Sunday, January 31, 2016


The final two days of our Chorale 2016 Winter Tour can be summed up quite concisely! Thursday was for theme-park fun! Many singers chose to spend their day in Disneyworld's Magic Kingdom, though other options included EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios. Others enjoyed Universal Studios, and got the chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Per our usual luck, however, it was raining cats and dogs in Orlando, Florida. In addition, some Chorale members (including yours truly) spent the day between coughs and sneezes, thanks to our recently acquired colds.

But despite these frustrations which, given the context of the entire trip, we found to be quite comical, I believe everyone had a wonderful time. I personally appreciated the rare opportunity to spend an entire day devoted to fun with friends in choir that I had grown so much closer to in the past week. We rode ride after ride, ate ice-cream and candy-apples, met Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, watched fireworks, and shared lots and lots of laughs. The rain even turned out to be somewhat of a blessing, as it kept the lines quite short! For most of us, it was a late night with an early wake-up call looming ahead. But we seized the day and made memories to bring back home with us and treasure for a long time.

On Friday morning, we met at 5:45 am to board the "Disney Magical Express" to the Orlando International Airport. I will personally vouch for that bus's Disney magic, as we made it to the airport with no radiator leaks, heater problems, air-conditioning failures, frozen compression lines, or fender-benders. Jiminy Cricket!

I believe I'd lose my credibility as a writer if I were to tell you in detail about our travels from Orlando to Houston to Seattle, for I was either sleeping, or just conscious enough to pull my suitcase and order a bagel from an airport cafe. I can report, however, that we did have one last delay (for old time's sake) when we waited for takeoff in Houston. The delay, I believe, was not unexpected. It wouldn't have felt right without it.

After we landed safely and sleeplessly in Seattle, we collected our luggage, boarded the very last bus of the tour, en route to Pacific Lutheran University. Also known as, home

When we exited the bus, we were certainly grateful to be heading back to our own beds, our own rooms, and perhaps to some solitude, after being around each other essentially 24/7. I believe that there was also a little bit of bittersweetness, though, as there is with the ending of any good journey. Certainly, our tour was not seamless. There were many frustrations and mishaps along the way, though I'm confident nearly all of them will translate into stories we'll enjoy telling and memories we'll keep sharing. And as we learned at the beginning of our travels, music does not have to be perfect to be meaningful, and felt, and valued, and loved. I think the very same truth goes for choir tours.

Wednesday: Roaming in the Rain

Wednesday, January 27th, was our designated "beach day" of the tour, and we were all antsy for it to come! We looked forward to a free morning on the beach, followed by lunch at Naples' Pelican Bay Beach Club, thanks to the generosity of Dr. Galante's parents. To conclude the day we'd travel to our final destination, Orlando, and enjoy a free evening at Disney Springs. Wednesday did come eventually...with dark clouds, rain, and even talk of thunder.  Chorale was a bit disappointed, but then we could almost laugh. The universe did not seem to approve of this tour.

Our morning departure time from La Quinta was delayed (Need I even tell you this?) to 10:30 as we waited to see what the weather would do. There were hardly any complaints, though, as we relished the rare opportunity to stay in PJ's and lounge around in our hotel rooms. 

True to our ever-changing schedule, at 10:30 we congregated back in the bus despite the rain coming down determinedly with no sign of stopping. While we crossed our fingers that the downpour would cease by the time we arrived at the beach, our wishes did not come to fruition. We had about an hour to kill until lunch was served at the country club. Hence, we wound up, yet again, at a shopping mall!

After our hour of dilly-dallying, we made our way to Pelican Bay Beach Club and found it to be clearly grandiose even in the pouring rain. The room in which we ate was very beautiful, with elegant decorations and big windows to survey the (soaking-wet) scenery around us. We were treated to a buffet-style lunch that was absolutely delicious, complete with salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, fresh fruit, dessert, and an appropriate beverage of our choosing.

