As promised, in today’s slideshow, there are more photos from the final performance in Caldwell, Idaho. Also in the slideshow are several photos from our last sightseeing stop of the tour, a visit to the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise. The kids had a chance to act out different scenarios that have affected birds of prey. As you can probably imagine (especially if you are a CCC parent!) the kids were pretty good actors and actresses. Our tour guide was impressed with not only their acting skills, but how well-behaved the kids were. That’s no surprise to anyone who hangs around this group!
After the slideshow is the fifth and final tour letter from Mrs. DeSantis. It’s long, but full of the good stuff that has made this tour so memorable over the last few days. Enjoy the letter and the photos, and we’ll see you in Denver on Sunday!
ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #5 (April 30)
Dear families and friends,
It is Friday afternoon, and we are happily ensconced in the Jewett Auditorium on the campus of the College of Idaho in Caldwell. This is our last opportunity for studying in a chair, with room to spread out and not worry about bouncing books and flying pencils. Wait…that didn’t sound very good. Andrew is really an excellent driver, but when the bus is moving, well, things happen!
We had lunch today at the dining hall here on campus, and it was a treat. Mongolian BBQ, baked halibut or chicken and vegetables, salads, pizza, deli sandwiches, burgers, soup, you name it. And all we could eat! We don’t perform until 7:30 tonight, so soft drinks and ice cream were on the menu as well. As we walked back to the hall, there was much talk about what college might be like and if every college had food this good. The consensus was “probably not.” Based on what, I’m not sure, but everyone seemed to agree that the food here was far superior to any other college cafeteria they had experienced.
We have been in Caldwell since yesterday afternoon, and before that we were a day in Hermiston, OR. That was Wednesday, in case you are as confused as I am. We definitely live in our own little bubble here on tour, never quite knowing what day it is or where we are. We happily go from show to studying to playing to napping to eating and on to the next show. Anyway, I digress…as usual… Back to Wednesday. We drove through snow as we went over the mountains from Washington into Oregon, then dropped down into Hermiston, passing rolling hills carpeted with the brightest yellow flowers you’ve ever seen. The scenery has been absolutely stunning on this tour – we’ve seen everything from the plains, over the mountains to the ocean and back. No lack of sketching opportunities here!
Dinner in Hermiston was a leisurely event at the Panda Inn, a full Chinese buffet. We checked into the Oxford Inn and alternated swimming and homework – boys to swimming/girls to homework, then the big switch. If we had all attempted to swim at the same time, we would have filled the pool wall to wall with nowhere to move. After splashing one another silly, the boys explored many ways to play keep-away, or football or something/anything that involved screaming and trying to wrestle an object (wet towel or Vaughn’s flip flop) out of someone’s hands, the more boys involved in the wrestling huddle, the better. I rescued Vaughn’s flip flop, which had earlier been in the freezer in their hotel room. I don’t know why; ask Jeremy or Jason or Brian. Fortunately it was the girls’ turn to swim before someone drowned or there was no water left in the pool. Girls just float around calmly, chatting and occasionally splashing – wonderfully pleasant! With lights out at 9:00, the norm for a non-performance night, all was quiet on the western front by 9:30. We slept in until after 8am, then down to a huge (French toast!) breakfast buffet in the lobby. We were able to stay in the breakfast area for some study time and map work on the tables, and then headed for the bus to start our day.
The bus. Wednesday morning. Sign on the door: “Welcome to the 8th Grade Girls Dream Bus.” Posters, every size and color. Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Liam Hemsworth. Plastered on the windows, the backs of chairs, hanging from the ceiling, EVERYWHERE. So…when?? How?? Why?? While the boys were swimming. With the help of (and encouragement from, I might add) Ms. Smith and Andrew. And evidently, just because. The boys are MAD. I’m not sure what they want more, the pictures to disappear or REVENGE. For the record, the 8th grade girls are: Makenzie, Makayla, Jennifer, Anna, Hillary, Molly, Whitney, Michelle, Tulley, Andi, Sydney, Kathryn, Zoe and Hannah. Stay tuned.
We were hosted by the Desert Arts Council in Hermiston, and kicked off the residency with a workshop for 60+ third graders in the Hermiston High School Performing Arts Theater. They were very excited and we had a marvelous time – “Monkeys in the House” and “Do Re Mi” as usual. The theater looked brand new, with state of the art lights and sound. We didn’t really need the sound, but the tech gave us a little “boost and warmth” and it was great. We’ve had full grand pianos in every theater so far, which makes both Mr. Koriath and me quite happy.
