Tour Blog

Welcome to the Princeton Girlchoir and Princeton Boychoir Tour Blog! This blog is updated every summer while the boys and girls are traveling to perform across the country and around the world.

Day Three

Good morning! I'm sorry I didn't post last night--I fell asleep pretty much right after last night's England vs. Columbia match. What I've been able to see of this year's World Cup has been pretty exciting!

Yesterday began with another great hotel breakfast, followed by a rough ride into the city for a rehearsal. We experienced the full extent of Roman traffic on our way in, and from my vantage point at the front of the bus I was able to learn about how traffic flows in Italy. To say there is any true organization to how traffic flows in Italy would be a lie. I observed that the lanes marked on the actual streets were merely suggestions that no one really followed. Three marked lanes become two lanes of cars straddling the dividers; red lights and green lights are basically meaningless; you are always at risk of being hit by traffic coming in the opposite direction; and most importantly, one should invest in a Vespa or moped if you actually want to make progress in moving forward. We were ultimately about a half our late to our 9AM rehearsal with the festival choir.

Despite being late, we still managed to get everything done in rehearsal that had been planned. We worked on fine-tuning our pieces for TODAY's performance at the Vatican (in which I'll be making an appearance as a SINGER, holding down the bass line in our SATB repertoire! Still no word on the organ...), and then rehearsed our festival concert music some more. We also learned a piece written by the conductor of the gospel choir that is singing with us (incidentally, they're from Philly, and one of the members is actually a former neighbor of Dr. Jenkins! Small world!), learning it in the true gospel style: without music, by ear! We were quick studies, and in less than 15 minutes we were rocking! We may even put it on the program on Thursday!

After rehearsal, we went back into center city and had free time for lunch. We were dropped off at the Piazza Navona again, and split up into various groups. I took the opportunity to visit the Pantheon since we had missed out on that the other day due to dress code violations, and then had my first Italian pizza--it reminded me of Nomad's. Now I know where to get authentic (Roman) Italian pizza. I'll keep you posted on what it's like in Milan...

We then met up for a brief dress rehearsal at our concert venue for the day: Sant'Agnese in Agone. The girls' jaws hit the floor when they walked in and saw the beautiful frescoes on the walls and in the dome--it was like something straight out of an art and architecture book (literally). We got used to the acoustics, sweated a whole lot (there is a rumor I heard that it was air conditioned in there, but I'm not so sure I about that), and then changed into our concert attire. Even for our rehearsal, we had an appreciative audience that apparently drew a line all the way outside of the church. The concert itself was packed--standing room only included! It was such an appreciative audience, and the girls sang beautifully! The applause continued even after we had all exited and made our way back to our dressing room. The girls certainly earned that applause--that had to be one of the finest first performances I've been a part of on a tour EVER.

Once we were changed out of our concert attire, we headed over to the Pantheon for some free time. The girls who hadn't been in the Pantheon on Monday were admitted this time because they were all dressed appropriately (our casual outfit yesterday had to fulfill similar standards to even rehearse in our concert venue), and we also enjoyed some crazy acrobatics by a few Brazilian street performers. We made our way to our dinner restaurant, which was a lovely cafe with outdoor seating that was in a magical piazza in some side streets in Rome. Beautiful. When we arrived back at the hotel, we packed up all of our concert dresses and music for today's performance and stowed them in a few large suitcases (our dresses are meeting us at a hotel today so we don't have to lug them around the Vatican while we tour). I brilliantly packed my deodorant in my concert bag, which was a great idea for this afternoon's concert--but not so much for this morning. Fortunately, Hilary bailed me out and offered me access to my bag which had not yet been packed away and moved to the new locale.

So that's all for yesterday. On to the Vatican!


Greetings from (Ancient) Rome!

"Wow!"--that's how I'd sum up today in one word. Fortunately for you, my blog post will be a bit more extensive than a one-word description!