From the beach club it was a short walk down to the ocean, which always has a beauty of its own, regardless of the weather. Some Chorale members who'd brought their swimsuits couldn't resist the the opportunity to be in the ocean, rain or shine. (I suppose they are true Pacific Northwesters!) They bounced and laughed in the waves, clearly exhilarated.

Once we had enjoyed our wonderful lunch, it was time to board the bus for our final journey with Miss Shawn. It would be about 3 1/2 hours of traveling to reach Orlando, where we'd find the Disney Pop Century Resort. The bus erupted into shrieks and cheers when we passed underneath the sign that told us we were entering Disneyworld, the happiest place on earth.

We could hardly believe it. After a week that began with delayed flights and continued the trend with broken buses and wild weather, we'd arrived safely to our last stop before the trip home, and we had the next day free to enjoy theme parks with friends. No matter the setbacks, we'd made it.

...But don't be too shocked at this success. When a portion of our group took the shuttle between the Pop Century and Disney Springs...their bus broke down. I guess that's just how we roll. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tuesday Travels

Hello from...home! The Pacific Lutheran University Chorale arrived safely back in Tacoma yesterday afternoon after a long day of traveling...but I haven't gotten to that part yet! As for now, it's time for me to document the remainder of our winter tour travels. (I apologize for the delay! Often faced with lack of access to the laptop, Wifi, or lack of sleep, it was eventually a choice between catching up on the blog, and spending all day in Disneyworld. You can imagine I was drawn to choose the latter.)

You most recently heard about our Monday of manatees and mishaps, including some questionable bus-rides that were truly unforgettable. (Shout-out to Larry.) But Tuesday, believe it or not, was a day when things actually went quite according to schedule! Though we've adapted to spontaneity and the philosophy of "wingin' it," the rare occasion of things going the way we'd expected them to was quite welcome. Tuesday was also a pleasant day, as the weather forecast was promising, and our last concert was that evening in the beautiful city of Naples. Following our last performance? Fun! A brief time of rest after our occasionally-sleepless, sometimes-stressful month of singing. "Work hard, play hard," Dr. Galante grinned.

On Tuesday morning, our home-stay hosts brought us back to St. Paul Lutheran Church to be picked up by the bus for our umpteenth bus-ride and delivered to the University of South Florida in Tampa for a clinic with the highly accomplished Dr. James Bass. I believe all of us were sleep-deprived (and I vaguely remember whining about coffee...) but greatly looking forward to the exciting opportunity to work with Dr. Bass. We certainly had reason to! (We were also thrilled to be back with Miss Shawn, our original bus driver. We'd had enough adventure for a little while.)

Dr. Bass is a singer (a bass, if you can believe it) and conductor, and is the Director of Choral Studies at the University of South Florida. He is also the chorus master for Seraphic Fire, a highly regarded and Grammy-nominated ensemble that performs throughout South Florida, and also tours nationally. Needless to say, we were working with someone who knew his stuff.

While it is unfortunate that Chorale only had an hour to work with Dr. Bass, the short time we had together was productive and meaningful. The warm-up exercises were especially interesting. Our voices were a bit rusty, the consequence of lots of singing and a likely insufficient amount of sleep. However, Dr. Bass seemed primarily intent on "warming up" our minds. He led us in a series of humming exercises that guided us to practice listening-skills and awareness. More than anything, he seemed most interested in our unity as an ensemble. "You're a vocal family, right?" he asked us. "Then sing like one. Don't compete with one another. Just fill up the space around you with a nice, easy hum." It took nearly a minute of humming one tone together until he finally stopped us and told us he had heard it - the choir coming together as one voice.

The remainder of time was spent concentrating on the two Mendelssohn pieces of our set: "Richte mich Gott" and "Mitten wir im Leben sind." Dr. Bass greatly emphasized the importance of pronouncing the German diction in just the right way. This included proper textual emphasis - which meant we had to know what we were saying. And not just know what we were saying, but feel what we were saying.

