Dear families and friends,
Well, it seems like one minute I am all caught up and the next thing I know I have a several letters of stories, music, experiences, laughter and tears to write about. It is now Saturday morning and we are, unbelievably, on our way home already! Since you last heard from us we have had two days filled with emotion. This is the last tour for our eighth-grade and voice change graduates, so there have been many “lasts.” The last workshop; the last school show; the last time to put formalwear away; the last performance; the last journal entry; the last “happy study” song; the last night in the hotel; the list goes on and on. And I’ll get to the graduating prank in a moment, but will blame any errors in this letter on a MAJOR lack of sleep, thank you very much!
If you have never been to the Montrose/Ridgeway/Ouray area, start planning your vacation now. Known as the “Switzerland of the Rockies,” it lives up to its nickname at every turn. It is BEAUTIFUL here! The mountains are stunning, rising sharply out of the town of Ouray, with snow-covered cliffs and jaggedy ledges towering over us at the end of every street. This morning we are driving from Montrose to the Royal Gorge, across Blue Mesa and now over Monarch Pass. There is MAJOR beauty at EVERY o-clock!
We spent all day Thursday in Montrose, with a morning workshop and performance at the elementary school, and afternoon workshop and performance at the middle school. Middle school performances are a bit scary for the kids, though the anticipation is always WAY worse than the reality. Revann ended up with one broken-leg-buddy and one sprained-ankle-buddy. No problem. They were front and center, and when everyone else went down to their knees for “Do Re Mi,” all three proudly remained standing, sort-of-marching, with huge smiles. Way to go, Revann! Michael’s two buddies were quite determined NOT to enjoy the workshop, but with positive determination Michael had them engaged in no time. Bravo, Michael!
Thursday night at the Montrose Pavilion we were joined by over 100 third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The younger kids sang “Monkeys in the House” with us, and the sixth graders “Laduma.” We filled the stage with joy and music, and there was not a dry eye in the house. Thomas and Paige were both thrilled to see their grandparents in the audience; Melissa’s uncle was there; and Devin’s parents and grandmother surprised him. NTC’s performances get better every time, though I am never sure how they’re going to top themselves. They are singing so musically, dancing with precision and sending so much joy out to the audience; that joy comes right back to us many times over. And I get to stand in the middle! We have been trading off storm control in “Laduma,” with Nikolas, Melissa and Andrea giving Aaron and Kent a break. Mr. Branam has added the rain stick to “Beside Still Waters.” Caden, Aaron and Nikolas wow the audience every time with their drumming. “The Skylark Song,” sung a cappella with ease, gets prettier every time they sing it, and we are surely going to miss the entire South African set, as are our audiences. I am quite sure that people are “Steppin’ Out” all over the western slope today!
Both Ridgway and Ouray came out in full force to greet us. They are small, but mighty. Following a workshop in Ouray, we did a performance for the entire school, K-12, all 180 of them! In Ridgway, we worked with all 19 third graders. They were very excited, as was their music teacher, who teaches K-12 choral and instrumental. With only 19 buddies, rows three and four are left with nothing to do during a workshop. Ever inventive, they came up with a new and improved choreography for “Do Re Mi,” which will be premiered May 7th at graduation – you don’t want to miss this! We went to the secondary school for lunch and rocked the cafeteria, then the sixth grade P.E. class, with a flash-mob of “Tshotsholoza.” This school is new and beautiful, with a rock-climbing wall like no other. You definitely see the entire community revolving around the school here, common in many communities this size.
Last night’s concert, at the Wright Opera House in Ouray, was practically perfect in every way. Charming old opera house (scheduled for renovation soon, thanks to funding from History Colorado), a full-to-the-rafters-and-out-the-door house, about 40 workshop kids from both Ridgway and Ouray, and an emotionally charged NTC at the top of their game and eager to make this last performance memorable for all, especially our 2012 graduates: Greg, Devin, Chris, Nikolas, Caden, Aaron, Brendan, Michael, Kenny, Kent, Thomas, Revann, Andrea, Cait, Lauren, Blaise, Kate, Sarah R., Madi, Madeline, Jayda, Kellie, Sarah F., and Melissa. And that they did. More than a few tears were shed, from audience, performers, accompanist, and conductor alike. Surprise audience member included Jayda, Revann, and Kent’s moms.
