ON THE ROAD WITH FESTIVAL SINGERS #2
June 30, 2010
Dear families and friends,
I sat next to the Duchess at tea…no, wait…it was the QUEEN…and we weren’t having tea, but she was on her way to tea and….WE SAW THE QUEEN, and we have the pictures to prove it!!!
Sorry, I got a little excited there, but really…WE SAW THE QUEEN!! It’s now Wednesday evening, day five of our Festival Singers adventure. And what an adventure it’s been! I think I’ll start with today, just because it was so much fun, then I’ll go back and catch you up with yesterday…which is really boring, because today WE SAW THE QUEEN!!!
It started like any old tour day. Wake up; shower; get dressed; call the kids; circle through their rooms; make sure everyone is up, has their bed made and they’re wearing the correct clothes; down to breakfast, which, by the way, is quite delicious and plentiful; back up to the rooms to brush our teeth and grab our backpacks; and out the door to the bus. I believe I introduced you to Phyl, our UNISONG host in letter #1. She is a dynamo. In her words, “I’m ALWAYS number 1.” That works for us! She has claimed the #1 bus, we are first in line for every meal, and she seems to have first-hand info for every activity. Our Bus #1 driver is Sheila. We are in good hands with these two ladies!
We had our fourth rehearsal this morning – you miss a lot when you miss one day, eh??! We were back to the Dominion Chalmers Church for our final rehearsal with Mr. Fagan before we were to meet Maestro Zuckerman and the orchestra later this afternoon. It was a looooooong one. No longer than what our kids are accustomed to, but without any movement and a bit slower paced than we like. But, troopers that they are, they had no problem. That French is now rolling off their tongues like they were born in Quebec, and everything was easily memorized by noon yesterday. Following this rehearsal, we jumped on the bus where lunch was waiting, and headed to Parliament Hill for today’s mini-performance in the Parliament Building rotunda. We were first, of course, and sang “Witness” and “Swingin’ with the Saints.” Acoustics in a rotunda are like no other, and we quite enjoyed the sound as it spun around us.
We left immediately following our set, as we had an appointment to tour the Parliament Building. We talked about skipping our tour and zipping over to the National Arts Center to try and see the Queen at the dedication ceremony of the Oscar Peterson sculpture. We decided that would be a fruitless effort, as we were told the crowds would be huge and we probably wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near. So, a’touring the Parliament Building we went. Our guide was excellent, and the kids, as usual, were very attentive, asking extremely intelligent and thoughtful questions. We had to stop them, as we knew Sheila was waiting for us, with the bus parked on a street where she couldn’t wait long. When we got to the bus, we piled on and, for lack of anything else to do at the moment, we decided to ride around a bit, with Ms. Burke acting as tour guide. Her brother and his family live in Ottawa, so she is quite familiar with the area. We passed the National Gallery and several embassies, the home of the Prime Minister, then came to Rideau House, official home of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada.
When we came around the corner, we noticed a few people lined up along the drive up to the main gates, with palace guards on either side. It’s a beautiful estate, plus we hated to pass up the opportunity to try to get the guards to smile or talk to us. Sheila pulled down the block and parked the bus. Then we started to see more people gathering along the drive. Something was clearly about to come down! We joined the others lining the drive as more police and black suits began appearing out of nowhere. Then a helicopter, sirens, motorcade and…HER ROYAL HIGHNESS, THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND, right in front of us. She looked regal, indeed, offering a white-gloved hand in a royal wave. Everyone snapped pictures and videos, not quite believing what we were actually seeing. When she passed through the gates, we gathered around one of the guards and sang “Duchess,” then continued our efforts to crack them, to no avail. We did get lots of good pictures, however. Be sure and check our blog at www.choraleconnection.wordpress.com to see all the fun!
Back to reality. As I mentioned above, we had our first rehearsal in the hall at the National Arts Centre with Maestro Zuckerman and the orchestra this afternoon. It went very well, Maestro Zuckerman conducting two of the songs, including “O Canada,” of course. He issued a special welcome to the “Colorado kids,” seemingly quite pleased that we are here. We do have a special connection there, as Duain Wolfe, Chorale founder, is the chorus director here in Ottawa and regularly collaborates with the Maestro. Mr. Wolfe evidently told him his favorite kids would be here and Maestro Zuckerman wanted to be sure and say hello. It’s a small world, eh?!
Fast forward to Thursday morning, and HAPPY CANADA DAY!! We are now sitting backstage at the National Arts Centre, waiting to line up for our first concert. The kids are all festively dressed in white pants, red UNISONG Festival t-shirts, pins and Canadian flags. The white pants-shirt tucked in-white closed toe shoes requirement was no problem for us, but is proving to be a bit of a challenge for some of the other choirs, especially the high schoolers. At the moment everyone is visiting and playing happily together, but I feel a bit of tension in the air among the festival directors. I believe there may be a tuck-in rebellion. The kids are playing hand games and getting to know one another, mostly because OUR kids have take the lead, introducing themselves and endeavoring to meet as many new friends as possible. This is one of those moments when I wish you were all here to see this. They are the talk of the festival, not only for their musical prowess and polish, but because they are so polite, friendly and quick to join in any group, older or younger. We have been so proud of them. Whitney, Ari and Tulley are handing out their “business” cards and Chorale pins to any and all; Christina and Devin are teaching hand games to new young friends; and Alex and Henry are quite popular with the Medicine Hat ladies.
