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Chorale-WSC logo The journey began over a year ago when we received a call from the Vail Valley Foundation asking if we would consider learning 14 national anthems (in their native languages) of the world’s top skiers? They were hosts of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek and they wanted to do something new and different — have the winning medalist’s national anthem sung live, instead of using the standard prerecorded instrumental version. It meant that, for two weeks, the Chorale would sing in the nightly medal ceremonies, learning only a few hours beforehand, which country’s athlete they would serenade. Boy, are we glad that we said “yes!”

After many, many, MANY hours of research and preparation over the past nine months, the Colorado Children’s Chorale is proud to have participated in the World Ski Championships from February 1-15, 2015. We won’t go into details about the process — if you want to learn about all the “inside stuff”, simply click on the posts (with “Vail 2015″ in the title) to the right and you can catch up. However, if you just haven’t had an opportunity to follow along on social media over the past two weeks, we’ve gathered pictures and videos and put them all in one place for you to enjoy.

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Presenting……drum roll, please……..the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships as seen through the eyes and ears of the Colorado Children’s Chorale members, family and friends:

Sunday, February 1 – Opening Ceremonies

We sang the Austrian anthem five (yes, 5!) times for Anna Fenninger (Ladies’ Super G and Ladies’ Giant Slalom), Hannes Reichelt (Men’s Super G), Marcel Hirscher (Men’s Alpine Combined), and the Nations Team event.

Tina Maze from Slovenia won both the Ladies’ Downhill and the Ladies’ Alpine Combined, so we sang the Slovenian anthem with her, twice.

Patrick Keung of Switzerland was the winner in the Men’s Downhill.

USA, USA, USA!!! Ted Ligety won the Men’s Giant Slalom and Vail local Mikaela Shiffrin came out on top in the Women’s Slalom race.

We ended the week singing the national anthem for Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange, who won the Men’s Slalom.

And, here’s a snippet from the Closing Ceremonies. The Chorale sang with local musicians, Hazel Miller and FACE.

In addition, there were news stories about the Chorale on local news stations, as well as around the world.

9News.com, KUSA: http://www.9news.com/story/sports/ski/2015/02/10/nation-teams-event-tuesday/23155919/

Fox31, KDVR: http://kdvr.com/2015/02/11/colorado-kids-learn-14-national-anthems-for-ski-championships/

Channel 2, KWGN: http://kwgn.com/2015/02/11/colorado-kids-learn-14-national-anthems-for-ski-championships/

Lastly, here are a couple of videos from various events during the week.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful time with us!

ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #6

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dear families and friends,

Today finds us at the end of our World Ski Championships adventure, and I am writing from the bus as we make our way up a snow-packed Vail Pass. Fortunately, we are I excellent hands with our veteran driver Andrew. As we passed dozens of trucks pulled over, chaining up, just east of Vail, Andrew pushed a magic button on the bus and the chains automatically started circling all of the tires. He can only go 20 miles an hour until the process is completed, but then it’s done, as he said, it sure beats laying in the snow under a bus! We were behind a few cars with inadequate snow tires for a while, causing the usual back-ups, but we now seem to be past that as we approach the summit and we’re looking at blue sky trying to push through the clouds. It really is beautiful, though I will be glad to get home with our precious cargo!

And speaking of the kids, they are happily belted in, eating yet more chocolate, and watching cartoons. These last two days have been a whirlwind. I believe I last posted from the Back Bowl in Eagle, where we had lunch and spent the afternoon bowling. The Sunday race winner was Mikaela Shiffrin, so we sang the US anthem Sunday night and, as predicted, the crowd went wild. Between the holiday weekend, a hometown win and CeeLo Green on stage following the medal ceremony, there were thousands of people packing the plaza. And our performing space! People were amazingly bold…or perhaps rude would be a better word…as they attempted to secure the best spot for the concert, and if you weren’t right up in front of the stage, we had the best seats in the house. The staff was literally forming a human chain to keep people from crawling right up on the risers, or just making their way right around them to stand in front of the kids.

Immediately following the anthem, we took 15 of our kids to assist with the “bib draw” for Monday’s race. In order to get from our risers to the podium, the kids made a chain, holding on to me and one another, and I literally bulldozed our way through the crowd, with people telling me, “You can’t go there!” the whole way. Oh, yes we can. And we did! The top 15 skiers go up and draw a number, designating the order in which they will start the next day. One by one, we went up the podium with appropriate bid, stood there and smiled as the skier was interviewed, then scampered away. It was very exciting! Then we had to bulldoze our way back through the crowd, picking up the rest of NTC along the way, and fight our way out of the plaza and up to the bus. We did it, returning to the bus with 36 kids…always a plus!

One of our best friends, Steve Strachan, who was president of our board when we agreed to take on this challenge, has a home in Vail and has been faithfully following us, down in the plaza, at EVERY medal ceremony. He also generously opened his home, both last week for RTC and then again this week with NTC, for a party honoring the kids and thanking sponsors. Andrew again successfully navigated the bus up the short windy road to the house, and we partied hearty! Delicious food, in a beautiful setting, and many friends to meet and greet. Our young troupe was at their ambassadorial best, charming everyone in the room, first with conversation, then with song. We are so thankful for all of our sponsors, starting with Mr. Strachan and Strachan Exploration; Hugh Davies and ACFEA, our tour company; Jansen Legal; Industrial Integrated Controls; Laramie Energy; The Harris Law Firm; Qualcorr Engineering; Seattle Fish Company; HEI CIVIL; Evolving Systems; Uprise; and Claymore Oil and Gas. We had a grand time celebrating and didn’t get back to the hotel until 10:30 – shockingly late for us!!

