Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mixed Chorus Spring Tour, 2010

At last, my long put-off Tour Post. Every year I tour Canada with my University Mixed Chorus, which usually turns out to be a dense nine-day slumber party/musical/social event that keeps me going for the rest of the year. This year, we had an even longer tour (ten days) because we went further east than the choir has ever gone in its 66-year history. Regular readers of mine may want to skip this post - it's rambling and badly written and pretty personal, a bit a throwback to when my blog was more like a journal than a review sight. Without further ado, here are my ramblings on the 2010 Spring Tour:

Day One - Destination: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Theme: Pajama Day!
It's tradition on the first day of Tour to wear our pajamas, and everyone came out in sleepy style, myself included (in a new pair of red PJs). This was bound to be a special tour, because we were going so far east, but a group of boys in the choir decided to make it an even more special tour by sporting hideous, hideous mustaches, and nicknaming one of the buses, the Bustache.

After performing the hora (the circle dance that is our traditional good-luck charm before travelling anywhere on tour), we boarded the buses (I wound up on Bob the Choir Director's bus - a first, in all the four years I've gone on tour) and headed to Saskatoon, a pretty significant drive.

Secret Pals was different this year, too - Secret Pals is kind of like Secret Santa. You give your partner (who doesn't know who you are) a series of funny tasks/pranks to perform, in exchange for a clue as to your identity throughout tour. Usually, the first day of Tour is pretty prank-free because the Secret Pals don't learn who they're pranking until then, but this year the social conveners decided to give out Secret Pal info before the tour. Impulsively, I decided to give my Secret Pal a task I'd created at random, but couldn't actually see him perform it because he wasn't on my bus.

We had a break from the long drive in Lloydminster (a city that straddles the boundary between Alberta and Saskatchewan), then continued on to Saskatoon, following the nasty, freezing rain storm all the way there. In Saskatoon, we arrived at the church venue, where we briefly rehearsed before the lovely church people fed us great lasagna and nut-free dessert (whoohoo!). People performed Secret Pal tasks throughout dinner - playing a silly song on a recorder, reciting a poem, and in one case, smashing a porcelain pig in a sock (his subsequent clue was "THERE IS NO CLUE. YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON."). Afterward, we performed in the church, and after that came the billets.

Ah, billeting. So many people in the towns we go to are generous enough to give us beds and breakfasts, and I can't help but be nervous and freaked out about the experience because I'm shy around strangers and have allergies. Oh, well. I ended up billeted separately from my billet partner (on account of differing allergies, the Tour Manager said) but the woman I ended up billeted with knew NOTHING about me having allergies and had nuts throughout the house. I freaked out a bit, and at the last minute another billet took me. I ended up sleeping on a hard floor in a room full of portraits of topless women. Did not sleep well, as a result.

Day Two - Destination: Yorkton, Saskatchewan
Yorkton was an interesting day. I got a Secret Pal task - I had to make a choir mascot out of play-doh and show it to Bob (I made a Bustache - a bus with a mustache!). Long drive, and when we arrived we actually had to buy our own dinner at a Superstore and eat it in about 15 minutes before we had to be ready to perform. We ended up performing before one of our tiniest audiences ever - despite the fact that the well-intentioned pastor gave out 150 free tickets, only 25 people showed up (and we're a 70-person choir).

We then left that church to go and have a group sleep in another church. Group sleeps can be fun - it's often like a big slumber party. I played Mafia with some other choir members, washed my hair in a sink, and then set up a bunch of soft chair upon which to sleep. That very first day of Tour I'd realized I could no longer comfortably sleep on the floor the way I'd used to. My first mistake? I'd unknowingly chosen the room designated for people who wanted to stay up (there were other rooms - "quiet rooms" - for people who wanted to go to sleep early - but they didn't have soft chairs or they were already taken). I didn't truly realize the people blabbing where I was trying to sleep had no intention of going to sleep until about 2 am. Frustrated and pretty close to tears, I dragged my sleeping back into a corridor and had an incredibly unsuccessful sleep on a hard floor in an area with three doors that no one tried to close quietly.