"If you're in a play," Dr. Bass told us, "and the character you are portraying has to kill someone, that doesn't mean that you believe in murder. You just have to portray someone who does." Dr. Bass reminded us, whether or not we feel that the text we sing is true for us personally, we must always sing as though it is. 

In addition to helping us with the text, Dr. Bass also provided us with some feedback regarding when to use vibrato, and when to sing with a straight tone (no vibrato). There are two things that he said, however, that were not so much instructions for singing as things to ponder, and that I found most memorable.

Firstly, Dr. Bass pointed out the importance of singing, and the special connection between choirs in accomplishing one single goal of making music - even on opposite sides of the country. Such a goal unites us in a unique way. He discussed how, at all places across the world on a Tuesday morning, millions upon millions of people would be doing such regular and mundane things as driving to work or arriving in the office or watching TV - but we were not doing those things. We were singing "Mitten vir im Leben sind." Perhaps at one moment that morning, he suggested to us, we were the only ones in the world doing that very thing. For some reason, I found that extremely meaningful. We were not doing the mundane that morning, I thought to myself. We were singing. Simply because we had chosen to.

The second thing that Dr. Bass said that I found quite significant was his comparison between a choir and a flock of birds. "It's amazing," he said, "when a flock of birds makes a turn - and every single bird in the flock turns its head at the exact same moment." He explained that he felt a similar thing happened when a group of people all sung the same vowel, with perfect balance, at the same time. It was to encourage us to be unified as an ensemble, and move at the same time, in sync with one another during every second throughout a song. The result when that happened, he told us, was incredible.

With that food for thought, Dr. Bass sent us on our way. We hopped back onto the bus, chatting about the clinic and what we'd learned from it. I heard many say that it was the best clinic they had ever had with a director. We were all left wishing for more time to work with the remarkably talented Dr. Bass, but also thankful that we had any time with him at all.

We departed the (huge!) University of South Florida  bound for Naples! It was a gorgeous day, the kind of day we'd daydreamed of when we packed our suitcases with shorts and swimsuits. The sky was blue and the air was warm - that exquisite temperature just between 70 and 80 degrees. Paired with the Florida humidity, though, it felt even warmer. Especially on the bus.

No strangers to bus-problems this week, we were hardly surprised to discover that the bus whose heater hadn't worked a few days ago also had difficulty with air-conditioning. The crowded bus warmed up quickly and got uncomfortably warm with the mid-day Florida sun streaming through our windows. Fortunately, Miss Shawn had somewhat of a solution to offer us to at least better the circumstances - each rooftop emergency exit was cracked open to let air flow into the vehicle as we made our way to the next destination. It made the bus very loud, but for the queasy and lethargic singers like myself, we just closed our eyes and waited for Naples.

The anticipation surely was worth it. Upon arriving in Naples we gazed outside our windows at fancy establishments, stunning homes, and posh restaurants, complemented nicely with palm trees and a blue sky. We had a few hours completely free, to enjoy the local cuisine, sample shops and boutiques, or even visit the beach. The world was our oyster.

After enjoying lunch, many of us did indeed find each other at the ocean's edge, walking along the water and sticking our toes in. A couple of daring girls even ventured into the water! I personally was content burying my feet in the warm sand and admiring the sea, soaking up sun and serenity.

When we got back on the bus shortly before 4:00, we headed to a La Quinta Inn in Naples, where we would quickly change into concert attire, then head to Naples United Church of Christ, the location for our fourth formal concert, and the last performance of the tour. After walking around and getting a little Vitamin D, we were in high spirits and looking forward to the final performance. It had been a good day. Amazingly, our only delay was a short wait for the bus after getting its air-conditioning fixed. (Yay!) We even had time for a rehearsal that evening before the concert. We could hardly believe it. "What do we do with ourselves?" Dr. Galante joked.

The concert that evening drew a nice crowd that included Dr. Galante's parents who reside part-time in Florida. We performed "A Child, My Choice," Dr. Galante's composition, so they could hear it. We sure hope we made them proud!