Last night we enjoyed a BBQ, in spite of the “partly cloudy with scattered showers,” in the City Hall Festival Plaza. All the hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and pasta salad we could eat, with ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Then one last rehearsal that was blessedly cut short, leaving plenty of time for the WATER PARK, when the SLIDE WAS OPEN! Again, we’re not talking Water World here. It actually took a special talent to work up some speed on the slide, but John, Brian and Nick mastered it nicely, looking like the USA luge team as they shot out at the bottom. We stayed up shockingly late, with lights out at 10pm.
Okay, back to Tuesday. After our usual bountiful breakfast, we rehearsed again at Dominion Chalmers Church, then ate a box lunch on our way to the National Arts Centre and our first individual performances. Since our Tuesday evening concert was in a church, we decided to do some less formal/more fun repertoire at the noon concert – all seven minutes worth! “Isn’t That Something,” “Humpty Dumpty,” and, of course, “Colorado Song.” As predicted, they were rock stars!
We spent Tuesday afternoon at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canada’s national museum of social and human history. From the Grand Hall with its looming totem poles representing the Aboriginal peoples of the west coast, to the First People’s Hall, and then to Canada Hall which travels through 1,000 years of Canadian history with life-size environments and actors bringing the history to life, it was a most pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Mrs. Crile’s staff group (Ari, Tulley, Anna, Andi, Brian, Jayda and Devin) witnessed a labor strike, joining in the Solidarity Forever chant. This museum houses a terrific children’s museum, with activities geared for younger children…or our children. This is when you realize they ARE still children and they loved every inch of this museum. My group eagerly searched for passport stamps. Ms. Burke’s crew took over the theater, complete with costumes and masks, for a rendition of “Humpty Dumpty.” Many photos were taken on camels, in the British phone booth, in the giant bus and working the land in several different countries. Like any good museum, this one also had a great gift shop. John found the perfect pencil case for his sister. Whitney, Ari and Tulley bought Canada shoelaces, and Panteli continued his plan to wear the most Canadian gear at one time with the purchase of a wool toque.
By this time, we were all quite tired, and with about 45 minutes until dinner we pulled the shades in all of the hotel rooms and everyone was snoring within minutes. Just what the doctor ordered! Tuesday night was our longest individual concert, 30 minutes at the Parkdale United Church, a beautiful little neighborhood church with wonderful acoustics. We did all of last season’s favorites, from “A Prayer” to “Witness,” and ending with “Swingin’ with the Saints,” to a very small but appreciative audience. We were quite proud of our Festival Singers. They sang this concert with commitment and care, and we’re kind of wishing we had another week of touring and more or our own concerts. They were fabulous!
We shared Tuesday evening’s with our new friends from Victoria, the St. Patrick’s Elementary School choir – only 14 strong, but they sing beautifully and with a sweet earnestness. Royce’s mom and aunt, and Michelle’s mom were in the audience, along with Ms. Burke’s brother, sister-in-law, nephew and wife and her great niece and nephew, little Rowan and Declan. They sat in the front row, perfectly behaved and cute as can be – clearly taking after their Great Aunt!
It is now Thursday, just before dinner, and the kids are packing and napping before the final concert of the tour. This morning was a full choral concert, all eleven of our new, favorite Canadian folk songs – they’re growing on us! And we are quite adept at “O Canada” now. The concert went well, with probably 1,000 people in the audience. After the concert we headed into the streets to check out the action and grab some lunch. These people know how to celebrate! The streets around the National Arts Centre and Parliament Hall were teeming with people. The queen is still in town and her royal subjects were lined up 10-12 deep to catch a glimpse of the motorcade. We just wandered on by, trying not to gloat about yesterday!
Shopping update: Old Navy is the place to be on Canada Day, with all Canada t-shirts going for $5. You won’t be able to miss us when we arrive at DIA! Stephen and Michael have expanded their collection of action figures. Patrick has a new key chain that says “Patrick” in Canadian…just kidding…it says “Patrick” in English, of course! Christina discovered the wonders of Fruits and Passions, the Canadian equivalent of Bath and Body Works. Maddie hearts Ottawa and Makenzie hearts Montreal.
I could go on and on, and I will, in a post-tour post! It is now early Friday morning and we are donning our new duds and getting ready to head south. We apologize for the lack of photos, but for some reason we’ve been unable to download them while we’ve been here. Ms. Smith promises to remedy that problem sometime this weekend, so check back in early and often.
Happy Fourth of July!!