Sunday morning we slept in, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and then did a bit of journal and map work. Mrs. Proffitt, tutor-extraordinaire, brought along world maps and, given our repertoire and activities this season, we had a lot of things to find on those world maps:

Anthem countries – Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Canada, Liechtenstein, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, and US.

Our upcoming tour – Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Russia.

One of our songs, “Geographical Fugue” – Trinidad, the big Mississippi, the town Honolulu, Lake Titicaca, the Popocatepetl, Malaga, Rimini, Brindisi, Tibet, Nagasaki and Yokohama.

We are truly children of the world!

Mrs. Crile, along with grads Sammi and Aitana, joined us for this leg of the tour, as we left Ms. Burke and Mr. Branam at home to tend to Concert Choir in Tosca with the Colorado Symphony. This two weeks had definitely been a divide and conquer effort for our staff, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by such amazing, talented, competent colleagues. I can’t think of another group of people with whom I would want to share the amazing adventures we tackle. Two weeks on the road and, while we are definitely ready to get home, everyone is still smiling…and speaking to one another!

Back to Sunday. Final Medal Ceremony and Closing Ceremonies in Red Tail Stadium at the bottom of the Birds of Prey race course. And, for the first time in two weeks, it was snowing. We have been unbelievably lucky with the weather. Eagle sits in a little valley, elevation 6000 feet, so it was actually balmy most days, in the 40’s and 50’s. And though it was always colder in Vail at 6:30pm, it was still quite comfortable. So we bundled up in our cold-weather gear and headed up the mountain. We were asked to be there at 1:00, so Ms. Smith wisely scheduled our lunch in Beaver Creek Village for 11:30. Full of cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches and tacos, we continued up to the slopes on a shuttle bus. And then we waited…and waited…and waited. Fortunately, we were able to be in the Media Center, so the kids journaled, played cards and drank hot chocolate while the staff fretted about the closing ceremony and waited for the race results. We sang the anthem of the country in first place as the race progressed. Germany! Nope, now France! Russia! Yes, yes, go Russia! We can sing the anthem! Not that we don’t love Austria, but we were really hoping to sing a different anthem. And…it was France, with Germany in a close second!

Out to the slopes, in the snow. It was very beautiful, and not cold, as we were dressed appropriately. We sang the French anthem, one of our favorites, then moved into places or the closing ceremony. We were joined by our friends from the awesome a cappella group Face, and Hazel Miller. Hazel took her place on the gold medal podium, and the kids spread out with Face. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was never so fun!

And just like that, our Ski Championships adventure was over. We sang only five of the anthems we learned, but that’s okay. We will proudly sing the Swedish, Finnish, and Russian anthems when we travel in April. Their skill in both music reading and foreign languages has increased exponentially. They will remember not only the anthems, but this entire experience, the rest of their lives. They are definitely richer for the experience, and the entire staff has never been prouder, feeling extremely fortunate for having had the honor of traveling this road together.

We picked up Qdoba on the way back to Eagle, slammed down those giant burritos, and hit the pool with the biggest splash you’ve ever seen. “Do Re Mi” never looked better – check it out on our Facebook page if you haven’t already seen it. Several synchronized swimming routines were perfected, new records were established for underwater swimming and gymnastics, and I’m pretty sure I saw several mermaids glide by. Showers, a good night’s sleep, our last breakfast at our new favorite home-away-from home, the Eagle Suites and Lodge, and we were on the road by 9am. It is now 12:30pm, and we are still on the road! We’re close though, just coming up on the Evergreen exit and traffic is moving nicely.

With a giant BRAVO to the most amazing Tour Choir EVER, a heartfelt thanks to the parents who so readily share their children with us, and a salute to the best staff in the world, I am signing off for now. Stay tuned for further adventures from the road, coming to you in April!

Humbly,

Debbie DeSantis

ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #5

Saturday, February 14, 2015                                        HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!

Dear families and friends,

Tour letter #5, and since we last spoke, so much has happened!! This past Tuesday night, Regional Tour Choir sang their last medal ceremony (Austria #4) and we delivered them safely back to very excited parents. The staff spent Wednesday doing laundry and preparing to depart Thursday morning with National Tour Choir. Oh, and also preparing the RUSSIAN national anthem. Yes, you heard me, the Russian national anthem. Monday night we received a text from one of our Vail Valley Foundation volunteers wondering if we knew the Russian anthem. No, we didn’t. The next text asked if there was any possibility we might be able to learn it by Sunday, as there is a possibility a Russian might win. I gave it a quick listen (what did we ever do without YouTube??) and, responded that it would be quite difficult. The first version I heard was three verses/choruses, and four minutes long. I don’t think anyone realizes the amount of work that has gone into preparing these anthems. Before we even start teaching the kids, Anne Stylianou does hours of research on each anthem, making sure we are able to sing the language as accurately as possible. Mr. Branam found all of the music and English translations, then made rehearsal CDs for all. The staff has listened to countless YouTube versions of each anthem.   And then we started teaching the kids. We have spent literally hundreds of research and rehearsal hours on this project. So…can we learn the Russian anthem, and have it performance ready by Sunday? Just in case? And, by the way, we have to keep working on the original fourteen!

