Coast to Coast in 48 Hours

It has taken a few days to sink in but it’s finally hitting me that Fermata Town received Third Place in the 29th Annual National Harmony Sweepstakes competition last weekend out in San Francisco, Calif. 55 groups competed at the regional level around the country, seven Regional Champions were crowned and we finished THIRD out of the whole bunch! Absolutely incredible and such a testament to the hard work we’ve been putting in behind the scene the last few months. Since we travelled over 3,000 miles to the show, we didn’t have quite the same Townie following as we usually do so I just wanted to give everyone a quick recap of our experience out at Harmony Sweepstakes!

A few of our members headed out to Cali on Wednesday, taking a few extra days from work to see the sites and get acclimated with the city while the majority of us travelled on Friday morning. We hopped an 8AM flight direct to SFO and landed around 11AM West Coast time. After picking up our rental cars the first thing we did in California was… drum roll please… go to In and Out Burger. All we have to say is, Animal Style. Embrace it and never look back!

Next stop for us was Mission Dolores Park, one of the awesome public parks in SF that overlooks the city and bay. This would be the rendezvous spot where everyone would meet up including the folks who had already been in town for a few days.

We got a nice surprise when FT alumni, Alex Warren, also joined us in the park for some quality hanging. Alex left Fermata Town to pursue a job in the hotel hospitality industry out in San Francisco so it was great to see our old pal on a different coast!

After some time in the park we decided we wanted to see some of the sites and set out for The Persidio and Crissy Field, two hot spots for pictures right by the Gold Gate Bridge. We made sure to get some fun group shots down by the Bay before we walked over to the Palace of Fine Arts for some more photos and a little singing.

Realizing that it was already 7PM, we decided to head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area to eat dinner. We decided on a place right on the harbor called Fisherman’s Grotto that was able to take a party of 16 right away. We were so hungry we probably would have enjoyed a meal anywhere but it was nice to be able to sit right down and eat together as the sun set over the San Francisco Bay.

Following dinner, we headed north to San Rafael where we would be staying. Out hotel was just minutes away from the Harmony Sweeps venue and we were all in need of some good shuteye. It was pretty neat crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at night, all lit up, and after a short drive we were all checked in and sleeping in no time. Except for me, as I turned right around to head to Oakland International Airport to pick up Peter. Peter was the last Townie to arrive but it ended up being a very useful trip because on my way to the airport, found that the highway in which we would have taken the following night to catch our red eye flight was under construction and shut down to just one lane during the late night hours. Knowing this, we were able to plan an alternate route to the airport the following night which may have saved us from missing our flights.

Saturday morning after grabbing some light breakfast at the hotel, the group packed up and headed out for another day in the city. We met up again at Mission Dolores park to come up with a game plan and figure out specifics for later in the day. We split up into two groups with one heading over to the China Town district for lunch while the other wanted to stay a little closer to the park and explore and shop the local area.

I headed to China Town for some amazing lunch at a local Dim Sum restaurant. I’d heard that San Fran had some of the best Chinese food in the country and after this meal I’d have to agree.

Lunch was great but again lost track of the time and realized that it was already 3PM and we had to be back in San Rafael for 4PM for our sound check. After finding a printing shop to check in and print our boarding passes for our flights that night, we headed North crossing the Golden Gate one final time. It was equally as cool during the day as it was at night.

We arrived at the Marin Veterans Auditorium just after 4PM and checked in with the Harmony Sweeps hosts. They showed us to our dressing room and let us know we would be sound checking sixth, in the reverse order of the show (we were performing second). This gave us a little time to explore and meet some of the other performers that night.

Our sound check went really well and it was a trip singing in a venue this big with no one in it. The auditorium seated close to 1,700 people so hearing our sound fill up the space with no one there was pretty epic.

All groups got together on stage for a quick meeting with the HS director and we also rehearsed the final song of the night, Goodnight Sweetheart, the oldie but goodie. They ran through the rules informing us that they would give us a 30 second grace period for our set if we were running close to the 12 minute max. This was comforting to hear since our set was right around 11:30 and we had never really practiced with a big audience so we weren’t sure if applause would push us over the time limit.