Day Three - Destination: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Theme: Beauty and the Geek Day!

Breakfast was served by the church, and it was pretty delicious. I changed into my theme costume earlier for pictures (I was both Beauty and Geek, i.e. the Sexy Librarian, which got some great reactions), but had to change back quickly because we had a morning concert in that church to repay them for the hot chocolate and pancakes.

We drove all the way to Winnipeg that day, where the great Anglican church served us a fantastic perogy supper with sour cream and onions! Other people also dressed up for Beauty and the Geek day - including one Tenor who went about in a fluffy pink Princess dress but refused to pose for pictures.

The concert went pretty well, with Secret Pal tasks during the intermission (including a tutorial on how lions reproduce, as re-enacted by a choir member), and I got my second task, to write a poem about the German song we had to memorize about shepherding. By the end of the concert, I was running on fumes after two days of barely any sleep, and I was nervous about who I was going to be billeted with. To my everlasting relief, I ended up billeting with the friendly youth pastor, who managed to pack all four of the choir members she was billeting, and all their pillows and luggage, into her tiny car. It covered the back the window, but she informed us that rear windows were unnecessary in Manitoba.

This wonderful woman and her husband squeezed four choir members into their tiny house, and praise Jesus I got a bed! FINALLY! I fell asleep composing the lyrics of my rap.

Day Four - Destination: Dryden, Ontario

We were almost ready to leave Winnipeg in the morning - but first we had a school concert, where we perform for kids. We were running late thanks to the time-zone change that we forgot to prepare for and we had to cut a few songs short - and then we spent forty minutes doing Secret Pal tasks, ha! I did my rap (to the beat of "Lazy Sunday") and got some laughs - then the person I gave Secret Pal tasks to completed his task: he had to dress up in a cheesy fake beard and maracas and perform as the Taco Lord.

Ah yes - the Taco Lord. One of the song we have to sing in choir is a gospel song called "I'm Gonna Sing," and each verse details one of the things we do for God because we love him - I'm gonna sing, oh Lord, I'm gonna preach, oh Lord, etc. etc. And it so happens that there is a verse where we sing, "I'm gonna talk, oh lord" which sounds, when sung by many people, to sound like "taco lord." So this entire year, we've joked about the Taco Lord and his cheesy goodness, so I made my Secret Pal perform as his avatar in the circle.

We were super behind by then, so we all rushed to the bus. We dropped off our stuff in the elementary school where we were to sleep, and then the nearby church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gave us a delicious chili supper. Then off to the concert! We had us a good sing, and then we all went back to the elementary school for another group sleep. My concerns were alleviated that night because I had the good fortune to snatch a gym mat for myself so the hard gym floor wasn't an issue. I played the game "What If?" with some choir mates and then dropped off to sleep.

Day Five - Destination: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Theme: Super Hero Day!

This was a fun day - because we had a school concert, I put most of my superhero costume on beneath the school concert uniform. Still, extra padding aside, we had a great concert. The children got really involved, and the handbell ringers came out with a surprise both for the kids and for the non-bell-playing members of choir: a performance of "It's a Small World After All" with boomwhackers. Boomwhackers are coloured plastic tubes of differing lengths that give off a different note when you bonk them against something. So essentially, the handbell ringers beat each other with sticks, musically, creating a Disney song. Awesome.

Once the performance was over, you can bet I changed into my superhero costume right away - a made-up hero called Power Pixie!

Then it was off to Thunder Bay, Ontario. On the way, we made a half-hour pitstop in a small town to raid the stores for hotel night supplies.

After that, we arrived at an absolutely GORGEOUS Presbyterian Church, had a great dinner, then performed to our biggest audience. I'm talking floor seats and balcony seats full of people who couldn't wait to give us a standing ovation. It was a great feeling, and a great precursor to Hotel Night. Yes - in Thunder Bay we had the annual night on Tour when the whole choir stays at a hotel. It was actually better this year because we were two people to a room instead of four to a room. While I certain didn't make the same mistake I made my first year of Tour (which was to stay in on Hotel Night), I didn't wander around too far, either. I stayed in pretty much the same room with a bunch of friends until I felt tired - and then I went to bed. Easy peasy, and a lot of fun without too much fuss.