The school show was full of 500+ kids from West Park Elementary and we were told more than once that it was “awesome.” School shows are the best part of my job. 500 kids in the audience, the most talented, amazing performers on stage, and me in the middle. I can just stand there and feel the energy circle around me. The more exuberant our kids are, the more excited the audience gets, which flows right back to our kids, then bounces back to the audience, and ‘round and ‘round it goes.
We hit a nearby park for swinging, climbing, spinning, running and an impromptu game of baseball, with a tape ball (thanks Mr. Branam) and a stick. Orcas vs. Rockies. No winner declared; major fun had by all. After naps and dinner (homemade lasagna, breadsticks and salad cooked and served by the high school Home Economics — or whatever it’s called these days — class) we had some time before the show so we did some poetry readings. Some poets wish to share their own words, adding the perfect drama and setting, including background music from the Koriath Ensemble, while others prefer to remain anonymous, letting someone else be their voice. Anna presented a lovely, vivid description of a forest. Grady’s wonderfully rhyming, “Some fancy cars, a giant bear, it looks like we’re on Mars…” missive about Carr’s Museum perfectly captured the essence of Mr. Carr’s collection and spirit. We were all impressed by the depth, expression and insight displayed in each poem – some obviously matching the author’s personality, and others showing us a side of someone we perhaps hadn’t noticed before. As appropriate at any authentic poetry reading, we snapped our understanding and approval. A few Haiku examples, for your enjoyment:
Gentle lofty clouds
Meander through the sky.
Not a single care.
Washington is green.
It is green because of trees.
Trees do not taste good.
That’s a pretty plant —
I wonder what it could be!
My legs are itchy…
(Note to all: No, we did not encounter any poison ivy…but we could have!)
With wonderful inspiration and feeling very lofty and artistic, we knocked off community concert #3 in style! It was a small audience, which was a little disappointing after the last two full houses, but we delivered a great show and they were enthusiastically appreciative.
Back to the Oxford Suites and in bed as quickly as possible, because Thursday was an early morning – rise and shine, breakfast, and on the bus by 7am. We really can’t complain, as this is the earliest morning we’ve had the entire tour. Hermiston to Caldwell, Idaho, arriving in time for lunch, workshop and school show at Washington Elementary School. And then our second host family adventure.
We are hosted in Caldwell by the Caldwell Fine Arts Society, a group sponsored by the College of Idaho and the school system, and consisting of older community members. Instead of host “moms and dads” with young children, these are host “grandmas and grandpas!” The evening was spent in a variety of fashions. Zoe, Molly, Makenzie and Andi roasted marshmallows over a bonfire. Thomas, Zach, Brian and Adrian had a round-a-bout in their basement (I just report what I hear), perfect for a giant game of hide and seek. Sammi and Banjo had six host siblings…and a kitten. Zac, Nikolas, Jalena and Sophia went swimming in the hot springs pool. Whitney and Tulley stayed with Whitney’s cousin, and they went to her little cousin’s recorder concert. Sydney, Kathryn, Hannah and Makayla’s family had an older child with cerebral palsy, and they spent the evening visiting, playing games and watching movies with her. Jeremy and Jason played ping pong and noticed a room in the basement with SIX closed doors – “We’re going to open them tonight!” – or not.
And we have come full circle. A workshop, school performance, the aforementioned lunch and study time, naps, an additional poetry reading and we’re ready for dinner and the last performance of the tour. There will no doubt be some tears behind those bright smiles, from 36 extraordinary performers as well as one very proud and humbled conductor.
MAY DAY, MAY DAY!!
No, we’re not in distress. It’s May 1st, and we are on our way to Evanston, WY, mid-way across Idaho.
When I stopped writing yesterday, we had just finished studying, caught up to ourselves on the map, and continued our poetry readings. Mrs. Proffitt led the kids through some very thought-provoking exercises on writing, reading, and listening to poetry, and then we snapped our way through several readings. If you have been faithfully reading these letters (I am SURE you’ve not missed a word, waiting impatiently for each new edition!), you will have noticed that the end of the whale watching adventure was left a bit abruptly, with you, the reader, perhaps wondering exactly what happened during the squall. I now submit “the rest of the story,” as expressed by one of our young poets:
Excited, going whale watching
of whales eating drinking
On island Shop
Back on boat
going into storm
get back inside
still had great time
And that’s…the rest of the story.