Today began (for most of us, at least) with a 6:30AM wake-up call. If we had not attempted to bathe in the "Sh-bath" (a term that Hilary introduced me to, describing our current bathing situation: a shower, senza full shower curtain/glass which often leads to a flooded bathroom floor), we tried our luck. Also, we may or may not have washed our feet in the lovely little foot washing sink, which I've told is called a "bidet". My toenails have never been cleaner! ;-)

We ventured down to our hotel's breakfast room, which offered a wide variety of foods: eggs, bread, sausage, bread, bacon, bread, cereal, bread, fruit, and just a little bit more bread. There were also many options for drinks, including all sorts of coffee-type beverages, milk, and fruit juices. All in all, it was a pretty good spread, and all of us were able to find something to suit our appetites. We then boarded the bus, where we discovered that there was a whole room-full of girls who had somehow managed to sleep through alarms and a wake up call (their room phone was somehow disconnected). Fortunately, they were able to quickly get dressed--and were able to bring along some breakfast, thanks to some fast-acting chaperones--and we managed to leave in time to meet our tour guides in Ancient Rome.

As we got off the bus, we were greeted with the amazing sight of the Colosseum. It's one thing to see it in pictures and in history books, but it's an entirely different thing to see it looming enormously in front of you! I'm not sure what I expected, but I do know that even from the OUTSIDE, it exceeded my expectations. We met our local guides and split up into three groups to tour one of Rome's famous Seven Hills, taking in the sights of ancient ruins and learning more about the historical importance of what we were seeing. It was incredible to see all that remained of stadiums used for private games of the Emperors, temples, and residences. Everywhere you looked was another incredible bit of history, just lying there in ruins. At the top of the hill, we were afforded some breathtaking views of the city. Viewing some of the triumphal arches, it was interesting to note the different styles of art used--which we learned was due to the Romans reusing and repurposing bits and pieces of their old buildings. In one of the arches, we even saw a bit that was taken from Jerusalem and brought back in 70A.D. Yesterday, we learned that all of the obelisks around Rome were brought here from Egypt, so I guess it shouldn't surprise me that they would have brought some things back from Jerusalem--but it is still pretty crazy to think about.

After stopping to refill our water bottles from one of the many water fountains that is supplied via the aqueducts (they are all over the place here--amazing!) and then carefully making our way back down the hill, we finally reached our final destination of the tour: the Colosseum! We waited in line and then went through the metal detectors and x-ray machines (it was like being at the airport, but we could keep our shoes on!), only to wade through more immense crowds. The Colosseum is very, very crowded, but well worth the trouble. We climbed to the upper level and learned about what the Colosseum would have been like if we had been around in ancient Rome, imagining the people and animals being transported under the stage through the substructure, being blown away by the fact that they had engineered a canvas roof to protect the spectators from the sun (we could have used it today!), and hearing the roar of the 70-80 THOUSAND people that it would have held in its heyday. It was truly incredible to see, and many panoramic pictures and selfies were taken. We then headed down to ground level to get a better view of the substructure corridors before finally heading out the door and on our way to lunch at Pizza Forum. Well, everyone except me--I had to run an errand to buy a new belt because of a mishap at the airport. Long story...

After lunch, we boarded our bus and headed off to our first festival rehearsal at a fairly swanky hotel--they were a bit cruel and walked us past a luxurious swimming pool that looked oh so inviting on our way to the conference room. We were led (and often entertained) by our festival choir director, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, running through our music for the first time together as a group. By the end of the rehearsal, those of us who were still awake were pleased with the progress we had made, and very excited about our future performances in the coming days. I'm also super excited about the possibility of playing the organ at St. Peter's in the Vatican--I don't play the organ, but I will jump at the chance if they allow us to. Talk about something to put on my resume!

We all headed out to dinner at a lovely restaurant where we were treated to bread, pasta, chicken, sausage, and ice cream. The adults (and there are lots of adults--this festival choir is inter-generational!) also had some lovely wines, of which I partook. When I noticed the bottle was nearly empty, I also noticed that no one else at my table had been drinking any. This led to more typos while writing this than ended up in the final version...

