ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #2
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Dear families and friends,
It is now Wednesday morning, and we are hard at work in our school-away-from-school. I was talking with the hotel staff this morning, and they could not speak highly enough of our young charges. Everyone from the maintenance to housekeeping to front-desk staff joined the conversation. “We don’t even know you’re here! 36 kids come and go and we never see or hear you!” “Their rooms are always so neat – beds made, clothes picked up, even the bathroom!” “I walked past the conference room, and there wasn’t a sound – they were all working so hard!” “The music coming from the conference room is so beautiful. You could stay here and sing all day!” We have reeeeaaaaally been enjoying breakfast every morning – eggs, potatoes, sausage or bacon, biscuits and gravy, waffles (thanks to waffle-king Aaron!), yogurt, toast and bagels, pastries and donuts, cold cereal (yay for Fruit Loops!), oatmeal, juice…and plenty of coffee and tea for the staff. The woman in charge has made it her personal mission to see that we are more than adequately fueled for the day – and she is more-than-adequately succeeding! As I was thanking her this morning, she was excited to tell me that her son came home from school yesterday talking about their assembly and how fun it was to see all the kids singing and dancing. “And they even sang his favorite song, ‘Happy’!” She put it all together and figured out THOSE kids were also HER kids!
And that brings us to school shows. Monday and Tuesday we were at schools in Eagle. On Monday, the first show of the tour, we weren’t quite on our game yet…especially me. I went to start “Monkeys in the House,” a 20-year Chorale standard that I started and choreographed and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how it started, or most of the choreography. I’ve done that song in thousands of rehearsals, workshops, clinics, and school shows. Always thankful for our amazing accompanists, I gave the downbeat, Ms. Snyder started playing and the kids started dancing, tentatively. It was then I realized that this Regional Tour Choir had not rehearsed it since early last fall, as we’ve been totally consumed by national anthems! Fortunately, part of our school show shtick is that we teach it to the entire audience. We muddled through and a fun time was had by all. The wonderful thing about a tour is that we perform so much, and nothing perfects a performance like performing. By school show #2, we were definitely on our game, and I know we will continue to improve exponentially throughout the next few days.
Mid-afternoon, Ms.Smith’s email and text started lighting up with the news that the Austrian skier had won the first race, the Ladies Super G. This news was a bit sad, as everyone was hoping Lindsey Vonn would win at home. She came in third, by fractions of a second. So, for our first medal ceremony, we sang the Austrian anthem. And we were ready! We have known all along that Austria is a powerhouse in downhill skiing, and that we would likely be singing their anthem many times, so it was one of the first that we learned. Each medal ceremony lasts about 10 minutes. They introduce the top six finishers, three different times, and then we sing the anthem. And we’re done!
WEDNESDAY, 10AM…NEWS FLASH!
Today’s race, the Men’s Super G, has been cancelled due to snow and wind up on the mountain.
So, no Medal Ceremony tonight. No problem. This just means we can play at the Avon Rec Center longer than we had planned!
Thursday, February 5
Time flies when you’re having fun! After school (which ended at 11:30 for us) yesterday, we hopped on the bus and headed to Beaver Creek Village for lunch. Just like Vail Village, it is hopping with activity and celebrations. Everywhere we go people stop to compliment us on our singing, and we look fantastic in our black jackets. This would be an appropriate spot to thank the very generous sponsors that helped make this adventure possible. The Vail Valley Foundation, of course, provided major funding. But we would not be here if not for additional support from lead sponsors Strachan Exploration and ACFEA Tour Consultants, followed by Jansen Legal, Industrial Integrated Controls, Inc., Laramie Energy, The Harris Law Firm, Quallcor Engineering, Seattle Fish Company, HEI CIVIL, Evolving Systems, UPRISE, and Claymore Oil & Gas. We are so grateful for the support, and proudly wear your names on the backs of our jackets, as well as the back of our bus!
