Well, it seems the world is leaving Vancouver en masse and we are following the trend. So many people left our city that a new temporary terminal was made for the departing Olympians at Vancouver International Airport. It handled something crazy like 40000 people yesterday.
We are departing from the Safeway parking lot. Corner of Oak and 25th, 7:30 am... sharp! Maybe not the most auspicious departure, but there is a quote that goes something like "Mighty things from small beginnings grow". I believe that. I have had the privilege of being on some pretty amazing tours and have been to some exotic places. I love touring in Canada because you see that we live in the most amazing country. Nothing is more fun than rubbing our Vancouver weather in the faces of all the prairie folk, or seeing the humour behind the eyes of those hardy prairie people (myself being a prairie expat) as they watch the "wimpy" Vancouverites navigate over the drifty terrain.
I am sure gonna miss the blossoms!!
When I write 7:30 sharp, I mean 7:30 sharp! On one of my first tours with the choir, I slept in and was late for the bus. I ran from my hotel room, a pit in my stomach, my bed-head hair still sticking straight up in the air, to a busload of choristers chanting "DIVA, DIVA" and stern looks from the powers that be. I have never been late again.
I swear Violet missed her calling to be a superstar real estate agent. She is capable of putting a positive spin on almost any situation. She calmly reminded us how lucky we were to be meeting so early, because we will get to the Starbucks before all of the moms dropping off their children at the school beside our designated pick-up spot.
There are some new faces that are on this tour with us:
On the television show "Biggest Loser" they have a "Last Chance Workout" where the contestants have a vigorous workout before they see who lost the most weight in the week. This morning was our "Last Chance Rehearsal" where we ran the whole program top to bottom. I think the people at our concerts are in for a great show!
We were away without a hitch. After doing it for more than 35 years, the Vancouver Chamber Choir has turned touring on a bus into an art form. Like church pews on Sunday mornings, we each have claimed spots that we sit in. Some have been sitting in the same spot for years and years. We have front of the bus people, back of the bus people, and the few inbetweeners and floaters.
Steve and I loading up (notice us posing while poor Vi is hefting boxes in the background…oops, sorry!)
We got on and then counted off. Each singer in the group has a number associated with them. (I happen to be lucky number 13.) It is VCC tradition that if a female singer wants to announce to the choir she was pregnant she would list off her number then her number plus a half. John Trotter our assistant conductor is only staying on tour with us a couple of days, because his ”half” is actually “seven-eighths” and fatherhood is imminent.
It may be the last time we see him this awake for a long time…
The trip to Vernon has some pretty amazing scenery:
We made great time and were in Vernon before you know it. We got to the hotel, put our stuff away, got our music ready and went to a sound check at the theater.
Backstage they have hundreds of posters of different groups who have performed in the Vernon Centre for the Performing Arts.
In the green room, just chillin’ after our sound check. We then went for dinner, got changed and sang the show. The lobby after the concert where we got a chance to talk to the audience. After the show, since it was someone’s birthday, we went for a celebratory drink (like we need an excuse). Happy Birthday!! :)
We had the morning off, and we were left to our own devices. I took advantage of some rest and relaxation. I woke up at 9:30 and managed to pull myself to the free breakfast provided to us until 10:00 am. We saw some sights and went to a sound check at the theatre for noon. We tired poor Cameron out and all he wanted to do was rest… The theatre in Vernon is the first place where I have encountered a versatile amplified acoustic. All one had to do was push a button and BOOM, you had a 5-second reverb that made it feel as though you were in a great cathedral in Europe. We opted out of the chamber acoustic, and settled on the symphonic setting… of course! Someone told me that the young designer of this sound system is from Vernon, and that he has gone on to sell it to some of the great theatres around the world. We had a quick rehearsal, then sang a show to a rather full house. Who has a full house at a concert at 1:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon? I guess Vernon does. After the concert we had a photo-op with the sponsor, Windsor Plywood!! This is Rosina (middle). She is Bill’s 6-year-old niece. We serenaded her with “Happy Birthday” during the concert and she is so cute!! She took instantly to Jenny (left) and Kathleen (right). We were finished by 4:00pm and decided to go for a nice supper. Hello, Margaritaville!!
