What is a Harmony Platoon?
Platoon is a chapter quartet program that is open to anyone who would like to start quartet singing or just can’t get enough. As a chapter activity it is for the seasoned as well as the novice quartetter.
You may be familiar with Harmony Brigade. Many chapters in the Society are promoting quartet singing by organizing a Platoon within the chapter using the principles of Brigade to provide fun, excitement and competition for their members. This is a one evening event. A facility is required that permits quartets to find quiet spots in which to practice. A performance area is needed, as is the capability of dispensing pizza, soft drinks, and adult beverages if desired.
In some instances two or more chapters are coming together to hold a platoon as part of a chapter visitation program.
How do we do it?
To get started, a small group of organizers (2 or 3) get together and:
- Select an evening for the gathering of the Platoon, probably 4 months or so in the future.
- Select a group of songs appropriate for the skill level of the planned participants. It’s suggested that not more than four or five songs be used. You can use Polecats, chapter repertoire songs, tags or a song that is new to everyone. Again, select songs appropriate for the skill level of the planned participants.
- Arrange for good learning CD’s of the songs selected or have songs posted on your chapter website.
- Announce the plans to the chapter and have a campaign to get men to sign up and get a commitment. A $5.00 or $10.00 fee is suggested to cover CD’s etc. Once men sign up, provide the learning tracks, music, and information on when and where the Platoon will meet and the procedures to be followed.
- Arrange for a panel of three judges with good barbershop qualifications.
- Identify a good administrator. He is probably going to be too busy to be a participant in the competition.
- Determine the awards to be presented and acquire the awards.
5:00-7:00 pm: The attendees start to gather shortly after 5:00 pm and singers are encouraged to form quartets and sing two or three songs. Then they are asked to form another quartet and repeat the exercise. This is a good time to learn what you don’t know.
7:00 pm: It is now time to gather together and review the agenda for the evening. By this time, the name of each singer has been written on a slip of paper and placed in a coffee can by voice part. One of the visiting judges pulls a name from the tenor, lead, bari and bass cans creating a quartet. This is repeated until all quartets are formed. Some parts may end in more than one quartet depending upon the size of your chapter. Consider asking certain men to learn either a different part or more than one part. The quartets then meet and select a name for their quartet. When the quartet name is provided to the administrator, the quartet may then draw the name of the song they will perform. The administrator records the quartet name and the song they have drawn. Quartets now have about 45 minutes to prepare their presentation.
8:00 pm: The competition begins. The contest administrator determines the order of performance by drawing quartet names from a coffee can. Everyone is seated, judges are ready, and the quartet is formally announced. Quartets are given the respect they would be given at a BHS competition; are warmly applauded and encouraged when their song is completed. This is repeated until all quartets have performed. (We had 7 quartets at our first Platoon and this round of the competition required about 45 minutes.)
9:00 pm: The administrator announces the quartets that will sing in the finals. (Note: The administrator is the only person other than the members of the quartet with the knowledge that the quartet did indeed perform the song they drew. If a quartet believes they may have problems with the song they drew, they have the option of performing another song more to their liking. However, they will not have the opportunity to sing in the finals. This is a private matter between the quartets and the administrator. No one else is privy to this information. (This is a program that is meant to encourage and not to embarrass.) The administrator again draws names of the finalist quartets from the coffee can to establish order of performance.
When announced, the quartet takes the stage, draws the name of a song from the coffee can, hands the slip to the administrator (who again records the quartet name and song drawn), and promptly performs the song for the judges and the audience. This is repeated until all finalists have performed. You can have two, three, etc. or as few or many finalists as you decide.
The winners are announced with appropriate fanfare and awards presented. You can have certificates for 3rd, 2nd, and 1st places or whatever seems appropriate.
9:30 pm: Pizza arrives: Eating some pizza, complaining about the judges or bragging about your accomplishments is the next thing on your agenda. Of course, singing continues as long as guys hang around.
Some chapters elect to have this activity be held outside normal chapter activity, others make it a chapter meeting activity. The men that sign up, are expected to work on the words, notes and interpretation on their own in preparation for the Platoon gathering.
This activity has been warmly received by many chapters and the participants have been very enthusiastic. Those who have held a Platoon have seen an increase in quartet participation in the chapter and believe Platoon to be a good catalyst for better quartet singing and a higher quality of singing in their chorus overall.