I emailed our VVF contact, who is in charge of all things Ski Championship related. Do we really need to learn the Russian anthem? Her immediate reply was, “No, I see no reason for you to learn the Russian anthem.” By then, we had researched all of the Russian skiers, and the closest contender we could find came in 14th at the 2014 Olympics. It didn’t seem possible he could even place! Fast forward to Tuesday evening, on the bus, halfway home with RTC, and my next email from the VVF. “Oh, I was wrong. It seems there is the possibility of a Russian win. So…can you learn the anthem? If not, maybe you could find a recording of another children’s choir singing it and you could lip sync.” Well…no.

The plan from the beginning was that, if anyone beyond the 14 identified countries won, they would just play the instrumental track of the anthem, as they do for every other event. But, by now we had figured out a couple of things. First of all, our presence each night is garnering attention worldwide. It’s never been done before and people are talking. And people love it. If suddenly we DON’T appear and sing the anthem, well, we would be missed. Secondly, it’s Russia. And then, WHY aren’t we there? Did we not want to learn the Russian anthem…the only one we didn’t learn? Did the FIS and the Vail Valley Foundation think the Russians weren’t important enough for us to learn their anthem? Yikes.

Mrs. Stylianou and I strategized the whole way home, then agreed that we would/could tackle it. By the time we talked Wednesday morning…after sleepless nights for both of us…we agreed it definitely could be done. At international sporting events, they sing only one verse/chorus, reducing our workload by almost two thirds. When transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Roman alphabet that we use, it is still difficult, but not impossible for the kids to read. The vowel sounds are mostly similar to ours. There are a lot of consonant blends, but to the kids, these are just fun tongue twisters. And most importantly, we know that these are the most extraordinary young ladies and gentlemen you will ever meet! We also realized that, with our upcoming tour to Russia, we can add this to our tour repertoire.

Mrs. Stylianou worked all morning, then scanned and emailed the prepared music, complete with transliteration and her notes, written in. I worked on getting the official instrumental track from our contact with the ski championships. Mr. Branam copied it to CDs for us to rehearse with. At 10:30am, we had everything in place to start teaching NTC anthem #15 on our way to Vail Thursday morning. At 10:32am, I received a phone call from the VVF. “Don’t worry about the Russian anthem. We’ll just play the track if they win.” To which I replied, “We’ve already worried about it, and we’ll have it ready by Sunday.”

We were on the bus at 8am Thursday morning and, as predicted, the kids had the Russian anthem pretty well in their tongues by the time we hit Vail pass. They were singing along to the recording with gusto. We have continued to work on it, and will have it memorized in time to sing tomorrow if need be. Of course, now that we’ve done all this, the Austrians will win again!! But hey, we’ll be pretty impressive in St. Petersburg. It really is a beautiful anthem and we have become quite fond of it.

As I type, the kids are tearing up the lanes at the Back Bowl in Eagle. We went into Vail Village this morning and spent our $15 in spending money faster than fast. We had a wonderfully leisurely morning, waking up late, with breakfast in our rooms while watching cartoons! We woke everyone up with a Valentine chocolate and a kiss. A real kiss, on the cheek, from me. Some squirmed, some grimaced, some blushed, some grinned. We have continued the every-90-minute sugar plan all day, including the drink of their choice at lunch, except for Mountain Dew. We have enjoyed some amazing Valentine treats from parents. Thank you!!

Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we did school shows in Edwards and Eagle. They are pros at school shows, and I love standing in front of them. I honestly don’t know of any other choir that, on one program, could pull off Toch’s “Geographical Fugue,” Scandello’s “A Little White Hen,” Dilworth’s “Oh! What a Beautiful City,” Hoiby’s “Lady of the Harbor,” the Dalglish “Reel a Bouche,” national anthems from Slovakian to French…and then dance “Footloose” and Happy.” I am hoping you can hear the pride in my voice.

While we were in the pool yesterday afternoon, all of our texts and email lit up with the news that Ted Ligety had taken the gold! We immediately burst into the “Star Spangled Banner,” in the pool, bringing the hotel staff running, phones in hand, from all corners. These are “their kids” now, and they could not be more proud, or more impressed, at every turn. When we were done singing, I noticed a group of four maintenance guys huddled over one of their phones. I assumed they were replaying what they had just recorded, but no. One of them had recorded Regional singing and dancing “Footloose” in the lobby last week, and they were looking at that!

It was a celebratory evening last night in Vail Village at Championships Plaza. The place was rockin’, and we did our part with a flash mob of “Happy” before we climbed up to our anthem spot. And, finally, we got to sing the US anthem!! The anthem score to date is: Austria-5, Slovenia-2, Switzerland-1, US-1. We want to be pulling for Mikaela Shiffrin, but we’d also like to sing some other anthems!!

