Sunday, March 12, 2017

Georgia on my Mind

It seems like a lot of time is spent waiting in lines in New Orleans, either for food or for jazz. The guys did a lot of that on our free night, with varying rates of success...

At Café Du Mond for beignets...

Many visited the famous Preservation Hall for a little jazz...

Surprisingly, everyone made it onto the bus the next morning, and we actually left a little early. It was a very, very, very, very, very long drive to Atlanta, but Mike, our excellent driver, got us to Morehouse College right on time for a rehearsal exchange with the legendary Morehouse College Glee Club and their fantastic conductor, David Morrow.

After eating some pizza, we warmed up and David and I each taught a spiritual arrangement to the combined choir. David took us through his arrangement of Who'll Join! and I led everyone in Paul Rudoi's arrangement of Yonder Come Day. It was great to get to see "how the other half lives" and make music with our brethren in song.

After a quiet night in a downtown hotel, the guys left for the long drive to Charlottesville. Everyone made it back safely, not too much the worse for wear. We were gone 7 days, ate at at least 6 different fast food chains, visited 5 states, had 4 singers lose their voices, used 3 buses (and 3 vans), sang with 2 choirs (it would've been 4 if the bus hadn't broken down), and Frank got 1 tattoo (long story).  We made some good music, made some new friends, and made some indelible memories that will last until at least the next time we get on a bus!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)

We made good time driving from Mobile to Jackson on Tuesday, arriving right on time (and in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm) to meet our local host, State Senator Wendell "Hob" Bryan at the historic Mayflower Cafe near the Capitol. Hob ran over from the legislative session to welcome us and make recommendations on the Mayflower's traditional Southern menu.

After lunch, we went to the Capitol for a tour with someone from the Visitor's Office. We visited the Senate gallery, where Hob introduced us to the Senators in the chamber, and we visited the House of Representatives, which wasn't in session. There were several representatives on the floor, and they wanted to know who we were. One came up to say hi and answer questions. (Kudos to Flannel for an excellent question on Mississippi's 50th place ranking in public education!). We sang 10K and the Good Old Song, and then beat a hasty retreat.

After the tour, we headed to Fondren Presbyterian Church, which also hosted us 10 years ago for a tour concert. The awkward layout of the altar area in the Sanctuary made for a lot of adjusting, but we finally figured out a configuration that would work.

After rehearsal, we had a bite to eat, again courtesy of the Senator, and then performed for a small, but appreciative audience. 

The next morning (today!), the weather was much nicer, and Hob met us out front of the Capitol to take us inside so we could get ready for our performance for his colleagues in the Senate. Before we went in, he answered a few questions about his 33 years (!) in the Senate. Getting through security was much easier today, since they remembered us from yesterday (and since the Capitol was much busier, with lots of Veterans and Republican Women there for events).

Before we sang, we were able to hear a little history from Hob, and warm up (in a great acoustical space - the old Supreme Court Chambers). 

Soon it was time to head to the Senate chambers. The guys got a kick of our locating Hob in each of the Senate composite photos on the walls outside the chamber. We couldn't take pictures inside, but we had a full house made up of Senators and a full gallery of visitors. There was an official photographer, so perhaps we'll see some more photos soon. We got standing ovations after each of the songs we sang (Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and Biebl's Ave Maria). 

After we were done, we hightailed it back to the bus to hit the road for New Orleans and our first free night. We made one stop for gas and learned that the reading habits of Louisianans are a little different from ours. 😉

After we arrived in NOLA, the guys took to the streets to sample the local fare. Here's something typical of what was eaten: Fried Green Tomatoes, Alligator Sausage, Gumbo, Crawfish Étouffée, Homemade Biscuits, and plenty of Sweet Tea. Then to Cafe du Monde for Beignets and coffee. I don't know how anyone had room for dinner. Folks are currently roaming the streets of New Orleans in search of the perfect jazz club. I'm off to bed, and tomorrow, we head to Atlanta for a rehearsal exchange with the legendary Morehouse College Glee Club!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama

Our trip across Alabama continued yesterday with a nearly on time departure from Birmingham. The guys slept in our host church, and I'm certain they went to bed early, with visions of BBQ dancing through their heads. Since we were driving all the way to Mobile, I thought it would be interesting to make a quick stop in Montgomery and visit the Maya Lin-designed Civil Rights Memorial. Though our visit was quick, the memorial is beautiful and it was worth the detour.

