ON THE ROAD WITH FESTIVAL SINGERS
June 28, 2012
Dear families and friends,
We are all safely home now, and mostly recovered from tour fun and jet lag. Now to catch up and fill in some blanks!
Our first performance, prior to our arrival in Alta Pusteria, was at the Domkirche zu St. Jakob (Cathedral of St. James), an 18th-century Baroque cathedral in Innsbruck. With its elaborately decorated interior and stunning cathedral acoustics, it was a lovely beginning to this performance tour. We attracted quite a crowd, sang beautifully, took advantage of the church offices for a bathroom break – which takes a reeeeaaaally long time with fifty+staff – then on the bus to Italy.
Our first meal in Italy, at the SportHotel Wildgall, was amazing. Almost as amazing as the view out of every single window! Katie and Caroline J. could lie in their beds and look out to towering, jagged, rocky peaks with waterfalls spilling down. In the mornings these peaks poke out of the clouds, quickly losing their cloudy skirts to the beautiful sunlight and bright blue sky. Back to the meal. A salad bar, including several different potato, pasta, and vegetable salads along with rolls and brown bread, followed by pasta with marinara sauce. Just when we were expecting dessert, here came the main course – a quarter of a perfectly roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables. Then dessert – our first gelato — all by candlelight. And this was the standard for the week. Breakfast, also at the hotel, was an all-you-can-eat buffet, with six different kinds of cereal, yogurt, fruit, eggs, several different cakes and breads, cheese and meat. No one left hungry, not even Ben E. or Zach C. Kenny, our resident vegan, had the most incredible vegetable dishes served up every evening that we were all a bit tempted to join him!
After our first night in the Innsbruck Youth Hostel, the quiet of the Italian countryside was a welcome relief. Add a little midnight rain, with the occasional roll of thunder, and sweet dreams were quite easy to come by. And with two to a room, including our own bathroom, real beds that we didn’t have to make ourselves (ever try to teach an 11-14 year-old-boy to put on a duvet cover?!) life was good. We settled in quite nicely for the week.
Thursday morning we took the gondola to the top of Plan de Corones in Brunico, or Kronplatz in Bruneck, if you prefer the German version. This region is a dedicated dual-language area, so literally everything you see is in both German and Italian. It gets a bit confusing. Our hotel is in Anterselva/Antholz. The locals seem to speak German over Italian and, fortunately for us, many speak English as well. We feel quite uneducated with our English-only abilities. Shaelee wins the prize for being the most courageous with her German and Italian! We joined 22 of our fellow festival choirs in a Welcome Party on top of the mountain. The gondola ride was breathtaking, especially for Joey, who is not fond of heights! Once we reached the summit, we were looking down on incredible mountain views in every direction. The ceremony opened with traditional alpine horns, and each of the choirs performed one song – we did “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” – and enjoyed sitting in the sun hearing other choirs for the first time. And applying, and re-applying, sunscreen!
Friday was our walk around Lago di Anterselva (please excuse my mistake in letter #2 — “lago” means “lake” in Italian, and the lake is in Anterselva), the third largest lake in the Italian Tyrol. Did I mention how stunning it was? Did you see the “Beside Still Waters” video?? If not, please click this link and enjoy!!
Saturday we spent in San Candido/Innichen, with two performances. The first was in San Michele Church, another beautiful 12th-century church with Rococo-style ornamentation and to-die-for acoustics. We shared this performance with an Italian choir, the South African girls, and the mariachi choir from Arizona. After our initial performances Wednesday night and Thursday, word had spread through the festival and local communities that a CCC Festival Singers concert was not to be missed, so a concert with us and the other hands-down favorite, Pretoria High School, was sure to attract a crowd. And it did. The small church was packed, with standing-room-only all the way out to the piazza. Festival Singers sang like angels with our accomplished performers (and 8th grade graduates) leading the way with their musicianship and presence. Chris, Melissa, Sarah F., Clare, Kate, Lauren, Teresa, Kellie, Sarah R., Madi, Madeline and Cait, we will miss you!! And our baritone section, Chris, Stephen, Ben E., Zach, Caden, Greg, Trystan, Alex, Kenny and Devin, has matured quite nicely. “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” and “The Tide Rises” both sounded especially exciting and beautiful, with a rich depth and confidence from our men. We have been extremely proud of the 2011-12 Concert Choir members that joined us on this tour, with no touring experience. Hayden, Shaelee, Caroline J., Heavyn, Zach, Jessie, Quinten, Alex and Katie have been absolutely exceptional, performing and traveling like pros! Greer, Matthew S. and Sachin are leaving us after this tour, having decided to pursue different passions. Matthew B., Paige, Mallory, Sanjali, Leah, Charlie, Matt F., Mathew G., Logan, Caroline M., Emily, Royce, Aslan, Sydney, Ben S., Callia, Joey and Nate will be leading the charge in NTC, with our next adventure in New Zealand this spring. What an honor and pleasure it is for me to direct these amazing young ladies and gentlemen. I truly have the best seat in the house, and the best job in the world.