Some of the more rowdy members of the group regaled us with tales from the previous evening. Apparently they gave better than they got and got away mostly unscathed. It was a very slow fight. My mom took tai chi and was disappointed when she found out this move was actually called “Play Guitar”, not the much more exotic “Pray Gitah” she thought it was. The trip from Vernon to Osoyoos is so scenic, and the landscape is dotted with orchards and vineyards. We actually begged Vi to stop at a winery, but to no avail. We had places to go and not much time to get to them. Did you know that Osoyoos is actually a desert? You can see the cactus in the planter, no? We took over our hotel which had beautiful balconies and views of the lake. The water was like glass. We had enough time to eat supper/relax before going off to the Frank Venables Auditorium in Oliver to sing our show. Cam won an award!! The Ogopogo Invitational. He was so overjoyed, he got quite emotional. See, he is losing it. After that picture-taking ordeal we laughed and laughed! After the concert we found a little pub and had a quick ginger ale before bed
We left early, and traveled east on Hwy #3, headed toward the Kootenays. We drove up the side of a mountain, and from the top there was a beautiful view of the lake and town of Osoyoos. Once we hit the summit we encountered something that we were not that familiar with, coming from Vancouver. Snow! We decided to remain strong and venture on. ;) The town of Grand Forks is famous for 2 things: sunshine and borscht. I am not joking. That’s what it says on the sign on the way into town.
I can’t say where the claim of famous sunshine comes from (although it was very sunny when we were there), but the borscht claim comes from a large Doukhobor population (Russian heritage). It was the perfect place to stop and have a great lunch which consisted of Pirohi, Borscht, and Veroniki (sorry for the spelling). Don’t ask what they were. They were just good! I ate lunch with Grant. The bus trip to Creston actually took the better part of the day. Creston also is on Mountain Time. We took a “scenic” route… Whatever. The short story is that we were really late getting into Creston and had just enough time to get to the auditorium for our sound check. Much different country here. Very mountainous. Prince Charles Secondary, where the concert was held. Creston, like Grand Forks, is also famous for 2 things: It is the home of Kokanee beer. And the Sasquatch!! See the fear in his eyes!!! (After a pretty intense rehearsal/sound check, Will provided us with some much needed comic relief.) We sang a great show and got to bed early for an early departure to Nelson. Wait… what am I missing? Oh, yeah. Peter, our awesome driver, brought us a present for the long trip back to the hotel (2 blocks away) (a peace offering for the “scenic” detour earlier in the day).
You know you are not in the metropolis anymore. The store across the street from the Downtowner Motor Hotel where we stayed in Creston is an actual gold panning store (the only one I have ever seen before). If only we had more time… Lorraine got all giddy at the chance to acquire more jewelry. It might just be me, but if there was gold in the streams around town would you want to advertise the fact, or sell the supplies so that other people could find it? The Kootenay’s sure are majestic! We left Creston and headed out to Nelson. Our concert was held at the Capitol Theater at 2:00 pm. A great old converted movie theater. The inside of the theatre. A lovely day in Nelson. I’ve stood atop what was once the tallest building in the world, but I have to say the view from our hotel in Nelson is one I will remember. Since our concert was in the afternoon, it meant we had the evening off. The Academy Awards were on television, so we decided to get junk food and have an Oscar party. Junk food in Nelson consisted of organic Thai-flavored rice crackers in environmentally conscious packaging. Gluten-free… of course! So Nelson!! We then went to bed early for the next day which Vi termed a “potential day from hell”. 5:15 am is way too early to get up. Right girls? Right!
We left Nelson at 6:00am, and had a very strict schedule to get to Cranbrook to catch a flight to Edmonton via Calgary.
Violet found out that the mountain highway we were on was being shut down at 8:00am for avalanche blasting, so we had to rush in order to not get caught. To make matters worse, we ran into a bad snowstorm 15 minutes outside of Nelson. Apparently she had no fingernails left by the time we made it to Cranbrook (with only about 20 min. left before our plane was scheduled to take off). Snowstorm pictures from the bus. Here we are all lined up at the check-in counter at Cranbrook airport. We made the flight by the skin of our teeth. We packed into the back and were on our way. We flew over the Rockies and landed in the Prairies. We went to our hotel and had a rest before a 3-hour rehearsal with Edmonton’s Richard Eaton Singers, with whom we are sharing a concert. Downtown Edmonton Bill, Cam and I went to lunch. Our combined forces, which is going to make for a real great concert!!
Our day started with a workshop for young composers. We sang through their pieces and then offered some constructive criticism.. These are the vipers you have to watch out for… :) (Marla in the middle just offered me chili-flavoured chocolate and I almost feel guilty for calling her a viper.) Jon is working with one of the young composers. I like these sessions. There were some really creative and talented young composers in this bunch. In the evening we joined forces with the Richard Eaton Singers and had a concert at First Presbyterian Church. The concert went really well. It was especially nice to sing in a church acoustic. (We had gotten used to singing in theatres up until this point.) Jon was in fine form. We sang the world premiere of a piece by Ruth Watson Henderson. Here is a picture of conductor Len Ratzlaff, with Ruth. The girls with poet E.D. Blodgett. He was once poet laureate of Edmonton, and wrote the text for the piece which was commissioned for this concert. There was a great reception after the concert. We even made some friends. Cheers, everyone!! Time to get ready for bed!