Day Six - Destination: Dryden, Ontario

The morning after Hotel Night rose bright and blue - for the first time in our entire tour, during which we seemed to follow the same storm front through Eastern Canada. Needless to say, some members of the choir weren't too appreciative of the sudden onslaught of sunlight this early in the morning.

Anyway, we had some time for sightseeing in Thunder Bay so we drove to the Terry Fox memorial. Fox's run apparently ended in Thunder Bay due to the return of his illness, but there was a pretty heart-tugging memorial to him. We took some group pictures, and then we returned to the bus to continue to Dryden.

However, there was no rush today because there was no performance today - we were originally slated to perform in Kenora, but that fell through. So, our bus drivers drove us to Kakabeca Falls, where we spent a couple of hours sightseeing. It was truly a beautiful place, albeit very cruel - "I have a great idea! Let's build clearly marked bathrooms near a giant waterfall and then lock them!" The weather lasted right until the end of break. One minute it was warm, the next, the temperature fell about five degrees and the rain started falling, right when we were getting on the bus to leave again.

Once we arrived in Dryden, we set up for a group sleep in the same school we slept at the last time (which was super generous of them). We came back to find out that pictures of our last performance there were already up on their bulletin boards - wow! That was fast! They must have really liked us! The night was much more casual because there was no performance - I chose, with some friends of mine, to trek through the rain to a Wal-Mart for more supplies and, in my case, an air mattress so I wouldn't have to put up with another bare floor EVER again. Despite the rain, it was a fun trip, I got a $25 air mattress and enough food to last me through the rest of tour if all of my other billet lunches were iffy, and we all stopped and ate at an A&Ws that served rootbeer in frosted glasses.

Seriously, at least that night, that mattress was the best $25 I ever spent. I slept like a baby.

Day Seven - Destination: Brandon, Manitoba
Theme: Rainbow Brite Day (each section of the choir wears a different colour - as Soprano II, I wore red)

This was kind of a down day for me. First, we had a hugely long drive (more than six hours), and depression just sort of snuck up on me. I'd received a Secret Pal task I didn't understand and despite spreading the word that I didn't understand it, received no word and was frustrated and sad. I love getting Secret Pal tasks, and my own disappointment was starting to get to me.

After a long-ass drive, we held a pitstop at a Country Market/Buffet Restaurant type place. Because of my allergies, I decided to order off the menu instead of the buffet, which turned out to be a huge mistake. I doubt this restaurant had ever had to deal with 70 surprise diners at noon on a Thursday, and I didn't take that into account. During the forty minutes it took for my food to arrive, my mood just got worse and worse. I just wanted to curl up on the bus and cry. I felt awful and antisocial - as well as lonely and miserable for being antisocial.

I guess God tried to send me a message as I left the restaurant (alone, while we were still on break) and perused the convenience store next door, because I actually won a crane machine prize. I. Won. A crane machine prize. They never work! And, thinking wasting money would make me feel better, won a teddy bear after only three tries! How weird is that? I felt a little better after that and vowed to get my shit together.

We arrived in Brandon, set up for choir, and I lost my shit all over again. My Secret Pal contacted me and said that my task wasn't completed, despite the fact that I'd made it clear I didn't understand it. Even after hints delivered from different people, I didn't get it, and I felt frustrated all over again. I hated asking a million people the same thing! Eventually, I did get my clue - but only, I'm sure, because I was a biggest crybaby in existence and not because I'd actually completed my task - and this only made me feel worse.

After an okay performance, I was separated from my billet partner again and sent off to another house, where at least I got the bed to myself to sleep.

Day Eight - Destination: Regina, Saskatchewan

I was briefly excited because this is the city where my favourite romance author Mary Balogh lives, but then I remembered she announced she's going to Wales. Oh well. We had a school concert today with, I swear, the least enthusiastic audience I'd ever seen. Usually at school concerts, we sing a lot of songs the kids can participate and have fun in and they usually go nuts for that sort of thing. This time, the kids in Brandon were slow and inattentive and I think only a dozen out of the whole bunch danced along to our songs. Bummer!

