Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Western Canada Tour Diary 2011
Day 1 - Travel to Calgary
After all the planning, rehearsing and packing, we're in western Canada at last!
Fortunately, the weather cooperated across our entire trek, and our flights were all on time and for the most part as comfortable as could be expected. Our departure from Cleveland took us to Houston, where we grabbed a bite of lunch from the many airport eateries before the flight to Calgary. Along the way, our first-time flyers were presented their wings by Mrs. B.
After arriving in Calgary, we were met by our friendly tour director Al, who gave us lots of interesting facts about Calgary (and Canada in general) on the bus ride to the Econolodge, where we unloaded and checked into our rooms. Shortly afterward, we broke into small groups for short walks to local restaurants for dinner. Then it was back to the Econolodge for the evening.
Tomorrow, we'll visit Drumheller to see what promises to be an amazing museum of paleontology, followed by an outdoor concert - our first in Canada!
Day 2 - Calgary and Drumheller
A great second day to our tour!
We started our day with a visit to a fantastic museum of paleontology in Drumheller, where we had a chance to walk through various eras, see some amazing dinosaur bone specimens and models, and climb up for a better view of Alberta's Badlands.
After getting some lunch at the museum, we drove a short distance to a natural amphitheater which is normally used to present a giant Passion play (scheduled for two weekends just a couple of weeks from now). The acoustics were quite incredible, and brought out the purity of the singers' vocal tonality and articulation. In other words, it sounded pretty amazing.
After the concert, we made a quick stop at Horseshoe Canyon for photos and some souvenir shopping, followed by a drive back to Calgary.. Then we had a quick stop at the hotel before heading downtown to explore the shops and restaurants in our chaperone groups.
Our return to the hotel for the evening included a first for the choir - putting the entire ensemble on a single public bus. Needless to say, some music broke out.
Day 3 - Golden and Kamloops
Happy Canada Day from Kamloops!
Although a big part of today was bus travel, the drive was spectacular! We really got to see some amazing views as we crossed the Rockies. Snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes and rivers with milky glacial runoff and even prairie dogs were on the list of attractions seen today.
At lunchtime, we arrived at St Andrews United Church in Golden, BC and were met by wonderful hosts who provided friendship, snacks and fruit. Then we enjoyed the holiday with the local residents, munching hamburgers grilled for the entire community.
Next on the agenda was a concert at the church, performed for a very appreciative and friendly crowd. They even sent along two large plates of cookies as we left, which were enjoyed by all.
Our travels then took us to a stop at an interpretive center where the guides quizzed us on Canada trivia, and correct answers were rewarded with mini Canada flags and pins. For their efforts, we rewarded them with a couple of our songs, including "O Canada".
One more stop in Revelstoke, BC for dinner in our chaperone groups and then it was on to Kamloops for our hotel check-in. At this point, several singers had a great time swimming and trying out the water slide and whirlpool. Fireworks could also be seen from the hotel, for those who cared to watch them from windows or balconies.
We're really getting into this Canada thing....
Day 4 - Kamloops and Victoria
Three words: Buses, Trains, and Boats.
We covered these modes of transportation today, and had a lot of fun doing so.
After breakfast, our morning started with a ride on the Kamloops Heritage Railway - and it was their inaugural run of this season, complete with local dignitaries and folks in period costumes. We were active participants in the event, singing several songs including that Touring Choir classic, 'Sweet Home Alabama.'
The morning was not without its share of danger, as black-hatted robbers appeared on horseback in search of loot. Thankfully, the choir managers were there to keep the singers safe, and the robbers turned out to be pretty nice after all.
Our bus time together continued through a large portion of British Columbia, again through picturesque mountain ranges, until we arrived at the ferry terminal near Vancouver for a 90 minute ride to Victoria. On board the ferry, we enjoyed dinner and explored the vessel both inside and out.
A short bus ride then took us to our hotel for the night and (hopefully) a good night's sleep thinking about the great experiences of the day.
Day 5 - Victoria
Another fun day today - this time in Victoria. After a good breakfast in the hotel, we headed to Emmanuel Baptist Church to participate in several parts of their worship service.
