(This is a short remembrance I wrote for the 50th Anniversary of Spring Sing in the Spring of 2007.)
I should start this tale with “once upon a time,” for who could have ever dreamed up such places and the incredible cast of remarkable characters and memories that are Spring Sing? Just think of all the great venues and amazing folks we’ve had the privilege to know over the years!
I came into the story somewhere in the middle, about 1977, a mere one year older than Spring Sing itself. Fresh out of college,
my nascent association with the Augmented Eight took on a new dimension as I anxiously prepared for my first Spring Sing in Greenwich. In the weeks before that first Saturday performance, our director, one Wat Stewart, painstakingly drilled bass parts into my head.
I remember being on the lawn of the Riverside Yacht Club on a very sunny breezy day, overlooking Long Island Sound, tossing a Frisbee with Tom and Scott Herrick, whose rare genetic blend made up half of my new favorite group, the Arbors. Among many on the lawn was a very young and very beautiful—did I say very young and very beautiful?—girl with long long long blonde hair. Her name was Libby, and she was the daughter of a Grunyon, Woody Geist. I actually met Libby’s mother, Rosemary, first—a woman too beautiful and too kind to be of this world.
Several years, several Spring Sings, and 15 round trips on the Ohio turnpike later, I invited Libby to join me at the wedding of my new best friend, Jack Winder, a stand-up bass in the Augmented Eight. I planned that weekend to propose marriage, and in the spring of 1981, Woody announced our engagement from the stage at Princeton’s Alexander Hall to 500+ Spring Singers who serenaded us as Wally Collins directed his arrangement of “I Found Love.”
Spring Sing 51 in Washington will be my 31st, and my last as executive director of the newly formed American A Cappella Alliance, Inc. When I stopped singing with the Augmented Eight in 1992, I invented a secretarial position to stay involved with Spring Sing, but mostly to repay a debt of gratitude to all those who conceived and nurtured this remarkable gathering that has brought so much to so many. Fred Farran of the Arbors said it best in 1968 as the Arbors nervously made their first appearance in Detroit: “There is nothing else like Spring Sing in the world.”
My hope for the next 50 years—for individual groups and for the organization—is that we understand and appreciate what we are; but more importantly, what we are not. In the fast growing world of a cappella music, harmony sweepstakes, and a cappella summits, we are a rare community—a family even—which exists to share the reciprocal joys of being both listeners and performers, whose spirits are joined. With hearts full of spring and many Spring Sing memories, it is my hope that love will continue to keep us together.