Our last concert of the tour was followed by lots of laughs and smiles, "good jobs" and high-fives, and even a nice lady who was giving out hugs like Oprah. ("You get a hug, and YOU get a hug! Everybody gets a hug!") And the evening ended on a high note (get it?!) with a group dinner at The Counter in Naples. We feasted on giant delicious burgers (a few choir members ordering a full pound of meat) and had a great time socializing with the people we had grown closer to in the past month. 

We concluded our late night looking forward to sleeping in, and enjoying the Florida sun (knock on wood) the next day at Pelican Bay Beach Club, then departing to our last stop - Orlando, home to Disneyworld and Universal Studios. 

And the next morning I saw a flock of birds flying above me, and they all turned their heads at the exact same time. I couldn't help but smile.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tuesday's Mini Movie

Here is the vlog for Tuesday, January 26th, made by the ever-talented Allie. We had a great clinic at the University of South Florida, an evening concert in Naples, and some beach time in between!

Monday Mishaps: Oh, the Hu-manatee!

(Credit to Dr. Zach Lyman for the creative title)

Today the University Chorale finds itself in the Sunshine State of Florida. However, today its nickname is a little bit of a misnomer. We Northwesters have brought the gloomy weather with us to Naples! The weather forecast threatens rain and even thunderstorms for a cloudy Wednesday – our beach day! But I believe Chorale has gained a bit of resilience this week. Hiccup after hiccup, we’ve still greatly enjoyed ourselves, performed well, and had fun. If everything went according to schedule, we’ve mused, what a boring trip that would be! (Okay, so perhaps it would actually be quite pleasant if everything had gone according to schedule. But I guarantee that this way we’ll come back with a lot more stories and a lot more laughs. Curious? See below.)

The agenda for Monday was originally: an 8am departure from the Crawfordville hotel to Manatee Springs State Park, about two hours away. We would have a few hours to ride in canoes or pontoons and walk the trails in hopes of discovering our big aquatic friends. At about 1:30 we were scheduled to leave the park and travel to Tampa, where we would sing at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Upon arrival at the church, we’d have several hours available for rehearsal and dinner, then perform a 7:30 program. Well. That was the idea, anyway.

Our call-time on Monday was moved to 9 – we arrived at the hotel very late on Sunday night, so Dr. Galante allowed us one more hour of rest. Whether or not we were really ready at 9, however, the bus was not ready for us. Our wonderful bus driver, Miss Shawn, discovered that Bus Two had a radiator leak. Yet again, our perfect-scenario-idealistic schedule was basically tossed out the window and replaced with go-with-the-flow spontaneity. A new bus (Bus Number Three!) would need to be called in. The new departure time was set at 10am.

Although we were not in as happening of a place as downtown Atlanta, the ever-resourceful University Chorale found ways to stay entertained. (The weather, after all, was quite lovely on Monday!) A few singers caught some z’s, read a book, or tossed a ball around. Less conventional activities included yoga on the dead grass in front of the hotel, tree-climbing, and spastically running around the parking lot and doing cartwheels (That would be Yours Truly).

10:00 came and went. We were given a new call time. The bus was expected at about 10:35. A few of us created some riveting outdoor games given our limited resources. Favorites included “Kick-the-peanut-M&M-around-the-parking-lot” and “Pass the dewdrop.” They were about as fun as they sound. Our imaginations seemed to have dwindled in capability since the early days of our youth.

At about 11:00, three hours past our original original departure time, Bus Number Three pulled into the parking lot. We had a new driver, a friendly guy named Larry, who had come in on his day off to rescue us! Grateful and excited to be going somewhere, we piled into the new bus and set off for the state park. Manatees or bust!

Unbeknownst to us at the time, such a phrase would characterize Monday’s bus trip all too well. The trip was a little turbulent, to put it lightly. And little did we know, there would in fact, be one more delay before Manatee Springs. At about 12:00, we got into a little fender-bender.

