Saturday, April 28, 2007

A piece of the days of yore

One of the zillion annual traditions at the alma mater is a choral contest, this year's version of which was Friday night.

If you think this sounds lame or outdated, you're not alone. A singer from Nashville, who played at a coffeehouse later that evening on campus, did a couple of songs before the contest kicked off. He told the crowd that when he heard he'd be playing before choral contest, he thought that meant about seven people. I think the number was closer to 700 (about half the student body), but it could easily have been higher.

So, my alma mater is typical in a lot of ways of small, private, highly selective liberal arts colleges, with the possible exception being that although it is secular, it is a pretty conservative place, the sort of college you went to in the 1960s if you wanted to avoid all that Vietnam protesty stuff.

Anyway, when the butterfly lady and I attended, choral contest was a really big deal. My fraternity (The Singing Fraternity), like most others, participated every year, and we took it damn seriously. I'm surprised in retrospect that our choral contest officer wasn't on the chapter's executive council.

Unlike some of my other studies, I was diligent in choir practice and we met nightly to rehearse such gems as "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and other "contemporary" tunes. In four-part harmony, of course... Other fraternities, notably Beta Theta Pi, were slackers to varying degrees, usually sending a minimal number of "singers" to belt out, in a loud monotone, some rubbishy version of "Drunken Sailor." Another fraternity, reputedly racist scumbags, did passably well. We were all just in the running for second place, though, because the non-affiliated men's choir always seemed to win. At least we took it seriously back then.

I think you can probably guess where I'm headed here, but I'll say it anyway. Much to my disgust Friday night, none of the three participating men's choirs (Phi Delta Theta, Tau Kappa Epsilon and the Betas) bothered to give a serious effort. The TKEs were at least amusing, doing a parody of Don Giovanni and a fake-o second song. The Betas did their usual crap and my chapter stole a page from old Beta-dom and delivered a crap version of "Drunken Sailor."

As luck would have it, the Sigs were DQ'd for some politically incorrect mumbo jumbo before they even took the stage, and the TKEs and Betas were so awful that the old Azure and Argent won. I couldn't bring myself to applaud.

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