Then we returned to the bus for a short ride to the food court of a local mall for lunch before meeting other tour guides who showed us around Victoria, filling us with information and making us groan with corny jokes and puns. We were able to stop at the gardens of a mansion occupied by a local official, a marina where we were able to feed seals, and a lookout vista with a panoramic view of the area. For some singers, this was their first time to see the Pacific Ocean (or any ocean).
Later, we returned to Emmanuel and again donned our concert attire for an early evening concert. Mr. M opened by rocking the house with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and then the Touring Choir did the same with its performance.
Since this was the last day of 'our' portion of the tour (prior to the 'festival' portion), we treated it like a traditional last day and got dressed up for a nice restaurant meal at Macaroni Grill. We also celebrated the birthdays of three birthday girls - Kait, Lauren B, and Mrs. B.
Tomorrow, we'll take the ferry back to Vancouver and it will be festival time!
Day 6 - Vancouver Festival
Today, our travels took us the other direction on the ferry - this time from Victoria to Vancouver on our way to the Coastal Sound International Choral Festival at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
After saying farewell to our excellent bus driver, Paul, we took our luggage up to our single rooms in one of the dorms. Then, after a quick change into our Festival t-shirts, it was off to a lunch of macaroni and cheese, salad, and desserts.
Next, we attended a welcome session, where we met and rehearsed pieces under the direction of Dr. Rollo Dilworth and Henry Leck, and participated in 'ice-breaker' activities with the singers in the other choirs, followed by some brief downtime in the dorm.
Our dinner of sweet and sour chicken with rice was followed by some group pictures with some authentic Royal Canadian Mounted Police (currently dismounted). Some singers managed to snag some hugs before we moved on to the opening ceremonies.
The ceremonies consisted of the procession of each choir, complete with the carrying of a large sign displaying the name of the choir (with ours being carried by Megan). Alex participated in an artistic drama about the symbol of this year's festival, the starfish. The choir was entertained by the Coastal Sound Children and Youth Choirs, and by the City Soul Choir under the direction of Brian Tate. They also took part in two massed choir performances - Kaki Lambe' and 'Amavolovolo'.
With the festival officially opened, we hiked back to the dorm, met to discuss the evening's performance, and headed to our own private rooms (something that we rarely have on tour) to rest up for some fun days ahead with our new friends.
Day 7 - Vancouver Festival
Today was our first full day at the Coastal Sound International Choral Festival at Simon Fraser University, and it was a busy one.
Several rehearsals were held throughout the day with world-renowned conductors/composers/clinicians Henry Leck and Rollo Dilworth. Dr. Dilworth even took some time at the end of the day to meet with the choir and listen to us sing 'Beside the Still Waters' - his own composition (and the personal favorite of at least one choir manager).
The choir managers and chaperones even had a chance to break away and enjoy some bicycling, shopping (and eating) for a few hours while the singers attended rehearsals and clinics.
After a dinner of a large portion of lasagne and salad, we were bused to St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church for this evening's concert, given by the Coastal Sound Children's Choir, the Sarasota Young Voices, and the Green Bay Girl Choir.
We then returned to the dorm for the evening, and after a short meeting we headed to our rooms to rest up for another day of singing and learning. Tomorrow we'll also have the opportunity to perform a lunchtime concert at City Hall.
Day 8 - Vancouver Festival
This was our second day at the Coastal Sound International Choral Festival (the largest choral festival happening this week in North America), and was in many ways similar to our first day, including rehearsals with Henry Leck and Rollo Dilworth.
Today, however, we also had the opportunity to load ourselves and our bag lunches on the bus to perform a lunchtime concert in Burnaby at their City Hall, sharing the program with the San Francisco Boys Choir.
On the way back from City Hall, we made a stop at a local Safeway to allow the singers to replenish their needed (and sometimes unneeded) supplies.
Then it was back for more rehearsals, dinner and a ride to St. Andrew's Wesley Church for the evening concert, featuring performances by the Northland Youth Choir (Fairbanks, Alaska) and the Young Naperville Singers (Naperville, Illinois).
Our return to Simon Fraser gave us views of Vancouver's Harbor (or should I say 'Harbour'?) through Stanley Park.
