ON THE ROAD WITH TOUR CHOIR #5
Saturday, February 14, 2015 HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!
Dear families and friends,
Tour letter #5, and since we last spoke, so much has happened!! This past Tuesday night, Regional Tour Choir sang their last medal ceremony (Austria #4) and we delivered them safely back to very excited parents. The staff spent Wednesday doing laundry and preparing to depart Thursday morning with National Tour Choir. Oh, and also preparing the RUSSIAN national anthem. Yes, you heard me, the Russian national anthem. Monday night we received a text from one of our Vail Valley Foundation volunteers wondering if we knew the Russian anthem. No, we didn’t. The next text asked if there was any possibility we might be able to learn it by Sunday, as there is a possibility a Russian might win. I gave it a quick listen (what did we ever do without YouTube??) and, responded that it would be quite difficult. The first version I heard was three verses/choruses, and four minutes long. I don’t think anyone realizes the amount of work that has gone into preparing these anthems. Before we even start teaching the kids, Anne Stylianou does hours of research on each anthem, making sure we are able to sing the language as accurately as possible. Mr. Branam found all of the music and English translations, then made rehearsal CDs for all. The staff has listened to countless YouTube versions of each anthem. And then we started teaching the kids. We have spent literally hundreds of research and rehearsal hours on this project. So…can we learn the Russian anthem, and have it performance ready by Sunday? Just in case? And, by the way, we have to keep working on the original fourteen!
I emailed our VVF contact, who is in charge of all things Ski Championship related. Do we really need to learn the Russian anthem? Her immediate reply was, “No, I see no reason for you to learn the Russian anthem.” By then, we had researched all of the Russian skiers, and the closest contender we could find came in 14th at the 2014 Olympics. It didn’t seem possible he could even place! Fast forward to Tuesday evening, on the bus, halfway home with RTC, and my next email from the VVF. “Oh, I was wrong. It seems there is the possibility of a Russian win. So…can you learn the anthem? If not, maybe you could find a recording of another children’s choir singing it and you could lip sync.” Well…no.
The plan from the beginning was that, if anyone beyond the 14 identified countries won, they would just play the instrumental track of the anthem, as they do for every other event. But, by now we had figured out a couple of things. First of all, our presence each night is garnering attention worldwide. It’s never been done before and people are talking. And people love it. If suddenly we DON’T appear and sing the anthem, well, we would be missed. Secondly, it’s Russia. And then, WHY aren’t we there? Did we not want to learn the Russian anthem…the only one we didn’t learn? Did the FIS and the Vail Valley Foundation think the Russians weren’t important enough for us to learn their anthem? Yikes.
Mrs. Stylianou and I strategized the whole way home, then agreed that we would/could tackle it. By the time we talked Wednesday morning…after sleepless nights for both of us…we agreed it definitely could be done. At international sporting events, they sing only one verse/chorus, reducing our workload by almost two thirds. When transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Roman alphabet that we use, it is still difficult, but not impossible for the kids to read. The vowel sounds are mostly similar to ours. There are a lot of consonant blends, but to the kids, these are just fun tongue twisters. And most importantly, we know that these are the most extraordinary young ladies and gentlemen you will ever meet! We also realized that, with our upcoming tour to Russia, we can add this to our tour repertoire.
Mrs. Stylianou worked all morning, then scanned and emailed the prepared music, complete with transliteration and her notes, written in. I worked on getting the official instrumental track from our contact with the ski championships. Mr. Branam copied it to CDs for us to rehearse with. At 10:30am, we had everything in place to start teaching NTC anthem #15 on our way to Vail Thursday morning. At 10:32am, I received a phone call from the VVF. “Don’t worry about the Russian anthem. We’ll just play the track if they win.” To which I replied, “We’ve already worried about it, and we’ll have it ready by Sunday.”
We were on the bus at 8am Thursday morning and, as predicted, the kids had the Russian anthem pretty well in their tongues by the time we hit Vail pass. They were singing along to the recording with gusto. We have continued to work on it, and will have it memorized in time to sing tomorrow if need be. Of course, now that we’ve done all this, the Austrians will win again!! But hey, we’ll be pretty impressive in St. Petersburg. It really is a beautiful anthem and we have become quite fond of it.
As I type, the kids are tearing up the lanes at the Back Bowl in Eagle. We went into Vail Village this morning and spent our $15 in spending money faster than fast. We had a wonderfully leisurely morning, waking up late, with breakfast in our rooms while watching cartoons! We woke everyone up with a Valentine chocolate and a kiss. A real kiss, on the cheek, from me. Some squirmed, some grimaced, some blushed, some grinned. We have continued the every-90-minute sugar plan all day, including the drink of their choice at lunch, except for Mountain Dew. We have enjoyed some amazing Valentine treats from parents. Thank you!!
Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we did school shows in Edwards and Eagle. They are pros at school shows, and I love standing in front of them. I honestly don’t know of any other choir that, on one program, could pull off Toch’s “Geographical Fugue,” Scandello’s “A Little White Hen,” Dilworth’s “Oh! What a Beautiful City,” Hoiby’s “Lady of the Harbor,” the Dalglish “Reel a Bouche,” national anthems from Slovakian to French…and then dance “Footloose” and Happy.” I am hoping you can hear the pride in my voice.
While we were in the pool yesterday afternoon, all of our texts and email lit up with the news that Ted Ligety had taken the gold! We immediately burst into the “Star Spangled Banner,” in the pool, bringing the hotel staff running, phones in hand, from all corners. These are “their kids” now, and they could not be more proud, or more impressed, at every turn. When we were done singing, I noticed a group of four maintenance guys huddled over one of their phones. I assumed they were replaying what they had just recorded, but no. One of them had recorded Regional singing and dancing “Footloose” in the lobby last week, and they were looking at that!
It was a celebratory evening last night in Vail Village at Championships Plaza. The place was rockin’, and we did our part with a flash mob of “Happy” before we climbed up to our anthem spot. And, finally, we got to sing the US anthem!! The anthem score to date is: Austria-5, Slovenia-2, Switzerland-1, US-1. We want to be pulling for Mikaela Shiffrin, but we’d also like to sing some other anthems!!
We had some homework time last night, and also got our journals started. These journals will also be used for the European tour and it was quite exciting to include that on our title page! There is another group of 60 kids in the hotel, a ski team from Utah. While they ran the halls, unsupervised by any adults, we quietly sat in the conference room and studied. The hotel staff has been at their wit’s end for the past two days, taking complaint calls from other guests, clearing screaming kids out of the lobby, and cleaning up after them. They stop our staff over and over again to tell us how perfect our kids are. Even our kids have been totally disgusted…and I love it!!
With that, I will sign off for today. We’re just about done with our two-hour bowling frenzy, and I believe a fun time was had by all. Back at the hotel, we will work on that Russian anthem a bit more, and it is surely time for more chocolate. It’s Mikaela Shiffrin with the gold, so the plaza will be rockin’ tonight!!
Wish you were here!