In the midst of all the singing and sight-seeing of National Tour, our fearless leader Debbie DeSantis (or “Mama D” as she is also known) chronicles the trip in her famous “On the Road with Tour Choir” letters. She sends the letters to parents, Board Members, and friends of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. We are excited to post those letters here at the Chorale Connection for the first time
(above, we have the photos from Day 3, as our bus traveled from Sheridan, Wyoming to Spokane, Washington).
ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #1 (April 21)
Dear families and friends,
On the road again and life is good! We are smack in the middle of Wyoming, looking out over vast expanses of green dotted with ranches, cattle, pronghorn, and the occasional cowboy, jackalope, buffalo and triceratops on bluffs overlooking the highway. (If you’ve ever driven through Wyoming, you know what I’m talkin’ about!) All with a surreal looking backdrop of beautiful mountains alternately sitting under a blanket of puffy clouds, poking through the fog, or backlit by the elusive sun.
The staff was in the east parking lot of the Chorale office at 7:00am this morning, ready and waiting for THE BUS. A shiny, brand-spanking-new, Arrow Bus Lines coach complete with our old friend Andrew at the wheel and…drum roll here…SEAT BELTS, drum roll #2…A REAR WINDOW so that we can see the sights at 6:00, that new-bus smell, and various other toys that even Andrew has yet to discover!
National Tour Choir started arriving shortly after all of our stuff was loaded – trunks with extra clothes in every size/color and garment bags full of formalwear (thank you Mrs. Fisher); school, office, medical and nap supplies (thank you Ms. Smith); and various staff gotta-have-it-because-we’re-going-to-be-living-on-a-bus-for-12-days items. Mrs. Proffitt, tour tutor, was busy organizing school boxes and preparing to meet her 36 young scholars while Mr. Branam and Grads Shannon and Micah provided the muscle power. A true team effort if there ever was one.
After many hugs, kisses, words of advice, a few warnings and some discreet tears, we began piling on the bus. Did I mention it’s BRAND NEW and shiny gold and blue??! Everyone sat down with the person they felt would be their ideal study buddy, and with only some minor adjustments to that plan, we were on the way. (I’ll keep you updated as to the success of the kids choosing their own study buddies!) There was only one moment of panic as we headed out of town, north on I-25, when Ms. Smith, or Smithers, as she has since been dubbed, couldn’t locate her cell phone. I know, I know…why is Smithers allowed to HAVE a cell phone, you ask. Well, as the tour manager, she is responsible for all of our lodging, arrangements with sponsors, and most importantly, FOOD. She has spent many hours these past months making sure that every detail for our tour has been attended to. Her work continues as we travel and she calls ahead to make sure everything is in order. Especially the food. So, losing her cell phone is not a small matter. After much searching, reorganizing her backpack, tour box, pockets, lamenting that it was probably on the counter in the bathroom…back in the office…she found it down between the seats of the bus. Crisis #1 averted.
We quickly settled in, stowing school books in the overhead compartments and investigating the contents of everyone else’s backpack – who has the best games, books, cards, magazines, hand sanitzer, etc. We logged in the meds brought by the kids, with the boys winning(?) that contest 12-1. The overhead compartments on this new bus are configured a bit differently than what we’re used to, so we had a bit of a challenge with our custom made boxes. Grady wins the prize for bringing the most school books and related items; Michael wins for bringing the least. Fortunately, they are study buddies and can share a box! John has a brand new white hat, with appropriately cool sun glasses, and the staff is taking bets on what color that hat will be in ten days or so. Nikolas has an awesome travel tic-tac-toe and hangman game. The girls have various magazines with SWEET pictures of GORGEOUS HUNKS that conveniently pull out and open into AWESOME POSTERS – which are now adorning the back of the bus, much to the TOTAL DISGUST of every male.