As with many a “charming old” venue, dressing room space was a challenge. From backstage, down the steepest, longest metal stairway I’ve ever seen, next door and up the oldest, splinteriest wooden stairway, into a small apartment – girls splitting into the two tiny bedrooms; boys in the living/kitchen area – with no warm-up space. What would life on tour be without at least one dressing room/warm-up challenge!! No problem for this group of intrepid, experienced tour-ers. South Africa TC had several stories that could top this one. We trooped up to the dressing room, back down, uuuuuuuuuuup to the stage, back dooooooooooooowwwwwwn, up to the dressing room, back down…well, you get the idea!
Our sponsors, the Ouray Performing Arts District and Mt. Sneffles Education Foundation, were thrilled with the entire residency, immediately extending an invitation to return “as soon as possible.” Sue, the OPAD representative in charge of us for the day, made arrangements with the Ouray Hot Springs Pool to stay open late…just for us. A HUGE hot springs pool, cool evening air, the aforementioned cliffs and bluffs beautifully backlit by bright stars and moon, all to ourselves, equals…ahhhhhhhhhh. We stayed in the water until a little after ten, showered at the pool than enjoyed a sort-of-quiet bus ride back to Montrose. Ten minutes to lights out and night-night.
Not. I walked the hallways for what I thought was the final time, put on my pajamas, and then decided to run down to Ms. Smith’s room to check something for today…okay, and maybe see if she had a midnight snack…and rounded the corner to see/hear HALF OF NTC RUNNING INTO HER ROOM! After shoving them all in and trying my best to glare at ALL of the 2012 graduating class, Jordan and Ms. Smith, we settled in for a gummy bear and Twix snack, with many frantically whispered explanations about needing a little “late-night walk.” What??? We chatted a bit more, then I LAID DOWN THE LAW, which clearly means NOTHING to the rest of the staff, and we endeavored to get everyone back to their rooms without waking the entire hotel. No easy task, as there were two BIG dogs living on the first floor and every time anyone walked by their room they barked like crazy. We did it though. Down the hall, up the stairs and into five rooms on the first floor and five more on the second with nary a bark. And it was only 12:15. A.M.
And six VERY SHORT hours later, the staff was up to start Saturday. Kids up at 7am, breakfast at 7:30, load the bus at 8. I sent my boys with Mrs. Proffitt’s girls, then stopped by the office to turn in keys. When I got out to the bus, suitcases were loaded, but everyone was standing outside. “C’mon, Mrs. DeSantis, you have to go first so you can count us.” Hmmmmmm. I should have known. I stepped on to the happiest bus I have ever seen. There were balloons, in every size and color, EVERYWHERE!!! It was incredible. It seems the “late night” consisted of more hot air than “walk.” I still don’t know how they blew up those balloons that fast. Everybody fought their way on the bus and we had the best balloon “fight” ever. It was truly glorious! You’ll have to be sure to check out the Chorale blog, or Facebook page to see the chaos. Once we were on the road, we spent the morning signing balloons and sending them up and down the aisles, popping more than a few along the way, though you wouldn’t know that now – there are still 100+ balloons on this bus!
This event, of course, prompted another journal entry. We still had some map work to do, and a very few are still working on some homework. We made it to the Royal Gorge in time for lunch and a nice walk-about across the bridge to lunch, up the hill to the miner’s camp, then back to the carousel. Except for the wind, it was a very pleasant lunch break.
We are now back on the bus, have taken a power nap, and we’re attempting to do some damage control with popped balloons and a week’s worth of living. The journal signing ritual is in full swing, complete with Mr. Koriath’s journal-writing song, as I wrap up this letter. We will get everyone’s homework back in their backpack and it will hopefully make it to school completed on Monday. We have definitely missed the DVD player today, but we manage to keep busy. This family has traveled many miles, not too far from home, but it really doesn’t matter. The important experiences are the same wherever, or no matter how far, we go. And I wouldn’t trade these experiences, or the opportunity to share them with these amazing young ladies and gentlemen for anything!
Over and out with NTC; on the road Monday with RTC.
Tired but happy,