We had some homework time last night, and also got our journals started. These journals will also be used for the European tour and it was quite exciting to include that on our title page! There is another group of 60 kids in the hotel, a ski team from Utah. While they ran the halls, unsupervised by any adults, we quietly sat in the conference room and studied. The hotel staff has been at their wit’s end for the past two days, taking complaint calls from other guests, clearing screaming kids out of the lobby, and cleaning up after them. They stop our staff over and over again to tell us how perfect our kids are. Even our kids have been totally disgusted…and I love it!!

With that, I will sign off for today. We’re just about done with our two-hour bowling frenzy, and I believe a fun time was had by all. Back at the hotel, we will work on that Russian anthem a bit more, and it is surely time for more chocolate. It’s Mikaela Shiffrin with the gold, so the plaza will be rockin’ tonight!!

Wish you were here!

Debbie DeSantis

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ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #4

Tuesday, February 10

Dear families and friends,

Unbelievably, we have come to the final day of this 2015 Regional Tour Choir grand adventure! Over a year ago, I couldn’t imagine this day ever coming. The thought of learning fourteen national anthems, in fourteen different languages, was beyond comprehension. I took a leap of faith, knowing that my partners in this effort would be amazing – 72 extraordinary young ladies and gentleman, and an unparalleled team of colleagues. We leapt together, and have been flying high ever since.

For these first ten days, this Regional Tour Choir has exceeded our expectations in every possible way. They have grown as performers and friends, and especially as citizens of the world. They have conquered so many fears, on stage and off, in hotel rooms and in the community. A few of them are only 10-11 years old. They bravely left their families and have adapted to being on the road with 36 of their colleagues, hotel rooms every night, meals in restaurants/on the bus/in a conference room, keeping up with homework, 3-4 daily performances, and all of this while in the spotlight of the world. We could not be more proud of each and every one of them.

Yesterday brought a surprise when we were visited not only by the Slovenian reporter and camera man, but a Channel 9 news team. Cheryl Preheim came to our school show at St. Clare of Assisi in Edwards. They filmed parts of our rehearsal, the show, and did some interviews. Hopefully by now you have seen the results on Channel 9! The photographer also filmed us at the Medal Ceremony last night. He was at my feet, right down in front of the kids, as they finished the Slovenian anthem. The anthem is the end of the Medal Ceremony, always followed by some rockin’ music. Last night it was a Katy Perry song that the kids immediately started dancing to and singing along. The photographer filmed the end of the anthem, then kept filming as the kids went crazy, and he was totally charmed. He told me afterwards, “One minute they’re standing like angels, singing perfectly in Slovenian, and without dropping a beat they’re ordinary kids rocking out to Katy Perry!” I am so hoping that moment makes the cut for this afternoon’s Ch. 9 broadcast. Though I always have to remember that 60 minutes of filming turns into a 30 second clip! Speaking of interviews, watch the Fox31, 9:00pm, news on Wednesday the 11th. We did an interview with them before we left town last week.

Last night’s Medal Ceremony we celebrated Tina Maze from Slovenia again. We do love that Slovenian anthem! Here is today’s favorite email:

“Dear children, Thank you for singing the Slovenian national anthem so well. Not only that I am proud of our championess Tina Maze, but also your singing made me cry, of course in a positive way.

Greetings from Slovenia, Mateja”

In case you have lost count, the anthem score is Austria, 3; Slovenia, 2; and Switzerland, 1. Today it’s the Nation’s Team Event, starting at 2:00pm. We are eagerly awaiting the results, and selfishly hoping for a US win. It would be waaaaay-cool to go out with the “Star Spangled Banner.”

As I type, the kids are finishing up the last of their homework and working on journal entries. Many of them are really wonderful writers, as well as quite accomplished artists. We have also been sharing some of their favorite impressions of the tour – old friendships cemented and new friendships forged; the excitement of the opening ceremony; meeting new friends from around the world; being interviewed; working with local children; being recognized and hearing “congratulations” everywhere they go; THE SPOTLIGHT!!

Following tonight’s Medal Ceremony, we will hop on the bus and head down the hill, delivering this intrepid group back to their respective parents by 9pm or so. They will be back in school tomorrow morning, the same as two weeks ago, but changed in so many ways. We have talked with them about that transition…and not trying to dazzle their friends, classmates, and teachers with too much stardom!

They have worked diligently on their school assignments, as well as their journals. I hope their teachers recognize what they have accomplished, as their homework and journals tell the story.

As there is no Medal Ceremony Wednesday evening, we will not return until early Thursday morning when National Tour Choir will take their place in the spotlight. They will jump right in with school shows and a Medal Ceremony Thursday night. I’m willing to bet no one will have any idea we replaced one choir with another!! NTC will be here through Monday morning, with the final Medal Ceremony and Closing Ceremony Sunday evening. We will be performing with Hazel Miller and FACE during the Closing Ceremony, which will be held up on the mountain at Red Tail Stadium.

This just in…Austria wins the team competition, and with that we close the book on this chapter. I know they will rock the plaza again tonight. I will look each of them in the eye at my favorite moment of the tour, when suddenly the spotlight comes up on those 35 faces. My heart is full with gratitude and admiration for each and every one of these remarkable young people, and I will never forget our time spent together on this journey.

Humbly,

Debbie DeSantis

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ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #3

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dear families and friends,

Success in Slovenia!!! I received the following email early this morning:

“Dear Mrs. DeSantis,

Your kids were simply amazing singing Slovene national anthem today. So is our Tina Maze in 1st place J. Thank you from Slovenia.