Before we knew it, Mr. Branam was leading the ohhhhhhhhhhhh-WYOMING crescendo and we knew the tour had truly begun. The Chugwater rest area provided a welcome relief stop, including a walking/skipping jaunt in, around and over the concrete picnic tables and benches. We dived into our homework, some bravely, some holding their noses and wiggling the whole way, with yummy poppyseed muffins from Hannah’s mom to sustain us. The find-your-name-on-a-sign challenge began in earnest, with the following duly recorded: Sidney, WY (sometimes we have to allow for creative spelling!); Warren AFB; Johnson, WY; Jason A. Longbaugh, Realtor; Knapp Electrical; Papa Murphy’s; Smith’s Groceries; New York Store; Bryan White, CPA; Whitney St., Sheridan; Wells Fargo; “This door too short for Micah” (on the door of the dressing room in the WYO Theater; Mike’s Electric; O. Nelson, Sheridan; Sophia, a bulletin board in the Sheridan YMCA.
Rest stop #2 and lunch outside of Douglas, and it was cold and windy – a typical Wyoming day, we’re told. Between the weather and the septic tank-emptying that happened to coincide with our lunch, we were back on the bus in record time. It doesn’t take long on a CCC tour bus for the singing to begin, and the first song of the day was “We are the World,” accompanied by Mr. Branam’s rockin’ vocal percussion. A nap, some study time, and, POOF– we were in Sheridan!
We arrived at the WYO Theater on Main St. in downtown Sheridan right on schedule, with about an hour to spare before the Sheridan County Children’s and Youth Chorale arrived for a workshop. The theater is a beautifully restored old movie house with nice natural acoustics, a stage made for Tour Choir and a 550-seat house. The stars were in alignment for a perfect first show of the tour! We spent the hour preparing for our first night in host families. Pink slips, with staff phone numbers, in the front right pocket of you pants; green slips, with bedtime and tomorrow’s instructions, in the front pocket of your backpack; a list of don’t’s (how you spell that??) including skateboarding, roller-blading, trampolines, horse-back riding, airplane flying, web-surfing, phone-calling, suitcase exploding, general craziness, etc.; and a list of do’s including eat what’s served, play with the kids, fun-facts about Sheridan, be polite, get up when called, make your bed, call if you need anything, HAVE FUN, and did I say CALL IF YOU NEED ANYTHING?? Last year’s Regional Tour Choir did homestays in Ft. Morgan, so they were the old hands at this and ready to go, assuring returning NTC buddies that all would be well.
The Sheridan choir had learned “A Child of Song” and “Monkeys in the House” to perform with us. They were fantastic. We’ve done repeated residences there in the past 25 years, and Tami Davis, their director, modeled this choir after the CCC. She’s done a marvelous job. The kids were engaged and engaging, just like some kids I know! We had a great time and ended up learning “Pasta” as well. Following the workshop, the host families, most with kids in the Sheridan County Chorale, were anxiously waiting to meet their young guests. I think the host families are probably almost as anxious as our kids in this situation. Of course, they don’t know what we know, that they are about to meet the most delightful young ladies and gentlemen they’ve ever encountered!
And off to homestays they go! This is always a difficult moment for me. As nice as it is to enjoy a leisurely, quiet, uneventful dinner, I spend the entire evening with my heart skipping a beat every time the phone rings. Only one call tonight – a host mom wondering if she could give Adrian a Tylenol for his headache. I talked to Adrian, who had already determined that he should have had more water throughout the day, authorized the Tylenol, and thanked his “mom” for taking such good care of him.
And with that, the staff settled in for a quiet night’s sleep at the Trail’s End Motel…right on top of the railroad tracks. If anyone is interested in the overnight train schedule through Sheridan, we’re here for you.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out the CCC blog at www.choraleconnection.wordpress.org. Mr. Branam’s sister, journalist Mandy Branam, is blogging her way along the tour with us, taking pictures and posting daily both to the blog and the CCC fan page. She’s having a lot of fun, and so are we!
P.P.S. to Adrian’s mom: He slept like a log all night, arrived the next morning headache-free, and is doing great!