The “Geek Effect”

Jim Arns has a massive reputation within Sweet Adelines, and many of you will know him personally.  But as a relative newcomer to the world of Barbershop, my only knowledge of him was having seen him direct the Melodeers on stage in Nashville, in their now legendary “geek” routine.  So when, with great excitement, we were told that he was coming to coach us before convention, I (definitely not a music theorist), was prepared to be baffled by the science.  How wrong could I have been?!  There is no doubt that Jim Arns has a huge brain, filled to overflowing with the sort of knowledge most of us can only dream of, but the way he shares that knowledge, is so charismatic and motivational that we all left at the end of each day, exhausted but truly inspired.  One chorus member was inspired enough to refer to him as a “diminutive Kevin Costner!!”

Jim Arns and Surrey HarmonyHis technique with us was to explain in depth exactly what each judge would be looking for and his catchphrase for the weekend quickly became “there’s a point for that!”  He created imaginary places where the judges would sit and, while we were singing, leapt about between these when he thought we should be doing more to score points in that category He radiated pride in his own chorus and Renee’s success as President Elect; he was energetic, he kept on pushing us until we understood what he wanted and performed that way; his directing was precise but not over-bearing; and he was so enthusiastic about our “cult” and its craft that we couldn’t help but respond equally positively.  If we came up against a problem, he would point it out and tell us to “just fix it!”  We were all really proud of the fact that our standard had risen to a point where the information he was giving us was embellishing our sound and adding artistry and feeling.

It is always exciting welcoming coaches from the US, but there is a huge amount of organising to be done to make it all run smoothly.  After all, someone has to be allocated to fetch and deliver the requested Big Macs and Diet Coke!  But seriously, flights and hotel arrangements have to be made, as well as a myriad of other behind the scenes jobs.  Thanks to all SH members who worked so hard to make Jim’s visit such a success.  If he had been visiting us a week later, he would have been stranded with us due to the volcanic ash.  Wouldn’t that have been terrible!

All in all, we were able to put a lot of extra confidence and technique into our performance at Newcastle and were really proud to come away with our silver medals.  Congratulations to all the magnificent choruses and quartets who took part over the weekend and in particular to Lace City, to whom we wish the very best when they represent us all in Houston next year.


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