Kind regards, Rinalda Klemencic”

Yesterday, in between school shows, we had an hour or so to spare, so we did some of our official “Emerging Country” presentations. For any of you who haven’t been faithfully following us via my letters…why not?!…we have been creating new countries, complete with history of the founding, flag, fun facts and, of course, anthem. Each hotel room (there are ten) was responsible for a new country. I already introduced the PRSS (People’s Republic of the Stars and Stripes) and Burkelandia. Here are more details about those, plus all of the others:

Makila

Primary inhabitants: Kyle, Carter, Blake M.

Location: off the coast of Mexico

Language: Spanish (though their anthem was definitely in English!)

Climate: hot and humid

Anthem: “All Nations Beautiful and Wide”

STARS

Primary inhabitants: Sarah, Tallulah, Alexandra, Rachel H.

Location: on a cloud

Official animal: Unicorn

Fun fact: you can have a star named after you

Anthem: based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star”

Vinci

Primary inhabitants: Tanner, Austin, Cooper

Capital city: Leonardo

Industries: Disney World, barrel making, cathedral making, tanning

Anthem: “Freedom Forever”

Peppermint Pillow Land

Primary Inhabitants: Ava, Allyson, Karina

Official flower: Peppermint daisy

Official animal: Peppermint badger

Favorite things: peppermints, pillows, braids, children

Anthem: “Peppermint Pillow Land”

People’s Republic of the Stars and Stripes

Primary inhabitants: Dwayne, Jack, Kris, Andrew

Location: Replaced Greenland

History: Waaaaay too involved for me to even begin to explain!

Flag: Very detailed, very symbolic

Anthem: “We Stand Together Through the Night”

Qualcorr

Primary inhabitants: Maren, Hannah, Genevieve

Flag: Comprised of many dots, representing the number of syllables in the anthem

Capital city: Integra

Anthem: sung in “click” language…

Vailien

Primary inhabitants: Iain, Michael, Blake E., Trevor

Location: off the coast of New Zealand

Anthem: “We are the Vailiens”

Burkelandia

Primary inhabitants: Margot, Rachel R., Caitlin, Katy

Location: Mars

Distinguishing feature: Hidden from space rovers

Language: Burkish

BEAM

Primary inhabitants: Brett, Emma, Ajaya, Makenna

Location: a lost island, invisible from satellites

Capital city: Mollusk

Favorite foods: corned beef, strawberries

Official animal: leprechaun

Anthem: “In Mollusk Fair City, Where Girls are so Pretty”

Flagstrom

Primary inhabitants: Noah, Conrad, Chris

Location: Alps

Language: German…possibly…

Major imports: vegetables, seeds

Anthem: “Oh, Flagstrom”

I couldn’t begin to make this stuff up…I simply report.

Speaking of reporters, this morning, we were visited by a reporter and camera man from a Swiss TV station. They wanted to know more about us, and also film us rehearsing the Swiss national anthem. They met us at the hotel, and filmed a warm-up and some musical rehearsal of our usual repertoire. We then sang the Swiss anthem, which I’m not sure either of them really knew, and they helped us with the pronunciation of a few difficult words. Katy, Margot, Dwayne, Austin and Blake E. answered some questions about their favorite and/or most challenging anthems, and I talked about the process of learning in fifteen different languages. They have promised to send us a link to the final product, which we will, of course share with all of you. We said good-bye to our new Swiss friends with many wishes for a Swiss gold medal.

And…drum roll, please…the winner of today’s Men’s Downhill is Patrick Kueng from SWITZERLAND!!!! We are pretty sure this is due to all of our good luck wishes, and we are definitely ready for that Swiss anthem tonight!

We have been getting in some great study time, averaging three hours a day of concentrated work. Many are finished, others close, and others still plugging doggedly away at every possible opportunity. As I type, however, they are working diligently at perfecting their bowling skills. Techniques are varied, with enthusiasm making up for any lack of skill. Brett is leading her team, in spite of the walking cast on her broken foot. As of this writing, Hannah, Genevieve, Andrew, and Cooper have all thrown strikes. Dwayne and Ms. Smith have two, and Super Grad Aaron has three, which I’m told makes him a turkey. Oh, wait, I mean he HAS a turkey. Tallulah got her first spare EVER!!! And Hannah and Conrad both just PICKED UP A SPLIT!!!   With her strike and split skills, Hannah had the top score, at 114, for the first games.

Sheesh! The news is coming in faster than I can type. Aaron just got his FOURTH strike, making him a turducky…or something… And, now going for strike #5…wait for it…insert REALLY LOUD GROAN here…he leaves one pin standing L.

In news from the hotel room front: Rachel does the best braids; Katy got up to go to the bathroom, half asleep, and got in the wrong bed when she came back – which means three girls slept in the same bed for the rest of the night; one room heard snatches of an argument coming from the room next door, partly in another language, that ended with, “I’ll go, but I’m NOT skiing,” leading Margot to ponder, “I wonder if we just heard a foreign break-up.” Conrad evidently yelled in his sleep, “No, not the cheese!” then fell out of bed. Tallulah and Trevor groan, click, sing and talk…all night; and Caitlin reportedly talks and sings to herself in the shower. Blake E., Cooper and Kris keep losing their black gloves. At any given moment, two have gloves and the other has none – but the one with none is different every single time. Ms. Smith thinks they’ve got some sort of complicated shell game going on.   We have moved on from creating new empires to choreographing anthems. The competition for the gold is looking pretty fierce.