In the museum, visitors are allowed to add their names to the Wall of Justice. I'm sorry I couldn't capture photos of all the Glee Club guys' names as they appeared.

Many of us grabbed a quick bite to eat at Chris's Hot Dogs, a downtown Montgomery institution since 1917! These are the original prices. Pig's feet were the most expensive thing on the menu!

We arrived in Mobile to warmer temperatures and warm greetings from our host, Glee Club alumnus David Quittmeyer, and the folks at Trinity Episcopal Church. The church is the second oldest Episcopal Church in Mobile, founded in 1846. While the building is beautiful now, it was nearly destroyed by a tornado on Christmas Day in 2012.

The Sanctuary was a lovely place to sing, especially since it was filled with church folks and UVa alumni. Kudos to our hosts for getting the word out so successfully! 

The Gleemen rehearsed before the concert.

And here they are during the concert.

At the excellent church supper we were served before the concert, each of us was given a goody bag filled with streamers, Mardi Gras beads, and Moon Pies!

Our organizer, David Quittmeyer, sang in the Glee Club while he was an undergraduate and in law school. Madeline Downing is the chair of the Mobile UVa Club.

We're off to Jackson, Mississippi, getting out of Alabama just as the legislature meets to decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the current governor!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Way down south, in Birmingham...

Yesterday morning, we left Lookout Mountain, Georgia (our overnight church camp spot) on time. The camp was really lovely, and the guys seem to have left it in good repair upon departure.

Our new, old bus made it to Birmingham in good time, and the weather was sunny and much warmer than in Tennessee. After dropping our stuff at Southside Baptist Church, we grabbed a quick bite in the Five Points area (near the church and UAB) before warming up for our concert. The church is enormous, with a beautiful sanctuary that had excellent acoustics. 

Most of the guys ended up at a local BBQ place down the street from the church. 

We had a quick warm up in the church sanctuary, marveled at the great acoustics, and then lined up for the show. The photo below (singing the Biebl Ave Maria) is noteworthy in that it includes not only all the Glee Club guys, but also the entire audience. While it was a small crowd, they were most appreciative, and it was a pleasure to sing in such a great space.

The Gleemen finally had a chance to sing all of their tour repertoire!

We're off to Mobile, Alabama this morning, home of warmer temperatures, sandy beaches, and riverboat casinos.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Things are much better today!

Well, our intrepid original bus driver finally finally arrived in Chattanooga at around midnight, driving a new, old bus. It's amazing how much wear and tear these things get after 20+ years on the road. This one has no electrical outlets (boo!), but does have a PA system (making announcements much easier). It's kind of a wash, but we miss the fancy bus that took us across Tennessee yesterday. Oh well. At least we're moving!

The guys seemed to enjoy staying at Camp Lookout last night. Some of them tried to stay there for the rest of the week. I'm glad they didn't start a forest fire.

Zamboni, acting presidential.

Be on the lookout for the bag of clothes that Cambio misplaced. 

Sage advice from Elder Squeakuel, no doubt.

They probably should have been in bed, but we have a short ride today.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

It was all downhill from "the bus won't start..."

So the first tow truck couldn't recharge the battery. The second tow truck replaced the batteries, but the bus still wouldn't start. The third tow truck diagnosed the problem as a broken engine sensor, and it can't be repaired until Monday. Our bus company finally found a local bus company to drive us from Johnson City to Chattanooga. But we sat outside for five hours (at least it was sunny) waiting for the substitute bus to arrive. The guys sang songs, posed for photos, sampled the local fare, and played frisbee.

The temporary replacement bus arrived, but at 2:30. Our concert in Chattanooga (3 hours away) was at 3:30. So we missed the whole thing, leaving our two collaborating choirs to make do without us. We were sad. We arrived in Chattanooga at around 6:00, only to learn that our temporary bus would have to leave right away to head back to Virginia, leaving us with no way to get to our overnight spot (a Methodist Church Camp in the Georgia hills). Our bus company finally arranged for three airport shuttle vans to take us to the campsite. Safely ensconced in the woods, the guys are enjoying s'mores, ghost stories, and singing around the campfire. Our original bus driver called to let us know that his replacement bus finally arrived and he was on his way to Chattanooga. We hope to see him in the morning, when we'll make our way to Birmingham for our first full concert of the tour!