After the meeting, it was just the waiting game! We went back to the dressing rooms to change and then just had to patiently wait. The auditorium filled up and before we knew it the 2012 Harmony Sweeps champs and hosts of the night, Six Appeal, were on the stage kicking things off!

We would be up second following Rezonate, the Pacific Northwest Champions. As we waited backstage, we put our hands in for our usual Team Fanwort cheer. Team Fanwort is an anagram of Fermata Town… don’t ask. Before we knew it we, eight of us were out there in a straight line for our opening song, Lonely Boy. We had added some simple choreo to kick the song off and then it was all just pure energy and adrenaline from there.

Next up, we performed our original song, Starting Line. The competition had a specific award for Original Songs so we decided it would be cool to be considered for this and since it was one of our newer tunes, made sense to add to the set. Following a brief hello and thank you (clock was ticking!) we took our places for our closer… you guessed it… Circus.

Rocking out in front of 1,500 fans was pretty amazing. The energy was great and the vibe back stage was also helpful. It really didn’t feel like a competition because all seven groups were so supportive of each other. As we watched the rest of the acts we were able to see how incredibly talented, and different, each after was. When The Cat’s Pajamas wrapped up the show, the only thing that I was certain of was that I wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge because this was going to be so hard to pick a winner among the talented acts.

Six Appeal took the stage one more time to perform while the judges deliberated and wowed us once again. Talk about an exciting and high energy group, these guys were awesome and it was clear why they won the whole thing last year. Super nice dudes too that just released an album so make sure to check them out!!

And now it was the time everyone had been waiting for. Each group was called to the stage to receive their Regional Champions plaque before they would announce the evenings honors.

First up, Best Original Arrangement. This award went to The Rainbows, the New York Regional Champions from Canada for their rendition of “I Feel Good”

Next up, Best Original Song. STARTING LINE – FERMATA TOWN!!! A huge shout out to Katya Dreyer-Oren and Philipp Walzer who co-arranged the song. A quick history behind it, Katya wrote the lyrics and was inspired to arrange the song for Fermata Town so that she could include us in her Master’s Recital at New England Conservatory. What made this even more special for her and the group was that she actually skipped out on her NEC graduation so that she could make the trip out West to perform with us, so this was a really special honor not only for the group but especially for Katya who also solos in the song!

We were still hugging each other when they began to announce the top three groups of the night. Third place… there was a tie! Fermata Town and The Rainbows!! This was such a surprise to us. We were extremely thrilled just to be there and represent Boston and the Contemporary A Cappella League but had no expectations to place. With 15 members in the group, performing with only eight on stage at a time really changes our overall sound (these were the rules of the competition). So when they called us, we were again shocked and thrilled! And what an honor to share the ranking with The Rainbows who were incredible performers! Félicitations amis!

Second place was awarded to Lustre, an all-female barbershop quartet from that Baltimore area that had won the Mid-Atlantic region. These four could sing and they get the best dressed award in my book with their beautiful blue ballroom gowns. Well deserved!!

And first place, The Honey Whiskey Trio, from Los Angeles! These three women blended sounds from the folk, bluegrass and jazz genres into silky smooth harmonies that we loved so much. They also were named the Audience Favorite! So amazing to have been able to share the stage with them.

A big congratulations to the other groups for their regional championships! The level of talent at this show was second to none and we’re extremely fortunate to be have had this opportunity.

Following the awards, all the groups closed the night out with Goodnight Sweetheart to end the show.

And then we ran. Like, literally, ran to our cars so that we could beat the 1500+ people that would be leaving the auditorium. You see, the show was over at approximately 11:05 PM and we had a 12:40 AM flight to catch in Oakland (35 miles south of San Rafael).

We made great time on the highway and thankfully avoided the one-lane traffic to reach the airport right around midnight. Dropped the rental cars off and ran to the terminal (think Home Alone 2) and just barely made it to boarding around 12:30 AM.

A crazy 48 hours but nonetheless, totally worth it!

Thank you for all of your love and support! We felt it even though we were in different time zones.