The Chorus America Pumpkin: A Short History

One of my first jobs out of college was at Chorus America, the national non-profit service organization for choral music, choral singers, conductors, and administrators.  I started out as a summer temp, became the office manager, and ended up as the database administrator and webmaster.  But no matter how often or drastically my job description changed, there was one duty that was always mine: carving the pumpkin for the annual contest held by our office building.

The first year I did it was 2001.  The country was immersed in 9/11 aftermath, forced patriotism, and perpetual lies leading to perpetual war.  The obvious choice for my subject was then-president George W. Bush, who was widely regarded amongst my friends and colleagues as something of a pumpkin head anyway.  I got a pattern from the internet and stuck the face of our leader onto an empty shell, which felt appropriate, and then put a cassette player inside that played patriotic choral music.  It went over very well, for the conservatives viewed it as a tribute, and the liberals viewed it as satire.  But we did not win the prize.

And I put a flag on the other side!  America!

In 2003 I decided to kick it up a notch and made a Mozart pumpkin, covered in cauliflower and death.  Pages from the Mozart Requiem were laid out in front of ol’ Wolfy with the music playing in the background.  It was pretty cool.  But I did not win.

Look, his pen fell right out of his hand mid-notating!

The next year I was bound and determined to win an award, and my boss, to her eternal credit, let me spend basically an entire work day carving the most awesome pumpkin ever.  I decided to go full on choral and cut the whole front of the thing out to make a choral concert.  Simone and I spent the entire night before making a tiny chorus, complete with music to hold, and a Lego conductor with a music stand and conducting light saber baton.  Behind the pumpkin I placed that tape player and pumped choral music into the room until the batteries died.  And I won first place.

My masterpiece.

I’ll answer the phone later.  Tell the board chair I’m doing something more important…

Blue ribbon, baby!

Of course you might think I would be satisfied with this and relax a little the following Halloween, but NO!  Now I had a title to defend!  I realized that I needed to make the most epic pumpkin the building had ever seen.  I needed to make a fully functional erupting volcano.  Dubbed “Mount St. Hell’s End,” this pumpkin had flowing pumpkin guts as lava, with little candy pumpkins caught in the melting horror.  A chorus sang “O Fortuna” from behind the table, and, to top it all off, dry ice.

Looks awesome, right?

I had never worked with dry ice before, but from what I had read it need hot water to make the most smoke, and it was expensive.  At least to me and my budget.  So I got a small amount, realizing that I had to save it for just the right moment.  I asked the building manager when the judging was to take place, so that I could time it correctly.  I was going to have to heat up some water in our little office microwave, and then rush downstairs to the lobby holding a full pot of boiling water and a cooler full of dry ice, so that at just the right moment I could set that sucker off!  This did not go according to plan.

As I sat at my desk, gleefully imagining the surprised and delighted looks on the judges faces when they saw my creation erupt, the building receptionist knocked on our door to tell me that the judges were down there judging right at that exact moment, over an hour earlier than the posted time!  And my pumpkin was not an award winning pumpkin without the dry ice!

Looks not as awesome, right?

I raced to the microwave and started heating the water, but the precious minutes ticked by and I grew more and more agitated waiting for that “ding.”  Finally deciding the water was hot enough, I raced downstairs with my cassette player, dry ice, and lukewarm microwave water, hoping against hope that I was not too late.  Paying no heed to the consequences I threw in all of my remaining dry ice and prayed for a miracle.  What I got was an eruption of epic proportions, with fog so thick that no one could see my pumpkin at all.  And as it turned out, the judges had left by then anyway.  I did not win a prize.

This picture was taken after most of the fog had cleared away and I could find the table again…

That was the last year I did a Chorus America pumpkin, because by the time the following October rolled around I was working at a different job, and there were no carving contests at my new office.  So I was unable to defend my pumpkin title, but at least I went out with a bang.

Posted in America, Chorus, Contest, Halloween, Photo, Pumpkins, Throwback Thursday.

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