Sadly, Ms. Burke has to leave us today. She is returning to Denver to tend to the many other jobs she has, as well as seeing Concert Choir through their performances of Tosca with the Colorado Symphony next week. We will miss Ms. Burke’s thoroughness and quick wit, but are excited to welcome Mrs. Stylianou for the remainder of the tour!

Sunday, February 8

We nailed the Swiss national anthem last night!! I woke this morning to the following email:

“Hi! I wanted to thank you very much for the beautifully performed Swiss National Anthem last night at the ceremony in Vail…Every word and note was crisp and clear, and no accent. I was very moved. Keep up the great work. The ceremony was broadcast on the homepage of Swiss Television, and people are commenting just about the great performance of the Swiss National Anthem.

Kind regards,

Martin from Switzerland”

BRAVO, REGIONAL TOUR CHOIR!!!!!!! I also returned a phone call to a Slovene TV station. We will be meeting them tomorrow!   And I am oh-so-grateful, though just a bit embarrassed, that the rest of the world is fluent in English.

After the ceremony last night, we went to former Trustee Steve Strachan’s beautiful home for a celebratory dinner with Mr. Strachan’s neighbors and other Chorale friends. Andrew, bus driver extraordinaire, successfully navigated the twisty road a short way up the mountain between Vail Village and West Vail. It was beautiful. Millions of brilliant stars above, and the twinkling lights of the valley below. We had a delicious dinner of salad, parmesan chicken, penne pasta, and lots of veggies, cheese, crackers and, of course, yummy desserts. There were games to play and many Chorale friends to visit with, and these young ladies and gentleman were at their ambassadorial best. They answered questions, listened politely, and sang a song of thanks. They continue to amaze at every turn.

This morning was a slow, leisurely Sunday. The hotel is quite full this weekend, and the breakfast room was busy all morning. We woke the kids at 7:45, told them to take their time showering and getting ready, and finally wandered down to breakfast an hour later. Definitely a lazy morning for us! After breakfast, Mr. Branam showed us some of the brilliant videos he has been making this week, along with the wonderful photos Ms. Smith has been taking. They get posted on FaceBook and our blog, but the kids rarely see them. They loved it, and we love Ms. Smith and Mr. Branam!

Today is Ms.Snyder’s birthday. This is her first tour ever, and as I said earlier, she is an amazing staff member, both on and off the piano bench. We will be celebrating with cupcakes after dinner this evening, and the kids have been treating her to birthday messages and hugs all day.

Eagle is an interesting little town, with a small, old downtown area and Eagle Creek, a brand-shiny-new suburb. We headed to the ‘burb this morning and Brush Creek Park. The playground was perfect – the wooden-castle variety with every climbing, swinging, balancing obstacle imaginable. The weather continues to be stunning. We were outside in shirt sleeves. The locals were wearing shorts. We went from the playground to lunch, then back to the Avon Rec Center for more swimming. Hey…it’s Sunday Funday! Well, not quite. We are now back at the hotel for some homework time before dinner.

We are anxiously awaiting today’s race (Men’s Alpine Combined) results. The Alpine Combined involves two separate races, so we won’t see results until a bit later than usual. Aaron has done his research, and tells us the top contenders are USA, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, and Croatia. We are quite comfortable with the first three, and spent some time this morning brushing up Norway and Croatia. We are ready, though initial results indicate it might be Austria. Again.

Usually about this time in the tour, I include a health report. I am happy to report that there is nothing to report.

Life is good here on tour!

Debbie DeSantis

P.S. Austria it is!

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ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #2

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dear families and friends,

It is now Wednesday morning, and we are hard at work in our school-away-from-school. I was talking with the hotel staff this morning, and they could not speak highly enough of our young charges. Everyone from the maintenance to housekeeping to front-desk staff joined the conversation. “We don’t even know you’re here! 36 kids come and go and we never see or hear you!” “Their rooms are always so neat – beds made, clothes picked up, even the bathroom!” “I walked past the conference room, and there wasn’t a sound – they were all working so hard!” “The music coming from the conference room is so beautiful. You could stay here and sing all day!”   We have reeeeaaaaally been enjoying breakfast every morning – eggs, potatoes, sausage or bacon, biscuits and gravy, waffles (thanks to waffle-king Aaron!), yogurt, toast and bagels, pastries and donuts, cold cereal (yay for Fruit Loops!), oatmeal, juice…and plenty of coffee and tea for the staff. The woman in charge has made it her personal mission to see that we are more than adequately fueled for the day – and she is more-than-adequately succeeding! As I was thanking her this morning, she was excited to tell me that her son came home from school yesterday talking about their assembly and how fun it was to see all the kids singing and dancing. “And they even sang his favorite song, ‘Happy’!” She put it all together and figured out THOSE kids were also HER kids!