Each choir took a turn singing a piece for the rest of the group, which was really great to hear. Dr. Dilworth requested that each group present something that gave the rest of the festival an idea of what we were all about, and when it was our turn the girls sang a lovely a cappella version of "The Lord Bless You and Keep You"--beautiful! It was a great time all together, and our girls have already found new friends in fellow choirs in the festival.

So that's all for today! Tomorrow brings our first concert, so we're all excited! Until then, ciao!

(Note: the wi-fi here is making it difficult for me to upload photos. I'll try to put some up in the morning, hopefully before traffic is slowing things down!)


Day One

Good morning from Rome! I'm sorry that I didn't post this last night, but we were all so exhausted that as soon as I sat down on my hotel bed I fell asleep. I'm pretty sure that I am not the only one...

I'll spare you the details about all of our airport/plane experience, because there is nothing really interesting to note aside from how smoothly everything went, save from some pretty intense turbulence. We all tried our best to get some sleep on the flight (with varying degrees of success), and landed in Rome at around 7:30AM local time. From there, we made it through customs and met up with our tour guides for the week, boarded our buses, and headed into the city.

We were running a little bit ahead of schedule, so we made an unexpected stop and got to see the beautiful Castel Sant'Angelo, crossing the Tiber on a bridge that featured many statues of angels--sort of a Roman version of Prague's Charles Bridge. The castle was surrounded by vendors and art booths which the girls took advantage of, buying their first souvenirs of the trip. From the castle, we could peer down the avenue and spy the Vatican, which was a pretty amazing sight to see. After spending some time at the castle, we made the ten minute walk over to the Piazza Navona for a few free hours to explore the sights and get some lunch. The Piazza featured three amazing fountains, as well as a palace and many restaurants to choose from.

After some time, we gathered to take a 3-hour walking tour (which was informative but exhausting--between the lack of sleep and the heat, we had a lot of tired girls) of the center of Rome. We learned more about the Piazza where we had been exploring, including the fact that it was originally a huge stadium that could be filled with water to stage naval battles! We walked over to the Pantheon, where some groups got to go in, and some groups didn't--there was a very strict dress code and some of our girls' shorts were a bit too short for their modest policies. We checked out the Piazza Campo de' Fiori, got water from the fountain in front of the Spanish Steps (and also had a celebrity sighting--the actor Josh Gad is here with his family), some of us chose to CLIMB the Spanish Steps (I didn't), took a brief nap at the Spanish Steps, and then continued on to the final stop of our tour: the Trevi Fountain. Everything was amazingly beautiful to see, with every corner we turned revealing something else amazing and wonderful.

My group ended up in a local park to relax for a few minutes, but mostly got eaten alive by mosquitoes (they have those here, too). We met up near by the Italian President's house and saw Mr. Bezick sprint like Usain Bolt to capture the changing of the guard on camera (a pretty amazing sight, seeing as we were all so exhausted at that point). We then headed over to our restaurant for dinner, trying not to fall asleep in our plates of pasta, salad with chicken, and ice cream (with varying degrees of success). On our ride to the hotel, we were treated to a teaser for today's agenda: the Roman ruins and the Colosseum. Let me tell you--I'm excited for what today holds!

So that's our first day. If you have heard from your girls, you probably heard a lot of "It's hot and we're tired!" All very true, but we've also seen a lot of amazing stuff already! When I have more time (probably tonight), I'll figure out how to post some photos on here!


It's that time again!!!

Well, folks, it's that time of year again. In a few short hours, we will be boarding our bus and heading up to the airport to start our journey to Italy. And, for the first time in as along as I can remember, I was actually packed ahead of time and not rushing until the last second! How about that! Anyway, I'll see you all in a couple of hours at the bus. Then, on to Italy! -R

Day 7/Wrapping Up!

Greetings from (very HUMID) Lawrenceville, NJ! If my first day back was any indication, most of the girls had a day filled with sleep and/or exhaustion. Hence the "day after" blog post!