The concert last night was all I expected and more. With over 250 audience members, 30+ workshop kids and 36 emotionally charged performers on stage, it was a great evening. The music was glorious, the smiles wide, the energy exploding, the tears just below the surface but in check, and the ovations long and loud. The graduating class proudly took its last bow and everyone reluctantly headed off to their homestays, with the promise of plenty of time for tears and memories the next two days on the bus, and one more hotel stay together.
As usual, this morning’s farewells were long. As I thanked each host family, I was treated to a long list of accolades, disbelief and admiration regarding their young guests. They just could not get over how perfectly polite and pleasant all of the kids were, what a delightful time they had with them, and what an honor it was to host them. We have many new friends and admirers in Caldwell, Idaho. We headed to Boise and the World Center for Birds of Prey – located on Flying Hawk Lane, of course. Remember Steve, the owl who is accompanying us on tour – with the photo shoots on the streets of Sheridan? He has been looking forward to this visit today, hoping to find his long-lost siblings. As we walked through the gift shop on our way into the displays, we knew success would be his. And that this would be a very profitable day for the World Center for Birds of Prey! We met Lucy, a well-trained turkey vulture. She preened and flew and chewed on her trainers fingers. She eyed our cameras and shiny white tennis shoes. But she was quite well-behaved, only straying once when she tried to attack Micah’s backpack, which was fortunately on the floor, not her back. Today’s quote of the day, when asked what you think of when you hear about a turkey vulture: “Thanksgiving.”
After several dramatizations with both staff and kids as actors – I think our docent was a frustrated director — we followed migration paths of the turkey vulture, peregrine falcon, owl and bald eagle, looked at bird eggs from the size of a marble to a basketball, and finally, THE GIFT SHOP. We now have 36 kids plus at least 100 stuffed birds of prey on the bus. Steve seems to have found his siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and all of their neighbors.
Lunch today was at Chuck-A-Rama Buffet in Boise. It was the best buffet we’ve had, but they really need to rethink the name. We consumed everything white in sight, with a bit of something colorful in between. There was a little boy, probably in 2nd grade, and his family sitting near us and he kept waving and smiling at me. Finally he said, “I know you. You came to my school at Washington!” Washington was one of the elementary schools where we performed in Caldwell. He had told his mother he knew us, and she didn’t believe him because she could see that we were from Colorado, thanks to 36 matching fleece jackets. But he was positive, and he was right! Zach still had one of the bracelets we give to workshop buddies, so he went over, said hello and gave him the bracelet. He was thrilled.
We’re working to get all of the homework done today so that tomorrow we can rest. It is Sunday, after all. Many are finished and reading for pleasure. Alex has two James Patterson novels, and is currently engrossed in “Maximum Ride,” and Brendan is reading “Anne of Green Gables.” Alec is working on the sequel to the novel he wrote on last year’s tour. I’m headed back to read the first chapter just as soon as I finish this letter. Hayden and John are TOTALLY FINISHED with ALL OF THEIR WORK and BOOOOORED! They are now quietly playing cards. Kent, Michael and several others are trying to finish up the last of their math. There is a pool at the hotel tonight, so we can work out the school-on-the-bus kinks. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve heard rumors that the graduating boys are planning their REVENGE attack for sometime tonight. Something involving black markers and scissors. For the record, the graduating boys are: Nick, Adrian, John, Zach, Jeremy, and Vaughn.
Everyone has been remarkably healthy on this tour. The occasional scratchy throat, headache, upset tummy – all easily cured with a hug and something from the med bag. We did five workshops, five school shows, four evening community performances, and no one missed a beat, including Mr. Koriath who has expertly played on everything from a Steinway Grand to an old upright that wasn’t tall enough for his knees.
By the time we get home, we will have traveled through seven states, with Mr. Branam leading the border-crossing-crescendo with more gusto each time, and several thousands of miles. The kids are tallying, but I’ll cheat and get the final mileage count from Andrew when we pull into the parking lot. Andrew, Shannon and Micah have loaded and unloaded 44 suitcases 15 times and passed out 36 snacks 24 times. You do the math. Ms. Smith, or Smithers, as she is now known, has arranged for36 meals and six hotel stays. Mrs. Proffitt has tracked homework from 29 different schools. Ms. Branam has taken hundreds of photos and faithfully blogged about all of our comings and goings. We’ve seen sunshine, wind, rain, snow, more wind, a squall and more wind…and more wind…as we traversed mountains, plains and waterways. 36 intrepid Colorado ambassadors have won the hearts of everyone they have encountered. And one conductor’s heart is bursting with pride and satisfaction.
Watch for the next edition of ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR, coming next week when Regional Tour Choir takes northern Colorado by storm. Well, not literally, we hope. Here’s to spring!!!