And that brings us to school shows. Monday and Tuesday we were at schools in Eagle. On Monday, the first show of the tour, we weren’t quite on our game yet…especially me. I went to start “Monkeys in the House,” a 20-year Chorale standard that I started and choreographed and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how it started, or most of the choreography. I’ve done that song in thousands of rehearsals, workshops, clinics, and school shows. Always thankful for our amazing accompanists, I gave the downbeat, Ms. Snyder started playing and the kids started dancing, tentatively. It was then I realized that this Regional Tour Choir had not rehearsed it since early last fall, as we’ve been totally consumed by national anthems! Fortunately, part of our school show shtick is that we teach it to the entire audience. We muddled through and a fun time was had by all. The wonderful thing about a tour is that we perform so much, and nothing perfects a performance like performing. By school show #2, we were definitely on our game, and I know we will continue to improve exponentially throughout the next few days.

Mid-afternoon, Ms.Smith’s email and text started lighting up with the news that the Austrian skier had won the first race, the Ladies Super G. This news was a bit sad, as everyone was hoping Lindsey Vonn would win at home. She came in third, by fractions of a second. So, for our first medal ceremony, we sang the Austrian anthem. And we were ready! We have known all along that Austria is a powerhouse in downhill skiing, and that we would likely be singing their anthem many times, so it was one of the first that we learned. Each medal ceremony lasts about 10 minutes. They introduce the top six finishers, three different times, and then we sing the anthem. And we’re done!

WEDNESDAY, 10AM…NEWS FLASH!

Today’s race, the Men’s Super G, has been cancelled due to snow and wind up on the mountain.

So, no Medal Ceremony tonight. No problem. This just means we can play at the Avon Rec Center longer than we had planned!

 

 

 

Thursday, February 5

Time flies when you’re having fun! After school (which ended at 11:30 for us) yesterday, we hopped on the bus and headed to Beaver Creek Village for lunch. Just like Vail Village, it is hopping with activity and celebrations. Everywhere we go people stop to compliment us on our singing, and we look fantastic in our black jackets. This would be an appropriate spot to thank the very generous sponsors that helped make this adventure possible. The Vail Valley Foundation, of course, provided major funding. But we would not be here if not for additional support from lead sponsors Strachan Exploration and ACFEA Tour Consultants, followed by Jansen Legal, Industrial Integrated Controls, Inc., Laramie Energy, The Harris Law Firm, Quallcor Engineering, Seattle Fish Company, HEI CIVIL, Evolving Systems, UPRISE, and Claymore Oil & Gas. We are so grateful for the support, and proudly wear your names on the backs of our jackets, as well as the back of our bus!

As we made our way back through the Village to the bus we ran into one of our VVF contacts, who said, “I’m so glad I ran into you. Today’s race was cancelled, has been re-scheduled for tomorrow, and the Medal Ceremony will be tomorrow night at 6:30.” Wait. WHAT??? We were told months ago that, if races were re-scheduled, the corresponding Medal Ceremony would happen back-to-back with another Medal Ceremony. Our schedule shows two nights with no Medal Ceremony, and we have planned around that. School shows, meals, etc. Today (Thursday…for anyone as confused as I am!) we were scheduled to go to Fairplay for a school show, eating lunch in Breckenridge on the way, and dinner in Breckenridge on the way back – which would have worked perfectly with NO MEDAL CEREMONY!!! Poor Ms. Smith, planner and executor of all things related to food and travel, had to not only cancel reservations for 44 in two restaurants in Breckenridge, but find lunch and dinner for 44 in two restaurants back in the Vail Valley – no easy task. We also had to cancel our school show in Fairplay. We have warned all of our schools that our first responsibility is anything that has to do with the Ski Championships and that cancellations are possible. So, while the kids splashed in the pool, Ms. Smith went to work!

The Avon Rec Center is really wonderful. The pool is big and warm, complete with slides, a long lazy river, a climbing wall over the water, multiple fountains, and…A DIVING BOARD!! Other than the Glenwood Springs pool, I haven’t seen a diving board in a public pool since my childhood! Diving styles are quite varied. Some cut the water like a knife. Some slip in noiselessly. Some displace all of the water in the pool. Watching little bodies spill out of the slide is also interesting – head first, feet first, in a ball, spiraling, flying, plopping, gasping and screaming.

For dinner yesterday we returned to our favorite summer haunt, The Blue Moose in Lionshead. They always welcome us, telling any new wait staff not to worry – these kids are amazing! After dinner, with no Medal Ceremony, we headed back to Eagle and enjoyed a leisurely evening in our rooms and an early lights-out.

This morning we were up early, with a 9am school show at Red Sandstone Elementary in Vail. We have been doing shows there for over 20 years. Some of the teachers remember when their children, now adults with their own children, sang with us at the amphitheater. As predicted, the kids are getting better with every show, tackling and conquering a new challenge each day.

The weather today is incredible – a picture-perfect Colorado day. Blue skies, blazing sun, warm breeze. In fact, today the fear is that the weather is too nice for optimal ski-racing conditions! After the show at Red Sandstone, we headed into the Village for a bit of shopping. We started at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, a delightful and educational little museum just across from the Covered Bridge. In all the years we have been coming here, we have never visited this museum, as it is generally closed during the off-season in June. There were some great Vail 2015 trinkets to be had there, as well – always a plus for our “we’ve-got-money-burning-a-hole-in-our-pockets” little troupe! We hit the shops and also had a chance to watch some of today’s race on the big screen Championships Plaza. Sadly, we watched American Bode Miller take a huge spill.