As frustrating and unnerving as it was that we rear-ended an SUV (we being a giant tour bus), we were thankful the accident was nothing very dramatic, resulting in a dent at most. Though it was disappointing that yet another obstacle had been introduced between us and the manatees, we couldn’t help but find some humor in the situation. Of course, we mused. Of course, we hit a car. Chorale Tour 2016! Woo-hoo!

We pulled off the side of the road to the nearest available area – which just so happened to be a quaint little abandoned shack labeled “Daddy’s Place.” While information was exchanged between drivers, we waited in the bus and admired the myriad murals on the building’s walls. Phrases such as “Justice, or else” and “By any means necessary” graced its outside architecture. Upon further investigation, Dr. Lyman reported that the shack, likely an old meeting-place, was adorned with several outdated wanted-for-murder posters. We considered it an educational study-away opportunity.

Not long after we pulled to the side of the road, two police cars, manned by officers wearing bullet-proof vests, arrived at the scene. While we had not yet caught sight of any manatees, we certainly got to witness a lot more than we’d expected!

“Oh, the hu-manatee!” Dr. Lyman groaned. “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” Dr. Galante dryly chimed in.

At about 12:35, we waved goodbye to Daddy’s Place, and returned to the road. We were about four hours behind schedule…But we were going to see some manatees, doggonit.

At 2:15 we arrived at Manatee Springs. We were very grateful that we still made the stop even though, according the original schedule, we would’ve left the park by now. There was one hour (much of it spent in line) to eat a barbecue lunch of beans, coleslaw, and pork sandwiches or a giant hunk of chicken, and to walk the park and enjoy the wildlife. While the initial plans to canoe with the manatees were no more, we seized the experience before us, and reveled in the chance to stretch our legs and get some fresh air! (Indeed, I suspect we were all quite happy to be off the bus for a bit. I think our driver was set on preparing us for the rides at Disneyland. I appreciate his thoughtfulness but, overcome with nausea and gripping the armrests with white knuckles, I figured I could wait until Orlando for my adrenaline rush. Space Mountain had nothing on Larry.)

We said goodbye to the manatees and their home, a beautiful state park, and got back on the bus-turned-amusement-park-ride. Our next stop was St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tampa, for our third tour concert!

We arrived in Tampa perhaps a bit hesitant about our impending 7:30 performance; it was, after all, just over an hour away. We scarfed down dinner, which the church graciously provided for us, then made our way to the sanctuary, clueless concerning what to expect.

The sanctuary had a very traditional layout. It was a long rectangular room with wooden pews that faced the cross. Immediately into warm-ups we discovered that it was also a very live space to sing in. Dr. Galante quickly arranged us into a horseshoe formation so we could fit comfortably on the stage and better hear each other. Our favorite part of the formation, though, was the ease it provided for us to make eye-contact with one another and interact as a choir. It would prove to affect our performance greatly.

After another lightning-speed “rehearsal” that was really nothing more than a sound-check, we embraced a “just do it!” mentality as we hurriedly dressed for the concert. “New motto,” we joked. “Rehearsal? Who needs it?!

And while I will heartily agree that such a philosophy should not define a choir, that night we had a beautiful concert. Monday was a day of mishaps and frustrations, of surprises and delays, of stress and spontaneity – but then, it was a day that ended with remarkable beauty and a healthy dose of happiness.

When you’ve had a good concert, it’s followed by a sort of “performer’s high.” Immediately after exiting the sanctuary of St. Paul Lutheran Church, the whole choir erupted in a giddy chatter. We laughed, high-fived, and congratulated each other for a show that we didn’t just sing, but that we felt.

The horseshoe formation had allowed us to constantly make connections with one another, and the acoustics of the room let us hear voices and harmonies we had never heard before. Consistently one of our hardest songs to sing, “When All Is Done” came to life in that room.