After a pizza lunch at a café down the street from San Michele Church, we did a performance in the piazza for another huge audience, had time for a gelato and some visiting with other choirs, including FINALLY getting to meet the Italian boys. (Clare was still shaking an hour later!) And then it was PARADE TIME!! We took our place behind Switzerland and in front of the first Italian choir (in full costume, with baskets of fruit and flowers on their heads!!). Mr. Branam carried the U.S. flag, and Mr. Koriath the sign bearing our name. We all followed, proudly waving our Colorado flags. Our good friends from Guam were right behind us, and we joined them singing “America the Beautiful” when we weren’t attempting the “Colorado Song” choreography as we marched along. The streets were lined with people and it was all very celebratory and just plain fun. We paraded into the piazza and, after some closing remarks, joined our colleagues from around the world in several choral standards, including one of Italy’s most beloved songs, “Va Pensiero.” Be sure to check the festival website, www.festivalpusteria.com, in a few months, as they will have photos and videos posted from this year’s festival, and you are sure to see Festival Singers.
The organizers of this festival surely do love ceremony, and there was yet one more Sunday morning in the village of Sesto/Sexten. After many speeches, of course, each choir director was presented with a participation certificate and cheered loudly by their colleagues. Four choirs were asked to perform one more time for this event – Pretoria High School from South Africa, Harmonia from Russia, Beijing Shengxifu Ya’ao women’s choir, and…CCC Festival Singers! We were honored to be featured this one last time, and came hootin’ and hollerin’ from our seats to proudly tell the world about the best place we know, COLORADO!! We received thunderous applause, and then made our way out to the waiting bus and the beginning of our journey home, arriving in Salzburg in time for dinner.
Monday was a rainy day in Salzburg, which is evidently not uncommon. It was really the only inclement weather we encountered on the entire tour. We bundled up, with hoodies and rain jackets, and survived this inconvenience quite well. Salzburg is a beautiful city, even in the rain, and home to the all things Mozart. We toured the Mozart Museum (his birthplace and home), the Mirabell Gardens, and heard a lot about the filming of “The Sound of Music,” seeing many of those famous sites as well. We wandered the tangled maze of streets, mapping out our shopping strategy for later in the day, and marveling at the antique-looking wrought iron and gold signs marking every establishment – including the McDonald’s where we had lunch!
We had one more concert, at the Seniorenheim Hellbrunn, a lovely senior citizen’s home. The performance space and the audience were small, but we made the appropriate accommodations and they were very appreciative. Following the performance, we had a chance to visit with audience members, requiring some very creative communications skills. No problem for this intrepid troupe! They provided some “light” refreshment, which turned out to be a giant roll and two bratwurst. We tried valiantly to eat, but having just finished lunch we weren’t very hungry…and we had enjoyed a lot of bratwurst and rolls by that time!
Back into Salzburg, and under sunny skies, we finally had some substantial shopping time. From Mozart chocolates to H&M dresses (1 euro!!) and every touristy item in between (including some VERY dapper hats) we shopped ‘til we dropped, or at least until we had spent almost our last euro. And then to our farewell dinner – yet another feast to behold. We sang and toasted and cheered and ate and took our last photos; truly a night and a tour to remember!
Thank you to an amazing staff – Travis Branam, Mary Louise Burke, Tad Koriath, Carol Proffitt, Roberta Sladovnik, Stacey Smith, Anne Stylianou, and grad extraordinaire, Tamsen Todd.
And thank you to fifty extraordinary young performers and ambassadors who made me so proud every step of the way.