And that brings us to today’s race results: AUSTRIA…again… No problem. We are happy for all of the winners. (But we can’t wait to sing the US anthem!)

We are now back at school for a bit, before dinner and our trip into town to sing. Mrs. Proffitt has told the kids over and over what a fantastic job they are doing with their schoolwork. They’re amazing. What can I say?! As usual, Math is a biggie, with Ava, Noah, Ajaya, Makenna, and Rachel H. all tackling that today. Tallulah and Chris are hard at work with their Science. Blake E. is reading “Unwind,” Conrad is in the middle of “Fablehaven,” and Alexandra is making her way through “My Sister’s Keeper.”

Friday, February 6

It’s now Friday morning, the first reeeeeaaaally eeeeeeeaaaaaarly morning on this tour. The elderly members of the staff are not whining at all!! We woke up the kids 6am, which means the staff is up, dressed and ready to go by then so that we can be in and out of the kids’ rooms keeping them moving and organized. We were on the bus at 6:30, pulled into the Burger King across the highway to pick up our pre-ordered oatmeal, French toast stix, egg/sausage/cheese biscuits and potatoes, and now on our way to Breckenridge for the day. The weather is perfect, as we watch the sun come up over the mountains to the east, and the roads are dry. We have a workshop and two school shows in Breckenridge, presented by the Breckenridge Music Festival.

Yesterday turned out to be a bit more eventful than we had planned. As I mentioned earlier, an Austrian won the gold medal. While we were eating lunch, Ms. Smith and I started getting texts and emails from our VVF friends. There was a problem with the Austrian anthem. It seems they changed some of the words a few years ago to reflect the fact that, not only do they honor their “sons,” but also their “daughters.” We knew this was an issue, as Mr. Branam spent a lot of time last spring researching all of the anthems. At that time, we submitted all anthem texts to the foundation, who in turn (we were told) submitted them to each embassy to ensure we were singing the correct text. Word came back that the “official” text for Austria was the original one, honoring only the “sons.” Also, when we sang it for some Austrians while wandering the Village the other day, one older gentleman was adamant that we needed to be singing about “daughters and sons,” not just “sons.”

Could we make the appropriate adjustment before we sing it again…four hours later? Of course! We are nothing, if not flexible. We found what we needed online and returned multiple texts and emails notifying everyone we could make the change. And we did. These young singers are nothing short of incredible, and with a few minutes of rehearsing the new line interspersed with study time, we were set.

Fast forward to 6:20pm, ten minutes before the Medal Ceremony was to begin. Ms. Smith texted the stage management to let them know we were in place. Her phone immediately lit up with new messages. DON’T CHANGE THE ANTHEM. SING THE SAME WORDS AS MONDAY NIGHT. What? Really? YES. MARCEL SAYS DON’T CHANGE THE WORDS.  Ms. Burke and I hissed this new news to the kids, and started repeating and singing the original words over and over with them as they made their way to the risers. And they sang the, ummmm, “correct” anthem perfectly. Much to Mr. Branam’s surprise, who was down in the plaza, with the video camera, and had missed all of the last second drama. He visibly sank when he heard the kids sing, thinking they got up there and totally forgot everything we had worked on all afternoon.  It turns out this word change is quite politically divisive back in the Vaterland. Marcel is evidently one of the older Austria members of the Austrian Ski Federation and, according to him, the word change has not been officially sanctioned.

It is now late Friday afternoon and we are back in the bus, heading back to Vail from Breckenridge, and enjoying another favorite tour activity – NAPPING! On the count of three, recline, close your eyes, close your mouth, hold still. And…they’re out. Workshops and school shows are full out aerobic activities, and when you throw in how hard they concentrate to get all of the music right, they’re tuckered out after a day like today And what a day it was. They were incredible. I am so proud of how far they have come in these few days. Ava, Allyson, Makenna, Austin, Alexandra and Hannah smile so sincerely, I sometimes have to look away for fear my heart is going to explode. Brett, Iain, Tanner, Michael, Katy, Cooper and Emma sing fearlessly, leading their sections in every song. Dwayne, Andrew, Noah, Blake E. and Jack dance with abandon, while Kyle, Blake M., Tallulah, Chris, Ajaya, Genevieve, and Trevor smile shyly and never miss a beat. Conrad, Margot and Karina flip perfectly and on cue, every single show. Kris, Caitlin, Carter and Rachel work their charm from the front row, while Maren, Sarah and Rachel H. are rock-solid and beaming from row 4.

They all worked so patiently and kindly with their workshop buddies, becoming instant rock stars in the eyes of their Breckenridge buddies. In 45 minutes, we teach them all of “Do Re Mi,” “Monkeys in the House,” and a good bit of stage movement. They then join us in the performance, showing off for the rest of the school. It’s awesome! “Happy” has turned out to be the audience favorite, with everyone singing and clapping along. The entire school was begging for more when we finished.

We just made a quick stop to pick up Qdoba for dinner, and we will get back to our hotel in just enough time to eat and change into our cold-weather gear for tonight’s Medal Ceremony. And the winner is…SLOVENIA!! We are so excited, and hoping there are no controversial words in the Slovenian national anthem. We’ve had enough international incidents!

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for further adventures from the road

Debbie DeSantis

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