I recognize the song’s beauty and depth, but as it’s about ten minutes long, I admit that I’m a bit grateful at its conclusion. Yet Monday evening, I did my best to simply listen to the music we were making as we made it. I heard the trumpet interact with our voices and thought about how never again would I be in that room, singing that very song, with those very people. And that made something just click. Whenever I remembered that, I got goosebumps.

We gathered our luggage, smiling to our ears, and said goodbye to each other as we embarked on our last homestays of the tour. I can’t, of course, speak for everyone, but I think a lot of us went to bed that night feeling proud. “Let beauty be our memorial,” we’ve prayed again and again, nearly every performance. On Monday night, after a day of misadventure, I think it was.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action!

Catch up on our vlog! Allie's mini movies for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday can be found below. Enjoy!




Monday, January 25, 2016

“Y’all gotta try the grits.”

Come Sunday morning of our University Chorale Winter 2016 Tour, I was feeling quite Southern. Along with three other girls, I had the pleasure of staying with the pastor and his wife in a pleasant suburb of Birmingham. We were blessed to stay in such a beautiful home, decorated brilliantly by our lovely and hospitable host mother, a former interior designer. More enjoyable than the home itself, though, was the warmth of the company that received us. Upon our arrival the evening prior, we were invited to enjoy snacks and conversation in a room with big windows and a view of the trees right outside. There were lots of smiles and laughs shared, especially regarding the first order of business: right after we “had a sit-down” in the comfy armchairs, our host mother began the conversation with, “So. Tell me about the boys.” The pastor and his wife were in familiar territory, having three daughters of their own. “We know all about this life,” they told us with a smile. After learning more about their family, as well as Birmingham, Alabama, we said good night to one another, looking forward to a hearty Southern breakfast at 7:30.

“You have to try grits,” our host parents told us. “You don’t have to eat all of ‘em, you can just take a bit if y’all want, but you have to try grits. You’re in the South.” We could tell we were in the South, alright, by the breakfast in front of us Sunday morning. We were grateful recipients of wonderful cooking and helped ourselves to a cheesy egg and sausage casserole, warm biscuits with jam and butter, and, of course, grits (combined with an abundance of butter, cheese, and salt). I was especially appreciative of the coffee our beautiful hostess offered us, as well. “I don’t even want to think,” she told me, accent and all, “about a day without coffee.”

After finishing our breakfast – and giving our hearty consent of grits, at which point we were declared to have passed the test to be a Southerner – we packed our bags into the car, waved goodbye to the home we had only spent a night in but were nonetheless attached to, and headed to Vestavia Hills Baptist Church. We enjoyed hearing from the pastor’s wife about how many opportunities there were to give in Birmingham, and about all the outreach work the church engages in to better its community. She stressed that the church sought to welcome all, regardless of socioeconomic status or life situation. We certainly felt welcome that Sunday.

Though the service was at 10, University Chorale met in a choir room behind the sanctuary an hour beforehand to rehearse and debrief. (We would sing a few songs during the service.) We discussed what we learned and appreciated during the clinic with Dr. Bara at UGA, and walked through the service lineup with Dr. Terre Johnson, the Director of Music at Vestavia Hills and a good friend of Dr. Galante.

When it was time, we exited the choir room and sat underneath the cross in the choir seats at the front of the sanctuary. The traditional service was very lovely. The sanctuary was a bright and calm place, the room warm with color as the sun shone through stained-glass windows. The service began with one of our Christmas pieces, “There is Faint Music.” Later on, we sang “O Salutaris Hostia,” and closed the service with “I Can Tell the World,” to the delight of the congregation. In between we sang hymns with familiar tunes accompanied by the organ, and we greatly enjoyed the gospel readings, read with strong Southern accents and sincerity. The sermon (given by our host father!) was entitled “Care,” and, regardless of our unique backgrounds, I think its message rang true in all of us.

Following the service, we were heartily thanked, and gave thank-you’s in return to the generous congregation members. We said goodbye to the people who had adopted us for the night, filed back into the bus, and, still in our “Sunday best,” headed to Birmingham’s Galleria Mall.

