Well, I tried to go to bed last night around 9pm. I was feeling a bit tired, so I figure that this way I would get almost 6 hours of sleep prior to getting up to drive into downtown St. Louis. So I crawled into bed, tossed and turned for a while, laid on my back for a while and then finally got up for a glass of water around midnight. Upon laying back down, I was still restless for a bit, but fell asleep finally sometime around12:30am.
Well, my alarm went off at 3:03am, and I very quickly got out of bed – lest I fall back asleep. I took a quick shower and then dressed in the clothes that I would wear for the trip down in the van, as well as sing for Deke Arlon in. Naturally, these clothes aren’t the most comfortable to try and sleep in or ride for any great length of time in a car in, but it was required, so I threw them on.
The drive to downtown was smooth with no traffic, and thankfully, no construction on I-70. I arrived at Michael’s around 3:45am. Everyone else in our group is used to getting up early (almost everyone is at work by 5:30am), but that is not the case for me. I was tired (lack of sleep, extreme early wake up time), but everyone else was pretty well up and chatty. Needless to say, we were all very excited. We gathered in the living room and prayed, then loaded into the van and proceeded on our way to Nashville.
My hope was to fall asleep early into the trip, and sleep up until we stopped for breakfast. Well, we were all excited, so there was a lot of talking at the beginning of the trip. This meant that I was not able to fall asleep as I had hoped, and I actually didn’t fall asleep until about 30 minutes before we stopped. And it was a restless sleep, so it wasn’t really worth anything. Breakfast at Cracker Barrel took quite a while, but it was good.
Around noon we pulled up to Robert’s house, which is northeast of Nashville in Hendersonville. It was a nice place, with a finished basement, which housed his music studio and lounge room. We quickly began to setup in the lounge room for our performance for Deke, which would take place later in the evening.
By 12:30, we were beginning to do some sound checks and actually started rehearsing a bit before Deke arrived. Lisa Bevill (Christian music artist) arrived around 1:30pm. She sings with Michael on the title track “Isle of Dreams”. It was cool to get to hear a bit of her testimony of how life is on the road in the music industry, and how God brought her to the place she is at right now. She’s a very sweet lady and has an incredible voice.
Deke arrived around 2:30pm with his wife, Jill, and his son, Jamie. We had brief introductions, then listened to Deke speak to us for a few minutes about what our goal for this trip was (Do our best, but not worry about selling the musical to the industry people – it will sell itself, and if these people aren’t interested in it, we don’t want them to buy it, and someone else will.) The he stated that we should just show him what we have, and then he would know where to start working from.
So we fired up the cd of the edited presentation that we would be presenting the next day. We sang our heads off and the Lord blessed us – we sounded incredible. So, Deke Arlon is sitting 4 feet from us all, along with his wife and son, scribbling notes in his notebook as we sing through each song. Everyone with a solo did a great job, and I believe we were all very pleased with this performance.
After we had finished, Deke sat there and began speaking to us his thoughts regarding what we had just done. He stated that he was very impressed and thankful that we would not have to do any work vocally with notes or anything like that. Basically, he was saying we sounded good, and now all we had to work on was the staging of each song.
We basically have kept the choreography very simple up to this point. We stand up and sit down, clap and sway, but that’s about it. Deke stated that the real challenge now was to stage each song and it’s transition to the next so that each was decidedly different. So we started at the beginning and begin to talk through each song, throwing out ideas of how we could stage each of them. After each songs was talked through, we would walk through it, and then sing through it until we felt comfortable with it. The we would repeat the process with the next song.
As you can imagine, this is a slow, grueling, tiring process – physically and mentally.
Relief came in the form of dinner at 8:15. We went upstairs and ate a great meal that had been prepared by Robert’s wife, Mary, and Deke’s wife Jill. I met Robert’s daughter Elizabeth, who is very nice, as well as Deke’s West Coast Operations Rep, Betsy, who was also very cordial. I had the privilege to sit next to Lisa Bevil during dinner, and the conversation of our table revolved around the musical (naturally), as well as Christian music in general and the impact we can have on our world.
After dinner we made our way back downstairs to walk through the performance one more time to verify that we knew what we were doing. We did what Deke called “Top and Tail” – which is basically walking through the beginning and ending of each song, focusing on the transitions and making sure we all hit our marks correctly. After this abbreviated walk through, we decided to run through the entire performance one time without stopping. This was the first time Betsy had heard us, so we were trying to give her our best vocally, although at this point we were all trying to save what was left our voices for the following day. It sounded okay, and we all did well at remembering our steps and places.
Deke was pleased with what he had seen. He told us that he has been in this business for decades, and he has worked with some very famous people along the way. He followed that statement up by telling us that he was very impressed with us as a group. He was honest in saying that he could go out and find individuals with more vocal talent or better voices if he wanted/needed to. He also told us that he hasn’t ever work with a group of people that is so eager to take direction and so attentive to the details of that direction. He said that our energetic response to both his criticism and encouragement was unlike anything he had ever seen in a group. He was very impressed with how we had stayed attentive throughout the duration of our now 7+ hour practice, and he knew that we had rehearsed prior to his arrival.
He knew we were tired, and he knew we were wondering when we would sing for him individually. The plan had been to sing as a group for Deke, work through the practice session, and then sing for him individually (which is when he would decide if we were going to be a part of the cast to perform for the as yet unnamed director or not). Honestly, at about the 5 hour point I was hoping that maybe we would sing for Deke the next morning or evening even. My throat was a bit soar and my vocal chords actually ached from the constant use, and I know everyone else felt the same.
It was at this point that Deke made the following statement: “Tomorrow we are going to go before some of the most powerful people in the music industry. We will perform as we did tonight, and they will either love it or not care for it. It doesn’t matter to us either way what they think. What does matter is that we know that we have done our absolute best in the time frame allowed and that is all we can do. You should not be afraid or nervous about singing in front of these people. You all sound great, and I think the staging works well. You are not auditioning for these people. They have no power at this point to make any decisions, so you should not be worried about that. Their opinion of your performance will not matter one bit. As far as I am concerned, you all auditioned for me about 5 hours ago, and I’ll take the whole lot of you. You all sound magnificent, and you blend wonderfully, and I can’t imagine doing this without the whole group as it stand here before me.”
We all stood there shocked, not really sure what to think about that statement. Tired and worn out, and no longer fueled by our adrenaline, we simply all glanced around at each other. Deke talked for a few more minutes, then we loaded into the van to head to the hotel. Once in the van, Michael told us that he had spoken with Deke, and briefly discussed the status of the group. Evidently, Deke was so impressed with the group as a whole that he couldn't see splitting it up for any reason. Even without hearing each of us individually, he was saying that he wanted us to all be a part of the cast! God is truly amazing, and blesses beyond our wildest imagination!
Now as we headed to the hotel, Michael informed us that Deke had heard that we were going to be staying in the Holiday Inn Select down the road. Our group is used to driving through the night to return home, or even staying on the floor at some house (if we have a hotel room, it is usually at some plave like Motel6). All this to say that we were really pleased to be staying in the Holiday Inn. Deke was not so pleased. He stated that if he is staying in a suite, then he wants all of us to stay in one as well. So he personally paid for us to have rooms at the Amerisuites Inn a little further down the road! And since I am the only single guy on the road, and I can't stay in a room with a single woman, I got to have my own suite! What am I suppose to do with 2 double beds, a kitchenette, a lounging area (bed and stuffed chair) and a desk? I guess I'll just simply have to love it and crash into bed smiling at how much God likes to throw unexpected suprises my way...