ON THE ROAD WITH FESTIVAL SINGERS
June 22, 2012
Dear families and friends,
Day five, and life is good here on tour!! We spent the morning hiking around lago di Anterselva/Ankholz Lake in the neighboring village of Anterselva, just down the road from our hotel. I simply cannot adequately describe the beauty of this valley. The lake is a vibrant blue-green, with rocky, snow-splattered cliffs rising sharply on all sides, water falls splashing in at every turn, capped off with a brilliant blue sky and the occasional floaty white cloud. You alternately feel the need to take a bazillion pictures or none, as the view is the same no matter which way you look and should just be enjoyed. Halfway around the lake was a little restaurant with a playground crying for action. We obliged, then enjoyed ice cream bars as we soaked up the sun and the view.
The cool, clear, still water inspired several songs from our current repertoire. We took the opportunity to practice our a cappella versions of “Beside Still Waters,” “Cool Water,” and, of course, “On Top of the World” for our concerts this afternoon in the Villabassa Kurpark. As we continued around the lake, we discovered many natural wood formations, as well as actual carvings. The humidity here makes it quite different from our Colorado mountains, with lush green everywhere you look. It’s easy to imagine what little gremlins might live in the clover and the moss covering every rock. We had quite a rainstorm overnight, with some dramatic lightning and thunder, and this fresh moisture added to the drama of every little nook and cranny in the rocks.
A quick description of our Festival Singers – 50 young singers from last season’s performing choirs, nine from Concert Choir, and the other 41 a mix of Regional and National Tour Choirs. The kids are doing so well, and even those with little or no touring experience under their belts are traveling and performing like pros. As you can well imagine, touring with 50 middle-schoolers can present many challenges. Fortunately, performing is NOT one of them. When it is time for them to walk on stage, whether it is the steps of a cathedral, an opera house, or outside in the piazza, they take it with confidence and perform at a level way beyond their years, both musically and with their presence. Negotiating a hotel room, however, is sometimes a different story!
Our arrival in Innsbruck last Tuesday is an excellent example. We stayed at Youth Hostel Innsbruck, right in the city, on a busy street and next to the roaring Inn River. Tassos, our amazing and new-favorite ACFEA courier (translate: constant companion for the entire tour and responsible for our every move) had worked carefully to get the kids’ rooms as close together as possible. Unfortunately, this put the entire staff in a different wing, with no phones and connecting doors that lock from 11pm to 5am every night. Not going to work for this overprotective staff! After much juggling, including some complicated math on Mrs. Stylianou’s part, we finally got staff in each wing. This didn’t solve the no-phones problem, but the kids knew where to find us if they needed anything and with all corridor doors locked we felt quite secure. This was a typical hostel situation, with very small 4-6 bed rooms and the bathroom down the hall. With one shower per 18 kids. Took us right back to our Concert Choir Camp days, but the kids quickly noted that we at least didn’t have to hike up the hill.
Then there was the outside noise, with the traffic, both foot and car, drowning out the sound of the rushing river and lasting throughout the night. As per usual anytime and anywhere we tour in the summer, they are experiencing a record heat wave, so sleeping with windows closed was not an option. As tired as we were after nearly a day and a half of preparation and travel, sleep was fleeting and…frankly…sweaty. The kids were troopers, though I know there had to have been more than a few more than a bit nervous.
Wednesday morning we were up and out early to experience the Old Town of Innsbruck, including the Imperial Castle and excellent view of the Olympic ski-jump, which looks as though it would sail the skiers right into the center of town. It was good to get into the rhythm of touring, settle into the bus, and feel a bit more comfortable with everything and everyone. And speaking of the bus – did I mention it’s a DOUBLE-DECKER??!! And…drum-roll here… there is room for ALL FIFTY KIDS, plus the appropriate staff, ALL ON TOP!!! No fighting over who gets to sit up there, though there is a bit of negotiating amongst the staff for who gets to stay below, sacrificing the incredible views for some peace and quiet.
After the morning of sightseeing, we headed over the mountains into Italy, from North Tirol to South Tirol, driving into beautiful backdrop after beautiful backdrop, all lit perfectly by either the sun or the moon. Truly indescribable, though the kids are doing some very nice sketch-work in their journals attempting to forever capture views.
Skipping ahead to Friday afternoon after our hike around the lake we went to Brunico, a walled city with a proud castle overlooking the quiet, cobblestone streets. We split into staff groups for a leisurely lunch on the piazza, then a bit of shopping. We definitely have Euros burning holes in our backpacks, and we are having some trouble finding a place to spend them. There were some successes – slippers for Nate and Ben S.; a mooing cow for Mathew G.; Italy sweatshirts for Stephen and Charlie; a spray bottle with personal fan for Matt F.; Lauren found quite the deal on rings; Leah and Paige found beautiful scarves; Mallory bought lavender sachets; Sarah F. bought much-needed sunglasses; and Zach M., Matthew S. and Hayden bought gifts for their moms. We finished shopping just in time to try some Italian gelato before getting back on the bus and heading to Villabassa for our 5:00 performance.
The Kurpark runs almost the length of Villabassa and is beautiful – tennis courts, flowers, open areas full of huge shade trees and ponds, playgrounds (more on these in a moment!) and a charming little amphitheater overlooking a pond. The performance was in this amphitheater and we finally met our young colleagues – two youth choirs (high school) from Czech Republic, a treble choir (our age!) from Czech Republic, and our high school friends from Italy and South Africa. The concert went well, though a bit hard to hear outside in the park, and Festival Singers yet again performed like pros. We watched some of the other choirs, and then headed to…THE MOST AMAZING PLAYGROUND WE’VE EVER SEEN, including the Wyoming variety from NTC’s tour this spring. We’re talking zip lines, rope swing – from treehouse to treehouse, every spinny thing you can imagine, swings of every size and variety, forts, caves. It was really incredible. We did realize, however, that we need to reinstate all P.E. programs in America, as the little Italian boys were leaving us in the dust. Quinten and Melissa made it from platform to platform, representing us well, but otherwise we made a bit of a poor showing. And every staff member nearly had a heart attack watching the attempts. I am happy to say there have been no hospital visits (or even bandaids applied) on this tour!
Back to our hotel and yet another feast for dinner; some journal-writing time; and off to bed. We are a bit desperate for journal-writing time, as bus rides are not very long, but VERY winding, as we travel up and down the mountainous valley. There seem to be many songs being written and we are trying to find a time to share. Perhaps on the way to Salzburg.
It is now Saturday evening, and today was another adventure-filled, musically-rewarding, culture-sharing day. Which I will share in my next missive.
Weather beautiful, kids delightful, wish you were here!