Our nightly meeting was short, to allow us to get as much rest as possible for what promises to be a fun day tomorrow at Whistler.
Day 9 - Whistler
This was our 'breakout' day to Whistler, where the singers took a much-needed break from rehearsals and traveled by bus along the Sea to Sky Highway to one of the main sites of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
After downing our bag lunches on arrival, we met our guide who taught us some history of the area on a walking tour of this relatively new town.
Next, we arrived at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre where we viewed a film about First Nations, performed a concert in the theatre (including the use of a drum from one of the displays), and took a tour to some key parts of the museum. At the last stop in the longhouse, several singers had the opportunity to make bracelets out of cedar bark in the traditional way of the native people of this area.
After that, we rode the cable cars (gondolas), enjoying the breathtaking views experienced on the Peak to Peak portion, which actually goes between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain. Some were able to ride a car that had a glass bottom, and all were able to experience something that is rare to us-- snow on the ground in July.
We then hit the shops for a while until dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.
Then it was back to the dorms once again as we said goodbye to our fantastic guide, Al - but not quite goodbye (more later).
Although our bodies were tired, our spirits were invigorated by an amazing day.
Day 10 - Vancouver Festival
Today was a wonderful but emotional day as the choir rehearsed and performed our own concert segment in the evening program, which for the seniors was their final concert performed solely under the Summit Choral name.
The day started with the usual rehearsal of the massed choral pieces, but today this was followed by special 'world music' sessions led by people from across the globe who taught songs, rhythms, and dance from their particular cultures.
The choir then spent some time polishing various sections of pieces for this evening's concert. The choir was then relieved to have a shortened afternoon rehearsal, which allowed time for rest and packing.
After dinner, we again traveled into Vancouver for the concert, which featured our choir, the San Francisco Boys' Choir, and the Coastal Sound Youth Choir. All were quite different and wonderful in their own ways. Our Touring Choir definitely picked this evening to hit their peak performance, drawing rave reviews from the concert-goers, and even inspiring Dr. Rollo Dilworth to pay a visit to our bus to express how moved he was by our performance.
We were also very happy to see our guide Al and his wife in the audience - a very nice gesture by a wonderful, friendly and knowledgeable individual who was so helpful to us during our tour.
Needless to say, the bus ride back was spirited.
The seniors then took off to a campus restaurant to share stories and enjoy snacks with the choir managers and accompanist.
Tomorrow - the Gala Closing Concert.
Day 11 - Vancouver Festival
Well, that time is upon us. Our last full day of Festival activities until our trip home tomorrow.
A large portion of today was used to prepare for this evening's Closing Concert. After breakfast, the singers again loaded the buses for a trip to the Pacific Academy in Surrey where they spent the day rehearsing music and going through the stage logistics.
The concert itself consisted of performances by world music group 'The Shirleys,' selections from the Coastal Sound Youth Choir, massed choir pieces (including our choir, of course), and world music trio TriVo.
Afterward, we returned to Simon Fraser University for a dance held for all of the participating choirs.
Packing for the trip home was a big part of the remainder of the evening, with an early departure tomorrow.
Day 12 - Travel Home
Most of today was spent on buses and planes, and we got an early start for the bus ride to Seattle-Tacoma Airport, bidding farewell to our 'guardian angel' Tania, who provided so much assistance to us during our stay at Simon Fraser University and on our excursions to the various venues. Brown bag breakfasts were eaten along the way, and Alex and Maria presented kind thank-yous to the adult chaperones and staff, which were greatly appreciated. Mrs. J then performed the traditional swearing-in of our newest veterans -- no longer newbies!
After a brief stop at the border for a passport walk-thru, we continued to the airport for our flights to Houston and Cleveland. Our arrival at the baggage claim area was met with applause from our families, and the choir performed a flashmob-like performance for them before we picked up our luggage for the journey to our homes.
Thanks to all of our new Canadian and American friends we met along the way. You've made our lives richer through our time together.
Best wishes to our seniors - you've definitely made your mark and provided a fine example for others to follow. Our thanks to you!
Now let's get ready to welcome our newbies for next year! Where will we go in 2012??