As we had a few hours before our next gig, Dr’s Ezhokina, Lyman, and Galante had lunch with Dr. Johnson, while Chorale ate and explored in the spacious mall. A great variety of activities took place (Though, what else would you expect, when 42 college students on a big road trip stop at a giant mall?). While some of us engaged in typical activities like gracing the coffee shops and doing a little shopping, others got quite creative.

A few girls tried on princess-esque gowns at a dress shop, several boys made it their goal to set foot in every single store (quite a feat!), and the mall’s carousel and escalators offered endless fun and shenanigans. (Being in Sunday heels since 7:30am did not offer endless fun and shenanigans, might I add.)
After a few hours, we met back at the bus to travel to the Cathedral of St. Paul for a performance exchange with two local university choirs: the University of Montevallo, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The University Chorale looked less than uniform in our various attire: church clothes with quirky additions such as Vans shoes and jackets for comfort (A look I’d like to call, Sunday Best, with a Twist!). Montevallo and UAB, on the other hand, were in formal concert attire: black tuxes (some even had coattails!) and dresses with pearls. And they certainly matched the grandeur of the breathtaking cathedral. We felt a little underdressed. And a bit confused. Was this an official performance?

“So, is this an exchange or a concert?” I asked Dr. Galante. “Yes!” he replied. Well, that was helpful.

Whatever it was, people slowly starting drifting into the cathedral while each choir briefly rehearsed. After all had a chance to do so, each singer pulled out a copy of Alice Parker’s “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal.” Though many had not so much as glanced at the music before, we would run the song a couple of times, and then sing it at the end of the performance-concert-exchange-thingamabob-whatever-it-was.  The objective was not a perfect end result; the objective was the collaboration of three different choirs, most of us strangers to each other, seizing the opportunity of being in the same place at the same time and having the same desire: to have a musical conversation. To be unified, even for just a few minutes, by a common goal: a song.

It was great to have the chance to listen to fellow college choirs, and accomplished ones at that. After enjoying the performances of Montevallo, under the direction of Dr. Melinda Doyle, and UAB, directed by Dr. Brian Kittredge, we made our way to the front of the glorious cathedral. Our set of four songs included “Richte Mich Gott,” “O Salutaris Hostia,” “Let Beauty Be Our Memorial,” and, yet again, “I Can Tell the World.” Our kind audience gave us a hearty applause, especially after “Salutaris” – our soloists had done a fabulous job, and truly sounded like angels in the cathedral.

Indeed, the Cathedral of St. Paul was simply a blast to sing in. When we sang, it felt as though the room came alive, like the walls and ceilings and majestic columns were singing with us. Singing “Hark I Hear” was a special experience, with over 120 voices joining together to produce a warm, gold-colored sound. We sang and the cathedral sang back to us.

After the performance, we said goodbye to our fellow singers, our faces lit up with smiles after having the chance to sing in a place with such great acoustics. Still in our less-than-comfortable Sunday best, we boarded our second home (the bus) and tried to muster some enthusiasm for the four-hour ride ahead. We were bound for Crawfordville, Florida, y’all!

After about an hour of driving we stopped in Montgomery, Alabama to eat a quick dinner. Tired and eager to change into pajamas, we were a bit grumpy about the three hours of driving that remained. But spirits were lifted (at least, mine were!) when we popped Star Wars: Episode VI into the bus DVD player and spent our evening with storm-troopers and ewoks.

Shortly before 1am, we pulled into the Best Western in Crawfordville, a town just outside of Tallahassee, Florida. We had instructions to be ready to go at 9:00, Monday morning, to depart to Manatee Springs State Park in the morning. I don’t know about the others, but as for me, I was eager to crawl into bed. I fell asleep when my head hit the pillow.

More to come about our (exciting? spontaneous? alarming? Just what is the correct word?) Monday adventures tomorrow!