A Silver Lining for The Grand Central Chorus at the 2018 BABS Convention!

A Silver Lining for The Grand Central Chorus at the 2018 BABS Convention!
Type of post: Chorus news item
Posted By: Paul Searson
Status: Current
Date Posted: Wed, 30 May 2018
The weekend began with the BABS Quartet Semi-Finals on Friday afternoon. As usual, Grand Central Chorus were well represented, with our MD, Zac Booles singing baritone in The Locksmiths and of course the current European Quartet Champions, Finest Hour - Eddie, Nick and James Williams, and new bass Jonny Pipe (who were taking part to try to get the highest score of the contest to secure their automatic entrance into next year’s International Quartet contest). Unsurprisingly, both went through to the Quartet Finals on Sunday.

On Saturday, as we had an on-stage time of 4.31pm, most of the chorus were able to enjoy a leisurely start to contest day - although one of our leads, Hector Jaumandreu, and one of our baritones, John Armstrong, were also competing earlier in the day with MK Acapella and Tuxedo Junction respectively, and our Chairman, Alan Goldsmith, was also directing Harmony Lincs. After meeting at 12.30pm in our hotel, the chorus then spent two hours doing vocal warmups and rehearsing the key parts of our new contest package, consisting of Once Upon A Time, followed by Look for the Silver Lining/Tomorrow Medley. We then moved onto the Convention Centre to change into our stage suits, before the completing a final brief rehearsal.

For the third year in succession, we were fortunate to be drawn near the end of the chorus contest (which had attracted a total of 35 choruses from across the UK) and so the auditorium was almost full when we took to the stage. With a total of 66 singers on the risers (including 10 BABS Quartet gold medallists and 7 BABS Senior Quartet gold medallists) this was the largest Grand Central Chorus at Convention for a long time. As usual the performance was over so quickly, but the audience reaction was amazing, with great support from our wives, partners, families and friends who had travelled to Harrogate to watch us.

On stage during the chorus contest

We delivered a controlled and emotionally engaging performance, which reflected the significant development of the chorus over the past year under the guidance of our MD, Zac Booles, our coaches, Richard Curtis, Barry Clinton and Peter Tatham, section leaders Eddie Williams, Frank Salter, Mark Soave and Mark Burnip - not forgetting the invaluable input again this year from our guest coach Jo Braham. After coming off stage, we enjoyed the wonderful selection of cakes, made by Annette Blackman, which has become an annual Grand Central Chorus tradition and something we always look forward to!

The BABS Chorus contest results confirmed that we had finished in the silver medal position, with the highest ever competition score by Grand Central Chorus of 1463 points (81.3%) and extremely close behind the 2018 Chorus Champions, Cottontown Chorus, who scored 1471 points (81.7%).

Click here to see our contest performance.

Meantime Chorus from Greenwich, in only their second BABS Chorus contest, and with just 20 singers, finished in bronze medal position with a wonderful 79.9% (a score which would have won the contest in many previous years). To confirm the continued increase in the overall standard of performance at BABS Conventions, there were ten choruses who scored over 70% and a total of nineteen choruses who scored over 65%. In fact, our score in winning gold at Southport just six years ago would not have been good enough to even get a medal this year!

Another Grand Central Chorus Convention tradition, established by our MD, is that we gather and sing a few repertoire songs after the contest results are announced and before the Saturday evening show. We did this again at Harrogate, delighting all those who had gathered to hear us perform.

On Sunday, the Mixed Chorus Contest was held just before the Quartet Finals, with Momentum winning gold with 83.3%. EQ Rendezvous (directed by Dick Knight and including four other Grand Central Chorus members - Ralph Keenan, Paul Searson, Kevan Liebling and Hector Jaumandreu) won silver with 75.2%.

EQ Rendezvous performing in the Mixed Chorus Contest

Sheffield University Barbershop Singers (directed by Hannah Braham, Jo’s daughter and granddaughter of our tenor Mick Barnacle) finished third in their debut contest appearance, with a score of 72.3%.

The Quartet Finals produced yet another exciting contest of extremely high quality. After finishing in bronze medal position in 2016 and silver medal position last year, we were all delighted that The Locksmiths (Zac, together with Richard Fisher, Simon Lubkowski and Andrew Walker) deservedly claimed the 2018 Quartet gold medals with a superb score of 80.9%.

The Locksmiths in the Quartet Finals 

The 2017 BABS Youth Quartet Champions, Sound Hypothesis, finished in silver medal position, scoring 79.2% and Fifth Element in bronze medal position, scoring 78.4%.

Finest Hour, as previously mentioned, were looking to secure their automatic qualification for the 2019 BHS International Quartet Contest in Salt Lake City and did so in style with a standing ovation for the highest-ever score by a BABS Quartet of 83.0%!

Finest Hour in the Quartet Finals

They provided a wonderful end to the 2018 Convention contests and we can’t wait to watch their continued progress on the International stage.

To round off the Sunday evening, the chorus were privileged to take part in the Show of Champions, where we performed ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Georgia’, followed by our silver medal-winning package.

Grand Central Chorus at the conclusion of their show performance

As the new BABS Gold Medal Quartet, The Locksmiths also appeared on the show, with a set that included an intense and heartfelt rendition of ‘Jezebel’.

The Locksmiths performing in the Show of Champions

During the Convention, BABS announced two new inductees to the BABS Hall of Fame, recognising their outstanding contribution to Barbershop in Britain. We were all extremely proud that one of these was ex- BABS Chairman (and our current club Chairman) Alan Goldsmith.

So 2018 gave us another very memorable BABS Convention and our thanks to all those volunteers on the BABS Board and Alan Bithell and his Convention team who spend so much time to ensure a successful and safe event. Within our own chorus, and in addition to our coaches mentioned earlier, there are many other whose help before and during the Convention ensured everyone in the chorus enjoy a successful weekend:-

Zac, for his continued inspiration, leadership and belief in the chorus; our Assistant MD, Kevan Liebling for his detailed pre-Convention briefing document; Steve Rose (and subsequently our Chairman Alan Goldsmith) for planning and organising our accommodation; our in-house arranging team (Zac, Richard Curtis and Mark Burnip) whose skill helped us gain the highest score in the competition from the Music judges; Bill Traynor and Martin York for their care and transport of our risers; Mike McWhinney for his organisation of our newest members performance clothing; and our Treasurer, George McKie, for ensuring all relevant payments relating to the Convention were made on time.

As usual, we are already setting our sights on BABS 2019 in Bournemouth and having won bronze in 2017 and silver in 2018, we are really hoping to continue this sequence next year!

Nelson Blackley -  PRO Grand Central Chorus