As we made our way back through the Village to the bus we ran into one of our VVF contacts, who said, “I’m so glad I ran into you. Today’s race was cancelled, has been re-scheduled for tomorrow, and the Medal Ceremony will be tomorrow night at 6:30.” Wait. WHAT??? We were told months ago that, if races were re-scheduled, the corresponding Medal Ceremony would happen back-to-back with another Medal Ceremony. Our schedule shows two nights with no Medal Ceremony, and we have planned around that. School shows, meals, etc. Today (Thursday…for anyone as confused as I am!) we were scheduled to go to Fairplay for a school show, eating lunch in Breckenridge on the way, and dinner in Breckenridge on the way back – which would have worked perfectly with NO MEDAL CEREMONY!!! Poor Ms. Smith, planner and executor of all things related to food and travel, had to not only cancel reservations for 44 in two restaurants in Breckenridge, but find lunch and dinner for 44 in two restaurants back in the Vail Valley – no easy task. We also had to cancel our school show in Fairplay. We have warned all of our schools that our first responsibility is anything that has to do with the Ski Championships and that cancellations are possible. So, while the kids splashed in the pool, Ms. Smith went to work!
The Avon Rec Center is really wonderful. The pool is big and warm, complete with slides, a long lazy river, a climbing wall over the water, multiple fountains, and…A DIVING BOARD!! Other than the Glenwood Springs pool, I haven’t seen a diving board in a public pool since my childhood! Diving styles are quite varied. Some cut the water like a knife. Some slip in noiselessly. Some displace all of the water in the pool. Watching little bodies spill out of the slide is also interesting – head first, feet first, in a ball, spiraling, flying, plopping, gasping and screaming.
For dinner yesterday we returned to our favorite summer haunt, The Blue Moose in Lionshead. They always welcome us, telling any new wait staff not to worry – these kids are amazing! After dinner, with no Medal Ceremony, we headed back to Eagle and enjoyed a leisurely evening in our rooms and an early lights-out.
This morning we were up early, with a 9am school show at Red Sandstone Elementary in Vail. We have been doing shows there for over 20 years. Some of the teachers remember when their children, now adults with their own children, sang with us at the amphitheater. As predicted, the kids are getting better with every show, tackling and conquering a new challenge each day.
The weather today is incredible – a picture-perfect Colorado day. Blue skies, blazing sun, warm breeze. In fact, today the fear is that the weather is too nice for optimal ski-racing conditions! After the show at Red Sandstone, we headed into the Village for a bit of shopping. We started at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum, a delightful and educational little museum just across from the Covered Bridge. In all the years we have been coming here, we have never visited this museum, as it is generally closed during the off-season in June. There were some great Vail 2015 trinkets to be had there, as well – always a plus for our “we’ve-got-money-burning-a-hole-in-our-pockets” little troupe! We hit the shops and also had a chance to watch some of today’s race on the big screen Championships Plaza. Sadly, we watched American Bode Miller take a huge spill.
And that brings us to today’s race results: AUSTRIA…again… No problem. We are happy for all of the winners. (But we can’t wait to sing the US anthem!)
We are now back at school for a bit, before dinner and our trip into town to sing. Mrs. Proffitt has told the kids over and over what a fantastic job they are doing with their schoolwork. They’re amazing. What can I say?! As usual, Math is a biggie, with Ava, Noah, Ajaya, Makenna, and Rachel H. all tackling that today. Tallulah and Chris are hard at work with their Science. Blake E. is reading “Unwind,” Conrad is in the middle of “Fablehaven,” and Alexandra is making her way through “My Sister’s Keeper.”
Friday, February 6
It’s now Friday morning, the first reeeeeaaaally eeeeeeeaaaaaarly morning on this tour. The elderly members of the staff are not whining at all!! We woke up the kids 6am, which means the staff is up, dressed and ready to go by then so that we can be in and out of the kids’ rooms keeping them moving and organized. We were on the bus at 6:30, pulled into the Burger King across the highway to pick up our pre-ordered oatmeal, French toast stix, egg/sausage/cheese biscuits and potatoes, and now on our way to Breckenridge for the day. The weather is perfect, as we watch the sun come up over the mountains to the east, and the roads are dry. We have a workshop and two school shows in Breckenridge, presented by the Breckenridge Music Festival.
