel and requested the paramedics. They loaded her up on a stretcher and headed toward the ambulance waiting in front of the hotel. Meanwhile, Chris is practically sobbing to the paramedics: “Please give her some help soon! Don’t make her wait! We have a big singing competition tomorrow and she will be so mad if we can’t do it. She’s worked really hard. Please take care of my girl!”
Anne went to a nearby hospital for fluids and anti-nausea medicine. She finally made it back to the hotel room by 4 a.m. and quickly passed out from exhaustion.
Ambulance guys (who happened to be hot) and ER staff = 50 points
When Chris and Richard stirred at 6 a.m. Friday, they knew immediately that Anne was in no condition to get up and start getting ready. Originally, Epic had planned to be fully dressed and ready for warm-ups at 8:30 a.m. We were slated to be contestant #1. Richard called the amazing Jacquie Jensen for guidance and she offered to consult with the judging panel and let Epic sing first after intermission. Thank you, God! Two extra hours!
Contest and judging administrators = 150 points
We went into teamwork mode at that point. Richard and John Rector (Kris’s dad) went to hunt down a pharmacy to fill Anne’s anti-nausea prescription. The rest of Epic got ready early so we could help Anne with her hair and makeup when she woke up. So many of our friends and family helped shuttle stockings and fake eyelashes and name badges and other supplies between quartet members’ rooms… and were basically at the ready to do whatever we needed.
Family and friends at our command = 50 points
And most heroic of all … Anne dragged her poor, sick body out of bed, took some meds for her continued abdominal pain and started warming up in the shower.
Anne’s perseverance, Round #1 = 225 points
Somehow or another, we went through “the pattern” and landed on the contest stage. We were all so concerned about Anne that we didn’t stress much about our pending hit on stage. In the 15 minutes in the final ready room, we sang just a line or two, practiced our walk-on, and then huddled up for a very long and very heartfelt prayer. Listening to Shana’s smooth and calming voice, we invited God into our hearts to protect and guide us in reaching our goal to touch our audience.
God = Well, we can’t give God points. But He deserves them all.
Those moments on stage were so “alive.” We stayed very connected to each other as a quartet and the brief glances among ourselves conveyed the unspoken message that things were going well. The energy of the audience was so energizing, and when we walked off stage, we collapsed into each others’ arms and the waterworks started flowing!
Supportive Harmony, Inc., audience = 300 points
Round #2… we made the finals!
After our semi-finals set, Anne walked back to the room to rest and have some saltines (and more meds). In that brief span of time, as all the adrenaline ran out of her system, her body began to sort of shut down. She was shaking, exhausted and she was about to spike a fever. She tried to sleep but again was in too much pain. As it was almost time to start getting ready for the finals, the poor thing tortured herself with a tepid bath to cool down. We wish you could have seen the fierceness behind those eyes. She was going to make it to that stage again or die trying!
Again, we focused more on Anne than last-minute fixes or clean-ups. There wasn’t really too much time to get worried about what would happen on stage. So we once again used our warm up room to laugh (the lovely topic this time was farting…don’t ask) and to pray.
Anne fierceness, Round #2 = 200 points
The big reveal
Epic poured a lot of our pre-contest energy into the big surprise we had in store for Harmony, Inc.–Cruella De Vil. We actually came up with this idea when we were driving back to the airport after the Area 2 contest in April. We had just qualified for Orlando and Shana said, “We should do some sort of Disney song… you know, something sassy.” Kris and Chris, the two barberbrats in Epic, looked at each other and said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy to do Vocal Spectrum’s Cruella?”
The wheels were in motion. We called upon our talented coach to help us re-voice some of the trickier spots in the brilliant David Wright arrangement, including the tag. His solutions were perfect and truly positioned Epic to be successful with the song.
Richard’s music theory magic = 50 points
Many of you have asked about the Cruella set outfits. Let’s just say that our tenor loves to shop and will go to great lengths to find a good deal and hunt down the four necessary sizes! We also have a talented seamstress in the family with Epic mom Debbie… she made the boleros for us to get the exact look we were after!
Chris Lewellen loves to shop = 25 points
Debbie loves us and made boleros = 50 points
Ladies and gents, we can’t even begin to explain what we were feeling during the call-off. The trip to the stage, the crowning, the flowers, the medals, the fanfare… it was magical and stunning. One minute we were Epic, contest survivors, and the next minute we were Epic, 2012 Harmony Queens. We are glad there are pictures to prove that it actually happened because we don’t really remember much of it.
After the medalist fanfare, some thank yous, a very special welcome by the Harmony Queens and lots of pictures, we shared a few quiet moments with the incredibly classy chicks of Foreign Exchange, the 2011 Harmony Queens. We are forever connected to our sister Queens and we are grateful for such a warm and thoughtful welcome from them. They even hunted down Mickey Mouse crown necklaces for us so we would have a special keepsake from the place where we won. Isn’t that incredible?
Foreign Exchange = 75 points
Love and hugs from the Harmony Queens = 100 points
We were up early on Saturday, as instructed, to get ready for our photo session with the talented Betsy Groner. We donned our amazing crowns and headed to Downtown Disney for some super-cute pictures. Anne nearly got us kicked out by security a time or two, so she was certainly starting to feel better.
If anyone wants to give Anne a quick tutorial on the meaning of the phrase, “Please stay off the stage,” feel free!
Betsy and a fun photo session = 50 points
Next, we rushed off to the chorus contest and, though we missed the mic tester chorus (boo!) because our photos ran a little late, we made it back in time for the first competitor. They introduced us (awww… awesome!) as we walked into the hall and we took our FRONT ROW seats to settle in and enjoy the contest. What an amazing vantage point to witness up close all of the joy and emotion on each competitor’s face! It was awesome. Once again, Foreign Exchange took great care of us… even making sure we had lunch at the break. We love them!
Many folks at the contest thanked us for hopping up to greet all of the chorus contestants as they walked off the stage and back into the audience. Here’s the thing–it was 100% our pleasure. We received so much love and support from the audience the day before that we simply felt compelled to give a small portion of it back. Plus, there was an amazing energy that came from those beautiful women who had just accomplished their contest goals… we were soaking up every minute of it.
Energy of the chorus competitors = 250 points
A night to celebrate
The Saturday night parade of champs was so fun for us. We loved being giddy and goofy with our fellow chorus and quartet medalists backstage and we especially loved that nearly 25 of Epic’s family and friends were in the audience to see us perform.
For those who weren’t there, we want to quickly share a few thanks once again:
- Harmony, Inc., and especially our home team of Area 2
- Our coaches, Lynn and Richard
- Our contest song arrangers: Tom Gentry, Clay Hine, Nancy Bergman and David Wright
- Our adopted chorus, the Fairfax Jubilaires of the Barbershop Harmony Society. We love you guys!
- Our amazing husbands (Gregg, Richard, Andy and Rob) and our babies (Morgan, Bryn, Jack, Ainsley, William, and furry baby Kuma)
- All of the people who supported us financially through our fundraisers and benefit concerts…. thank you for being a part of our dream!
All of the people behind the scenes who made this happen = 43 points
Wrapping it up
We could go on and on about how full our hearts are after the 2012 IC&C, but the bottom line is that we are just so humbled and grateful to represent Harmony, Inc., in this historic way. We love this organization down deep in our bones and we’re truly only at the beginning of this journey. We have big plans to spread the sisterhood of Harmony, Inc., everywhere we go. We are beginning the foundation building that must happen for us to start a chapter in this expansion area, and we will begin laying tracks for our first CD in early 2013.
It all adds up to 1855 points, but to us, it simply adds up to one amazing dream come true. We love you all.