The day started with a conducting workshop at the University of Alberta. There were 6 conducting students who each got a 20-minute masterclass with Jon and the choir. In the rehearsal room someone very creative transformed this no smoking sign. How appropriate! One of the student conductors. They all did very well. We then rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Regina with a stopover in Calgary. Unfortunately, due to fog earlier in the day, our plane was an hour late leaving Edmonton. Here we are in line at the Edmonton airport. This is before we found out that our short trip to Regina was going to take much, much longer than expected. We made it to Calgary and found out that we had missed our connecting flight. They had rescheduled most of us on a later flight that would get us to Regina at 1:30am. The rest were coming at 7:00am the next morning. We split up, and those who were staying the night in Calgary went to their hotel (supplied by Air Canada), while the rest of us had an all-day campout at the airport waiting for our late-night flight to depart. There went our hopes of the Caribbean dinner adventure we were supposed to have which Melissa (our host in Regina) was going to put on for us. Vi, at the customer service desk in Calgary. Before her visit to the Maple Leaf Lounge… Here she is handing out our new boarding passes and meal vouchers. We camped out at the restaurant where a really nice waitress took pity on us (after we bribed her with chocolate) and took really good care of us! The hours went by like seconds… well, almost. We got to Regina and my head hit the pillow at 3:00 am. Wow! What a day!!! It took longer to get from Edmonton to Regina than it did for us to get from Vancouver to Tokyo in November.
After getting to bed at 3:00 am the night before I slept like the dead, and woke up at 11:00 am feeling remarkably well rested (aside from a little kinked neck). I missed the heavenly bed from Edmonton. It was the most comfy bed I have ever slept in. In fact, it was so comfortable I even took a picture of it. Oh, how I miss you!! Luckily I found a catologue in our room which can help me recreate the whole experience at home, linens and all. Only $3620.00… I don’t think Vi would mind if I charged it to the room…right? (I am worth 300 thread count, no?) For that price I am sure someone will come and make it every day just like at the hotel. We had a 2-hour workshop with a high school choir from Luther College, as well the choir from University of Regina, in which we sat mixed up with the students and worked on some of the basics: listening to each other, balance, word stress, etc. They were the exact same things we work on in Chamber Choir on a daily basis. I like doing these kinds of workshops where Jon asks us to demonstrate singing something the “wrong” way and then the “right” way. My favourite demonstration was singing an Italian Renaissance piece in a country-western style -- wrong on many levels! Here is Melissa Morgan (our presenter, and longtime friend of the choir). She is the music teacher at Luther College and her kids had all the music we worked on memorized!! So well prepared!! Christ Lutheran Church has a great acoustic and we had just a few details to work through before the concert. We went back to the hotel and got ready for the show. Here we go! After the concert we were officially on “time off” with a free day the next day. Some of us went out for some nachos and wings to celebrate. Then, off to bed. We were invited to Melissa’s mother’s house for a Caribbean banquet the next day at 4:00 pm and I intended to remain in bed until the last possible second…
Let’s get the party started!! It was our day off and I can tell you that I spent a good deal of it in bed. What a whirlwind tour so far. We were very lucky to be the guests of honour at Melissa’s house for dinner. She is the music teacher at Luther College and is our presenter here in Regina. She is such a special person and the whole choir truly loves her very much. Marla collecting the coats at Melissa’s place. Melissa’s mom worked day and night to put together this whole Caribbean feast. The smile never left her face once. She is one of the kindest and most beautiful people I have met. I can see where Melissa’s generous character comes from. Here we are all hanging out in her rec room. Gordon brought an orchid as a small token of our appreciation. Here is the menu: We found a place to sit and had an enjoyable evening and a great day off. Dolores was actually a little overwhelmed by the great magical Caribbean spices! (hee hee) During dinner, John Nelson, a choir director from Regina and fellow guest, came into the dining room. Cameron looked up at him and said, “Camrose, Alberta, Summer 1968... the Workshop Chorale!” They had sung together 42 years ago. It was Cam’s first professional singing gig and he made $18.00 a day. The years have been kind to both of them, considering what they have been through. A great night was had by all, and no one wanted to leave at the end. A special thanks to the multi-talented Morgans!!! 5 AM came very, very early. We had been flipping back and forth between timezones like ping pong balls. Even though Saskatchewan's time doesn’t change, I was thoroughly confused. The beautiful prairie sunrise greeted us on our way to the airport where we would be flying to Calgary. At the Calgary airport we met up with Kathleen, who had had to fly back to Vancouver on our day off to sing a concert with her university choir in order to fulfill her academic obligations. Ironic, no? A smile like that deserves an A+!! We then had a rehearsal with the Spiritus Choir in Calgary. We are singing a piece together in tomorrow’s concert. Then we were set loose for the rest of the day and left to our own devices. We only have one more night of gathering teeny, tiny soaps for our collections. The tour mantra!! “grrrr” “I’ll be home tomorrow, honey!”