Yesterday turned out to be a bit more eventful than we had planned. As I mentioned earlier, an Austrian won the gold medal. While we were eating lunch, Ms. Smith and I started getting texts and emails from our VVF friends. There was a problem with the Austrian anthem. It seems they changed some of the words a few years ago to reflect the fact that, not only do they honor their “sons,” but also their “daughters.” We knew this was an issue, as Mr. Branam spent a lot of time last spring researching all of the anthems. At that time, we submitted all anthem texts to the foundation, who in turn (we were told) submitted them to each embassy to ensure we were singing the correct text. Word came back that the “official” text for Austria was the original one, honoring only the “sons.” Also, when we sang it for some Austrians while wandering the Village the other day, one older gentleman was adamant that we needed to be singing about “daughters and sons,” not just “sons.”
Could we make the appropriate adjustment before we sing it again…four hours later? Of course! We are nothing, if not flexible. We found what we needed online and returned multiple texts and emails notifying everyone we could make the change. And we did. These young singers are nothing short of incredible, and with a few minutes of rehearsing the new line interspersed with study time, we were set.
Fast forward to 6:20pm, ten minutes before the Medal Ceremony was to begin. Ms. Smith texted the stage management to let them know we were in place. Her phone immediately lit up with new messages. DON’T CHANGE THE ANTHEM. SING THE SAME WORDS AS MONDAY NIGHT. What? Really? YES. MARCEL SAYS DON’T CHANGE THE WORDS. Ms. Burke and I hissed this new news to the kids, and started repeating and singing the original words over and over with them as they made their way to the risers. And they sang the, ummmm, “correct” anthem perfectly. Much to Mr. Branam’s surprise, who was down in the plaza, with the video camera, and had missed all of the last second drama. He visibly sank when he heard the kids sing, thinking they got up there and totally forgot everything we had worked on all afternoon. It turns out this word change is quite politically divisive back in the Vaterland. Marcel is evidently one of the older Austria members of the Austrian Ski Federation and, according to him, the word change has not been officially sanctioned.
It is now late Friday afternoon and we are back in the bus, heading back to Vail from Breckenridge, and enjoying another favorite tour activity – NAPPING! On the count of three, recline, close your eyes, close your mouth, hold still. And…they’re out. Workshops and school shows are full out aerobic activities, and when you throw in how hard they concentrate to get all of the music right, they’re tuckered out after a day like today And what a day it was. They were incredible. I am so proud of how far they have come in these few days. Ava, Allyson, Makenna, Austin, Alexandra and Hannah smile so sincerely, I sometimes have to look away for fear my heart is going to explode. Brett, Iain, Tanner, Michael, Katy, Cooper and Emma sing fearlessly, leading their sections in every song. Dwayne, Andrew, Noah, Blake E. and Jack dance with abandon, while Kyle, Blake M., Tallulah, Chris, Ajaya, Genevieve, and Trevor smile shyly and never miss a beat. Conrad, Margot and Karina flip perfectly and on cue, every single show. Kris, Caitlin, Carter and Rachel work their charm from the front row, while Maren, Sarah and Rachel H. are rock-solid and beaming from row 4.
They all worked so patiently and kindly with their workshop buddies, becoming instant rock stars in the eyes of their Breckenridge buddies. In 45 minutes, we teach them all of “Do Re Mi,” “Monkeys in the House,” and a good bit of stage movement. They then join us in the performance, showing off for the rest of the school. It’s awesome! “Happy” has turned out to be the audience favorite, with everyone singing and clapping along. The entire school was begging for more when we finished.
We just made a quick stop to pick up Qdoba for dinner, and we will get back to our hotel in just enough time to eat and change into our cold-weather gear for tonight’s Medal Ceremony. And the winner is…SLOVENIA!! We are so excited, and hoping there are no controversial words in the Slovenian national anthem. We’ve had enough international incidents!
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for further adventures from the road