ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR
Friday, April 04, 2014
Dear families and friends,
We’re on the road again, this time with Regional Tour Choir. You may remember that my last missive came from Greenville, MS and we were out with National Tour Choir. Well, actually, we were snowed in with National Tour Choir! Things did thaw, and we did make it to Graceland, which we found just a tad under-whelming…but don’t tell Elvis. The Gold Record collection is quite impressive! We finished off that tour in style with dinner at Jackson’s famed “Cock of the Walk” restaurant and more fried food than a person should eat in a lifetime.
Today I am writing from the beautiful WYO Theater in Sheridan, WY. This Wyoming tour is one we are very familiar with, making the circuit once every 3-4 years. We left Denver Tuesday morning at 7am, stopped for a performance at Coronado Hills Elementary School in Thornton, and then continued north to Casper. It’s always great to settle in to the oh-so-familiar surroundings of the bus, especially when our favorite driver, Andrew, is in the driver’s seat. While it might be more exciting to fly out of town, it’s waaaaay easier to move into the bus directly from the Chorale office parking lot!
About half of our young charges are on spring break this week, and many of the others tried to get their homework done last week while they were off, so there wasn’t as lot of school stuff to make room for. Everyone agreed we should shoot to have all homework finished before our drive home Saturday so that we can have a full movie day. We’re still working on it, but it’s looking good! We stopped for lunch in Cheyenne at a park right off the highway – grassy area for picnicking, playground, and open rec center for bathrooms. Perfect! It was a bit breezy, as per usual in Wyoming, but we enjoyed the fresh air, sun and picnic lunches. Thanks Mom, Dad and Grandma!
We arrived in Casper and went straight to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, one of our favorite “museums” in the country. They tell the stories of the seven major western migration trails in the U.S. Quick…can you name all seven?? Me neither, but the kids can: Oregon Trail, California Trail, Bozeman Trail, Mormon Trail, Pony Express Trail, and Bridger Trail. The Center experience starts with a movie that is projected behind life-size dioramas depicting all aspects of these journeys. From there, the kids wandered through the museum, exploring exhibits about each of the trails, including many interactive. We rode a covered wagon across the Platte; traveled by stagecoach; pulled a handcart full of supplies; lifted the mail pouch; and experienced a freezing trail-side burial. As I write this, the kids are reading aloud their journal entries on the Interpretive Center. They are stunning, illustrating the depth of understanding these extraordinary young ladies and gentleman are capable of expressing. Every entry is well-written and factual, as well as emotional and moving. As always, I am humbled and honored to be sharing my world with these middle-schoolers.
The Casper Children’s Chorale, a group of 80 4th-8th graders, were finishing their afternoon rehearsal when we arrived. They sang a song for us, and we in turn sang for them, before working on “Pasta” together. They are off to a competitive festival in Anaheim, CA next week, and their director, Marcia Patton, wanted them to hone their expressive singing skills. There is no better song than “Pasta” for expressive singing!!
The Casper parents prepared a delicious taco dinner for all to share, and we had a great time getting to know our colleagues. Their organization is very similar to ours, and was in fact started with encouragement and advice to their director from our founder, Duain Wolfe.
We stayed at the Best Western Ramkota in Casper, and they have a lovely, large indoor swimming pool – large enough for all 35 little fish to swim at once. That doesn’t happen often, so we enjoyed it immensely. Swimming isn’t actually the correct term for what we do in a hotel pool. More like bobbing and splashing and screaming…at the top of your lungs. The kids love it. The staff cringes.
Wednesday morning we started a round of school shows in Casper at Natrona County High School. Two shows, with over 1,000 elementary school kids in each. Yee haw!!! RTC was spectacular, with 1,000 kids totally quiet and enthralled one minute, and singing along with gusto the next. And the best part? Our performance Wednesday night was on the same stage, so with just a wee bit of rehearsal time thrown in, along with a nap, of course, we were ready for the evening show. The Casper Children’s Chorale opened the evening, and they were excellent – a hard act to follow. But follow it we did, and the show was fantastic. From the beauty of “There Will Be Rest” to the dramatic silliness of “That Awful Tango,” the power of “Seize the Day” and the fidgety feet of “Tunes in His Head,” they wowed ‘em!
Thursday morning we hit two more elementary schools in Casper, then continued north to Sheridan where we met the Sheridan Children’s and Youth Chorales, 60 singers in 3rd – 8th grade. We taught them “Pasta” and “I Bought Me a Cat” and had a grand time. This time it was a shared pizza dinner, with much silliness and raucous laughter filling the hall. It’s amazing how quickly these young performers get to know one another. A thirteen-year-old is a thirteen-year-old, no matter where they live!
We checked in to our Sheridan “home” with plenty of time for another swim, in another pool large enough for everyone. After our usual bobbing and splashing rituals, we sang (at the top of our lungs) and danced “Do Re Mi” in the pool. This involves several full body submersions in order to properly execute the choreography, but we are not deterred by this challenge. Under we go, and when we emerge on “mi,” we are more or less together, if a bit breathless. Ah, what we do for our art!
As usual, the graduating eighth graders came on tour with a little surprise planned for me. This crew, Emily H., Valeria, Bridget, Zach and Cameron, with help from traitor-Ms. Smith, managed to wreak havoc on my room AFTER LIGHTS OUT. And not only that, they jumped out from behind the bed…MY bed…when I walked in! Eighth graders – can’t live with ‘em, wouldn’t want to live without ‘em.
This morning, after a delicious hot breakfast at the hotel, we visited King Ropes and Saddlery, another favorite stop on the CCC tour circuit. They custom-make both ropes and saddles for cowboys all over the world. We watched how the ropes are made and tied, learned how a custom saddle is fitted and the leather is tooled, and marveled at the array of taxidermy hanging on the walls, including a two-headed calf. We are definitely some of their most distinguished and famous visitors, though I did see that Queen Elizabeth visited in 1984. I am certain she didn’t ask interesting and intelligent questions like we did.
Back to the WYO Theater, we had lunch and then did a school for a packed house of 500 elementary students from the Sheridan schools. Several of our friends from the Sheridan Children’s Chorale were in the audience, and joined us on stage for “I Bought Me a Cat.” It was a very enthusiastic audience, and that always brings out the best in our troupe. We had a rockin’ afternoon!
And we continued to rock right through the evening performance. Regional Tour Choir has come a long way in these four days, and we are extremely proud of them. Unbelievably, we are on our way home already tomorrow, anxious to see parents, siblings and friends. We will miss the bubble of tour and the high of performing. Monday will find us back to reality, but better for having spent this time together.