After that it was off to Regina. We arrived and set up early, with some free time to spare, so I took off with some friends and had frozen yogurt before dinner. The church folk gave us a great dinner and a nut-free dessert! Yum! We then had some delightful Secret Pal tasks to perform. Three guys had to swallow one spoonful of unadulterated vegemite each, two had to have a rap battle about the difference between affect and effect, and one had to do a trailer voice-over about Hotel Night.

After that, it was a pretty regular performance, except during the intermission. We all have to listen for when we get the signal to line up and end the intermission, and while we were talking, the room suddenly got all hushed and quiet. Instinctively, we all looked to our assistant conductor for the signal - and caught him frozen with a piece of cake lodged in his mouth. In complete silence, he shoved the entire thing into his mouth and swallowed it - only to discover it wasn't time to line up at all. Things just got coincidentally quiet.

Billeting was also uneventful except for one of our fellow billet partners who fell down the stairs (she was fine).

Day Nine - Destination: Wainwright, Alberta
Theme: Be Your Billet Partner Day!

The day dawned bright and sunny, and we had time for some Secret Pal shenanigans before we hit the road to Wainwright, our longest drive (more than seven hours!). I'd cheered up by then and no longer decided to be bothered by Secret Pals. It was my fault I felt this way, not my Secret Pal's. We arrived in Wainwright and had an interesting dinner - after a week of junk and travel food I craved veggies with a vengeance and had so much salad I surprised myself. We sang in a room that had the worst acoustics in the world (I could only hear myself and my row, no one in front of me), but that was probably for the best since most of us were crying by the end of it, because it was our last performance of tour.

And then, we had Skit Night - the one I wrote went over well, and we had a great time up until the end, when it had to be curtailed when one of the choristers had an asthma attack bad enough to call the paramedics (she's fine). I discovered who my Secret Pal was - it was someone who, thanks to pure fate, had ended up billeted with me and seated close to me on the bus nearly the entire tour. That was why she hadn't been able to send me messages, because she hadn't had an opportunity. Yes, it turns out that, YET AGAIN, I spent tour complaining bitterly about my Secret Pal directly to my Secret Pal. And in my frustration I think I said some pretty crappy things. Needless to say I felt awful and grovelled and felt like a terrible person. I then went to sleep on my crappy cheap-ass air mattress, which I'd discovered had sprung a leak after being slept on exactly once.

Day 10 - Destination: Home

Usually, the tradition of this day is - we get up, we eat a prepackaged breakfast and then we pour ourselves onto the tour bus and sleep until we get home. This time, our tour managers had managed to get us a pancake breakfast at a church - the only problem? Thanks to a mixup the breakfast wouldn't be ready for another half an hour by the time we arrived, which meant lots of cranky waiting. Boo.

At least the pancakes were good. We got back on the bus and headed back home, everyone tired and smelly and - in my case - quite ill with a cold and a vicious sore throat that struck suddenly and left me feeling like crap warmed over. It was actually kind of funny because when I arrived back at home, it was Mother's Day and that meant a fancy restaurant with my family. I was dead on my feet and ended up drinking about a gallon of honeyed tea but I made it through okay.

So that was my tour. Described in unstructured, stream of conscious-drivel. I actually want to join choir again and have another tour to make up for how much I screwed over this one - which was supposed to be my last. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed 70% of this tour, but the rest was me whining and complaining and being a complete infant and for some reason I want a chance to do it over and behave like an adult.


  1. Anonymous8:16 AM

    boo getting so sick at the end! but sounds like you guys were able to fit SO much in such a short amount of time, i feel like i know more about canada now anyways ;)

  2. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Wow that was such a demanding schedule. I like your costume; the wings are just so cute.

  3. Thx for sharing your choir tour. Hope you're feeling better now. And, I thought that costume was pretty cute too!