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ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #1

April 22, 2015

 

Dear families and friends,

We’re cruising! No, really…we’re cruising!!! On a cruise ship; crossing the Baltic Sea from Stockholm to Tallinn, Estonia. It’s very exciting!! This is day three or perhaps four, depending on how you look at it, of our Baltic adventure.

 

We left DIA Sunday afternoon at 5:30pm, ate dinner, slept, ate breakfast, and before we knew it we were in Frankfurt, Germany just in time for lunch on Monday. We had quite a long, leisurely layover. As per usual, we made our way to our departing gate – from Concourse Z, through passport control and into Concourse A – and then found a quiet corner where we could spread out. There were a couple of other passengers sitting in the perfect spot, but we know how to clear a room!

 

We settled the kids in, playing card games, braiding hair, inspecting cameras, and eventually got our journals in order. Then it was out to seek and gather lunch, with sandwiches, pizza, and even a soft drink. Pretty exciting! A little caffeine was in order for this loooooong day.

 

Another uneventful flight from Frankfurt to Stockholm, a short drive from the airport to our hotel, then a walk across the street to dinner, and finally to bed, tired but almost too excited to sleep. But sleep we did, and quite soundly. Breakfast was the usual European array of cold meat, cheese, rolls, bread, hard-boiled eggs, and several varieties of cereal and fruit.

 

Friday,

April 24, 2015

Obviously, I am already woefully behind in my letter writing. It has been a jam-packed few days, and I’m not just talking about the amount of jam we consume every morning at breakfast! Our Baltic Sea crossing was highly successful. There was a bit of a kerfluffle getting to our rooms, as we didn’t get our usual rooming list. Everyone received a boarding pass, which included the cabin number, as we checked in and immediately boarded. They knew their roommates – 3 or 4 to a cabin – but we didn’t know where the cabins were and had no time to figure it out. I am having an anxiety attack just thinking about it! Our normal routine when checking in to a hotel is to get the rooming list in order, noting each room number, who is in each room, and which staff member is assigned to each room. Staff then takes all of their assigned kids to their rooms and gets them settled in. We know where everyone is and they know how to reach us. Clearly we could not do this, but just had to send the kids to their rooms. We were able to determine that we were all located on the same deck and adjoining hallways, reducing my anxiety level just a smidge. We told them to go to their rooms and stand outside the door so we knew where they were. Fortunately, these are the most amazing young ladies and gentlemen you will ever meet. They quietly headed down the hall, amidst the chaos of the other passengers attempting to locate their rooms. Super-Grad Ky ran like the wind, filling out our room list with the appropriate cabin numbers, and before we knew it we had everything in order and the kids were in their rooms.

 

“Rooms” is perhaps not an appropriate term here. The cabin are appropriately tiny for a quick overnight, with two bunks on either side and just enough room to walk between them. And no room for a suitcase or four. We decided to worry about that later, as we had the 5:00 seating for dinner and it was 5:00. Two decks up from ours we found the Romantika Buffet, a gigantic assortment of every food offering you can imagine. Seafood, including salmon, shrimp and oysters; Street Food (taco bar!), warm dishes including chicken, roast beef, potatoes, root vegetables, and stir-fry; salad, fruit, bread, a variety of sweets and an ice cream bar. Plenty to keep us busy for several hours! Abbie started a “liver revolution,” successfully convincing Livi, Miranda, Paige, Marina, Lillian and Grace to enjoy what she described as a “meat cake.” Grace said, “It looks like mousse and tastes like steak and it’s gross and I can’t believe it’s in my body.” Martin and Jackson slurped down oysters on the half-shell and Josh tried the sushi. Our reserved tables were next to huge windows, so we were able to monitor our progress as we left Stockholm and wound our way through the archipelago, with its 30,000 islands appearing in every shape and size.

 

After dinner we headed to the Sun Deck on the top level and enjoyed the sea breeze and beautiful views. At bedtime we determined the best plan was to get totally ready for bed, close and stow the suitcases wherever we could, then pull down the bunks and climb in…literally. Not an easy task for those of us of an age! We were sharing the hallway with an excellent Swedish high school choir on its way to Estonia for a choir competition, so we went to bed to the sound of beautiful choral music.

 

Showering in a ship’s cabin is an adventure. The entire bathroom is the shower, so where the hand-held shower head is pointing is a critical issue. We warned the kids about this and didn’t look back, so I can only imagine how that went. They can soak an entire hotel bathroom when they shower is in a bathtub. Abigail and Emma devised a method whereby you hold the showerhead in your teeth as you apply shampoo and bath gel, then transfer it to your hands for rinsing. The breakfast buffet was every bit as delicious as the dinner, and we attacked it with our usual gusto. And with that, we were in Estonia!

 

But before I take you to our Estonian adventures (and before I forget!) I must return to Stockholm! Tuesday morning we did a short sightseeing tour around Stockholm, ending at the Kungsholms Gymnasium. This is a public high school, similarly structured to our charter schools. The students apply and/or audition, and are then accepted based on their abilities. There are 800 students, ages 16-19, with 250 in the choral department. As always, our young troupe is absolutely terrified to perform in front of high school students. The only thing worse is a school full of middle-schoolers! We talked through all of their feelings and fears and agreed that we could do this. The auditorium was beautiful, both visually and acoustically, with a perfect-sized stage for us. And they took that stage and conquered. They won over those scary high-schoolers with “Colorado Song,” and never looked back.

 

As it turned out, they had nothing to worry about. It was a perfectly delightful audience, alternately listening attentively and clapping and singing along. Just before we started, I asked their director if they would know Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” He shook his head, “definitely not.” And then he shook his head again when they all gasped with pleasure at the first notes and excitedly clapped and sang along. One of my favorite moments was when the entire auditorium stood to join us in the Swedish national anthem. We had lunch at the Gymnasium, again finding some new favorite foods – white fish in a delicious cream sauce for Rhys; olives and capers for William.

 

With our first performance out of the way, we very much enjoyed our afternoon visit to the Vasa Ship Museum. Vasa, built in 1626-28 to the specifications of the King, set sail on her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628. And sank in Stockholm harbor that very same day! It seems the King may have put more priority into what the ship looked like than its sailing capabilities. That, combined with an unusually windy day, spelled doom for Vasa. The museum is beautiful, with the beautifully restored Vasa reaching up six floors at the centerpiece. It took them until the 1950’s to recover the ship and many years after that to bring it to its present condition. The museum includes exhibits about how to sail a ship of that size; what life was (or would have been!) on board; how they salvaged it; and stories of the people on board, based on their skeletons and where they were found. Several of us tried our hand at designing a ship that would both please the King and be sea and battle worthy. Ms. Burke’s boat could only sail at very slow speeds, and the King would be displeased. Clara and Audrey’s boat was 0% viable, and the King was furious and it was recommended that they flee the country immediately!

 

And with that devastating news, I will sign off and send this letter on its way. We are off to Turku tomorrow with a long travel day, first by ferry to Helsinki, then by bus to Turku.

 

These children are amazing!

Debbie DeSantis

“Hej” from Stockholm, Sweden! We know that National Tour Choir has only been gone away from home for a little less than 48 hours now, but the wifi connection at our accommodations in Stockholm is so strong we thought we’d share a sneak peak into what a difference 48 hours can make on a Colorado Children’s Chorale tour. One more performance in Stockholm tomorrow, and then it’s off to Tallinn, Estonia (via ferry across the Baltic Sea) for more music-making and some sight-seeing. Keep checking the blog and Facebook for more updates throughout the week.

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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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