FWD HARMONY PLATOON
In 2012 the FWD began a new quartet activity called Harmony Platoon. The event was held in conjunction with District and Division conventions. It typically began 24 hours prior to start of the general convention activity. Participants who paid the registration fee for Platoon received high quality learning tracks for four songs about two months prior to the convention. At the event they were assigned randomly to different quartets and competed in several contests, in addition to informal singing with a variety of combinations.
At the two District conventions about 60 guys from 30 different chapters participated in Platoon. At the Division convention we had fewer participants (about half as many). A large number of men have attended more than one Platoon (some all three in 2012 and signed up for 2013).
ASSOCIATION WITH HARMONY BRIGADE AND EXTREME QUARTETTING
None. No association with Harmony Brigade and Extreme Quartetting is claimed or implied. Some of the Brigade principles are used, however, such as requiring those attending to be totally prepared on the music. References of those applying to attend Platoon are checked to insure that these standards can be met.
A major difference between Platoon and Brigade is the difficulty level of arrangements selected. Platoon songs will be of “Moderate” or “Medium” level of difficulty, so the Platoon is within the reach of the “average” member.
Nevertheless, a singer’s outstanding performance in the Platoon has inspired referrals to Harmony Brigade.
As the Platoon concept has evolved we have tried several different contest formats.
1. Two contests (10am and 2pm). Two total random draws. Two champion quartets. This worked for the one-day (Sunday) Platoon we had after the division contest.
2. Three contests (Thursday night, Friday morning, and Friday afternoon).
- SEMI-FINALS: First is a semi-final with the top 8-10 quartets advancing to the finals.
- WILD CARD CONTEST: The men in the quartets that miss the cut are randomly assigned to a new quartet for a Wild Card Contest.
- FINALS: The top two quartets from this group compete in the third contest, the finals.
3. Three contests (Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday afternoon-participants are free to compete in any or all of the three contests).
- QUARTER-FINALS: Winner is the “Survivor” and wins immunity, remaining intact for the Semi-Finals Contest.
- SEMI-FINALS: All men, except those with immunity (winning quartet from Quarter-Finals), are randomly assigned to a new quartet. The winner of this contest wins immunity and remains intact for the Finals Contest.
- FINALS: All men, except those with immunity (winning Semi-Finals quartet), are randomly assigned to a new quartet.
Format C would appear to maximize the mix of singers and will likely be our preferred method going forward.
Songs are chosen (thus far) from the BHS Music Premiere Series. These songs are published, inexpensive ($1.65 + shipping) and have quality learning tracks. The goal is to choose songs rated “Medium/Moderate” in difficulty, though not all songs have been rated. Those arrangements not rated have been evaluated by the arranger/music judge on our team.
A learning CD for each song ($12) is purchased and copied as MP3 tracks onto discs for the participants ($0.40 per track, $2 total per song per man). Each Platoon singer gets a CD that has all 20 tracks (5 tracks of all four songs) so that they can use it to teach to their quartet at home. (We tell them, “Buy three more sheets of music and your quartet can legally perform it.”)
The fee, $20, covers the cost of the sheet music (4 X $1.65), rights to the 20 tracks ($8), writable CD, envelope and postage (about $3.50), lanyards and other materials. Tracks and music are sent out at least 10 weeks prior to the event. Some postage can be saved by having song packages delivered to several people at chapter meetings.
BRING YOUR BARITONE FREE
For $60, singers can sign up as a quartet. The quartet gets just one CD to share and everything is mailed to one person. The quartet members are randomly assigned at the Platoon, however, and not singing as their own quartet members.
The Platoon Chorus has performed on stage at every convention. For district conventions, the best time is immediately after the Friday night quartet semi-finals. Chorus rehearsal could be scheduled Thursday evening, Friday morning, and/or Friday afternoon, right before contests.
For division Saturday-only contests, the best time to perform on stage is after the Saturday evening quartet contest. When Platoon is on Sunday, chorus practice can be held Saturday afternoon between the chorus and quartet contests, with the chorus performance that night. Also, this serves as a good time to allow Platoon singers to meet each other so they can have fun singing the songs informally Saturday evening.
We have purchased the lanyards from West Coast Lanyards (www.westcoastlanyards.com). We used the same color-coding as Harmony Brigade.
- Tenor: Yellow
- Lead: White
- Baritone: Green
- Bass: Blue
We are looking into getting higher-quality embroidered lanyards. The difference in price is a couple bucks ($2.50? instead of $0.92). This will be recouped as permanent lanyards are given away once and replacements must be bought for a couple bucks.
The Platoon has been a fun activity both for those guys with quartet experience and those who have never been in a quartet. A poll of those who competed in the May 2012 NE Division Platoon in Folsom revealed that, for half of the singers, Platoon was their first ever quartet competition. For some, it was all in fun. For others, it is a momentous and memorable occasion. Besides the sharing of knowledge new guys get from singing with experienced quartet guys, the prior District Champ quartet guys we have had as judges for the contests have also done coaching of the quartets.
RECOGNITION FOR THE CHAMPION
For the spring district convention, it was fun to have the Harmony Platoon champion be the mike-tester for the Friday evening Quartet Semi-Finals. This is not possible for the fall contest as, traditionally, the previous year’s District Champion is the mike-tester on Friday.
We are working on some kind of award or certificate, and/or other recognition for the champions. We have not done this so far
An anonymous donor sent in $100 so that some singers who could not afford the fee could be in last May’s Harmony Platoon in Folsom. Thus far, costs of the Platoons have exceeded revenues by a little bit. However, as we learn to pare the costs down, any leftover funds could be used for this purpose. Ways that we will save in the future are:
- Having song packages be delivered at chapter meetings when there are several from one chapter.
- Recording all the songs as MP3. Sending them out in a different format resulted in many duplicate mailings for those who could only play MP3 in their device or car.
- Reusing lanyards.
- Encouraging “Bring your baritone free.”
- Repeat use of Platoon songs when it is unlikely to have the same singers attending. For example, the songs used for the May 2012 NE Division Harmony Platoon will be repeated for the May 2013 Arizona Division Platoon (as well as the 2013 Evergreen District Convention Harmony Platoon in Boise ID). This saves $48 plus postage for the initial purchase of learning CDs for the four songs.
Platoons will be conducted at FWD conventions in 2013, subject to approval from host chapters. In addition, the first Platoon in Evergreen District will take place at their 2013 fall convention. Since one member from RMD has attended FWD Platoons in 2012 and another is planning on attending in 2013, it is possible that Platoon activity may spread to that district.