ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR
Monday, February 2, 2015
Dear families and friends,
After over a year of planning, and NINE MONTHS (starting last season!) of rehearsing, our World Ski Championship/National Anthem adventure has begun. For those who don’t know, the Colorado Children’s Chorale was engaged by the Vail Valley Foundation to be local ambassadors for the 2015 FIS World Ski Championships happening in Vail Feb. 1-15. We will be in Vail for the entire two weeks, and our responsibilities include singing the US national anthem for the Opening Ceremony, singing the national anthem of the gold-medal winner of each race at the appropriate Medal Award Ceremony, participation in the Closing Ceremony celebration, and visiting elementary schools throughout the region doing workshops and performances. The school workshops and performances are something we do regularly, no problem. But learning 14 national anthems, all in their original languages, well…that was a challenge! We do not shy away from challenges, however, and given our long history of collaborating with the Vail Valley Foundation, it was a challenge we were eager to tackle.
Beginning last May, and working on it every possible moment from Vail to Vienna to Aspen and back at regular rehearsals in the fall, we have learned the national anthems of, in no particular order, Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, France, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Canada, Croatia, Liechtenstein and, of course, USA. These are the 14 countries felt to be the strongest contesters. If an outlier wins, well…too bad! It has definitely been a challenge, but these kids are simply amazing. We made up skits in Vail — Italy took the gold medal in that endeavor; we utilized any foreign language skills the kids already had – Lukas is fluent in Finnish; Mr. Branam burned CDs with every anthem for every child – summer homework; Mrs. Stylianou researched every language diligently so that we are as accurate as possible with our pronunciations; we rehearsed, we memorized, we read Mrs. Stylianou’s lips, we sang to the recorded tracks; we pursed our lips and rounded our “o”s and attacked our consonants. We explored the world and conquered!! We learned that the Austrians sing of the beauty of their land, while the French are out for blood. The Finnish and Norwegians sing of their forefathers, and the Italians and Swedish are ready to die for their country. The Canadians sing a line of French in their anthem and the Slovenians simply want peace throughout the world. I wish I could tell you that we have had time to learn every translation and something about each country, but alas…not true. After all, we have had a few other things to do this season! We will be studying a bit more about the countries as we “travel” through them this week on tour, from right here in the Vail Valley.
We left Denver Sunday at noon, following a surprise snow storm – lots of slushy, yucky roads, but nothing too serious. It was enough to cause concern from several parents, however, as we pulled away with their precious cargo in the big blue bus. With our favorite driver Andrew at the wheel, the staff knew we were in excellent hands. As it turned out, by the time we reached the Buffalo Herd overlook on I-70, everything was dry and there was not a cloud in the sky. And it remained that way all the way into Vail and beyond.
Our home-away-from-home for this tour is the Best Western Plus Eagle Lodge and Suites in Eagle, about forty minutes west of Vail. It is perfect. Two queen size beds in each room, ample size for 3-4 little people; a delicious breakfast served every morning in a breakfast room large enough for us all to eat at the same time; a conference room, at our disposal, with chairs and tables, perfect for happy study time; and, most importantly, a good-sized pool! Our drive was uneventful, and we had time to check in and get our rooms organized. It is such a luxury to be in the same hotel for two weeks!!!
Sunday evening we were scheduled to rehearse both the Opening Ceremony, where we sing the US national anthem, and each of the 14 anthems for medal ceremonies. I have never been so proud. Regional Tour Choir stood up there and knocked off all 14 of the anthems, one after the other, by memory, like it was nothing. We sing to the instrumental tracks used for every Olympics or official event, and it is no easy task. They concentrated like crazy and sang their hearts out, gold-medal winners every one! The US anthem for the opening ceremonies is also a challenge, as we must sing along with a track of our own a cappella version, recorded a couple of weeks ago at Colorado Public Radio by National Tour Choir!! This is the norm for outdoor events of this nature. I refuse to call it lip-synching, but rather doubling our forces, and necessary for the elements!
Tuesday, February 2, 2015
It is now Tuesday morning, and one of my favorite times of any tour – Happy Study Time! Well, the staff is happy anyway; not sure about the kids. Yesterday afternoon we “went to school” for about four hours, with lots of breaks for snacks, journal writing, and outside exploring. Homework amounts always vary from none to optional to a boat-load. Mrs. Proffitt, our long-time tutor is excellent at monitoring, assessing how much time will be needed, keeping everyone on their individual tasks, and answering questions in any subject. We tap into the minds of our younger staff – grad Aaron and accompanist Ms. Snyder – for all things math related. This is Ms. Snyder’s first tour, and she is adapting like a pro, proving to be extraordinary not only at the keyboard, but in every other respect.
As per usual, life in a hotel room with three or four middle-schoolers is an adventure! When I woke up Carter, Kyle, and Blake M. yesterday morning, Carter was wide-eyed and wondering if he should have called me after lights out to report a spider-sighting in the bathroom. He is NOT fond of spiders. Fortunately, Kyle came to his rescue and took care of the intruder. I am happy to report the last night was spider-incident-free. Caitlin, Katy, Rachel R., and Margot have declared their room an official country, Burkelandia, complete with an appropriate anthem. You may have guessed that Ms. Burke is their staff member! This has inspired every room to declare, and all are now busy working on country name, anthem, and flag. Trevor, Michael, Iain, and Blake E. have their flag completed, combining the individual designs of Blake and Iain. The People’s Republic of the Stars and Stripes, heretofore to be referred to as PRSS and populated by Jack, Andrew, Dwayne and Kris, reported an assault-by-pillow on their newly appointed Prime Minister, which was, of course, caught on video. I will keep you posted regarding up and coming countries, including future Prime Minister appointments and emerging economies. If there were a prize for bed-making…and there should be!…Tanner, Cooper and Austin would be the winners. And, speaking of Austin, yesterday was his 13th birthday. Who else gets to celebrate their birthday at a party with thousands of people and fireworks?!
Which brings me to the Opening Ceremony. PAAAAAAAAARTY!!!!!!!! Thousands of spectators and hundreds of participants including the athletes from 70 countries; dignitaries from Vail, the state of Colorado and the world; performers Michael Franti, Little Buck, The Tenors, the Blue Knights, a college a cappella group, and…drum roll, please…the Colorado Children’s Chorale! We had the best seats in the house, right up next to the main stage. We watched the parade of flags, the athletes, the performers. It was awesome. Then, we stood up and ROCKED the “The Star Spangled Banner,” with National Tour Choir there in spirit and voice. Of course, the fireworks shot up at just the perfect time as the crowd went wild!
Wish you were here!