Our final day of tour began with another day of sleeping in (thankfully--I was out exploring Salt Lake City's vibrant and irreverent counter-culture at a dueling piano bar called "Tavernacle" with some local friends until about 1:30AM!). We all got another fantastic breakfast, packed up all of our suitcases, checked out of our hotel, and loaded up our bus for what should have been the final loading up of our bus of the tour (more on that later!).

We drove about 45 minutes to the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls in the Provo River canyon, where some of the more adventurous girls braved the frigid water and climbed part way up the lower falls for a better view. If we had more time, I would have climbed the very steep path to go up to the top of the falls, but probably would have been too scared to make my way back down the path seeing as it was made nearly completely of loose rocks. The girls were also thrilled (some might say "too" thrilled) to see another puppy, which seemed to be a sub-theme of the tour that I haven't yet touched on. Any time we'd see a dog, half of the girls would yell "PUPPY!" and then go be distracted by said puppy for a while, no matter what activity we were taking part in. Amazingly enough, the incredible wonder of the natural world was no match for a simple puppy. Go figure.

We then headed back on our bus and made our way back to the Provo Town Center, the same mall we had stopped at on our way up to Salt Lake City for lunch the other day. It was pretty much the only place open on a Sunday in the area of Provo (the Mormon/non-Mormon ratio being even higher than in Salt Lake City, believe it or not). We had a few hours to spend our per diem on lunch, or a few hours to spend our per diem on motorized animals. You can guess which a good majority of the girls chose...

Our last scheduled stop was for some rafting down the Provo River. We all got our life jackets on, took the bus up to the launch point, and then took our assigned positions on our respective rafts. Our guides were experts, and we were expert entertainers for our guides. My raft's guide, Jessey, claimed that we were definitely one of her favorite jobs she'd ever had on the river. We saw local animals (otters, river rats, drunk tubers, etc), amazing mountain views, and a few rapids that managed to get our clothes wet. We also stopped about midway through the ride to wade in some shallow water--it was COLD! I only ended up getting wet from the occasional splash from a rapid and some "cool guys" jumping into the water off a rock too close to our raft. Some of our girls managed to fall out of their rafts. I guess they were just lucky.

After the raft ride, we had a lovely dinner from a local food truck that met us at our landing spot. We ate, changed out of our wet clothes, and braved a little bit of thunder and lightning to make it to a covered pavilion for our annual "Paper Plate Awards". A great time was had by all, and we decided it could be fun to head to the airport early for a relaxing no-anxiety trip through security and maybe even a little bit of shopping before our 1:05AM flight. We walked back over to our bus as we marvelled at a double rainbow over the mountains. We got on our bus and headed out of the canyon, noticing that our air conditioning wasn't working. Once we were out of the canyon, our bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and tried to get the AC back on by turning the bus off, essentially trying to reboot the system. Unfortunately, he couldn't reboot the system, nor could he turn the engine back on.

And so, there we were, on our very last day heading back to the airport, stuck an hour away from the airport with no ride. The girls, being the good sports that they are, got off the bus and used their towels from the rafting trip as blankets for an impromptu picnic on the side of the road. It was there that we hung out for about an hour, enjoying the beautiful sunset and mountain scenery, waiting for either a mechanic or a new bus to arrive. After it got dark, we headed over to a lighted park pavilion with bathrooms, drinking fountains, and outlets for charging our phones that happened to be right where we stopped. All in all, if there were a right place for our bus to break down, this was it! We waited about another hour before a new bus arrived, and it was totally awesome with leather seats and charging stations and everything! We got to the airport, got our tickets, checked our luggage, got through security, and arrived at our gate with just moments to spare before boarding! Phew!

The rest, as they say, is history. Our first flight was severely lacking in sleep due to a crying baby (which was just normal, for me). Our second flight was shorter, but probably had a few more sleepers. Our bus ride was out of the way, but afforded us more time to sleep. And then we were home, where I promptly went back to sleep.

So that's it. Fantastic tour! I'm looking forward to whatever next year brings! It's been real!


Day Six

Good morning! This is going to be a pretty short blog post because not a whole lot happened yesterday.

We started the day by sleeping in and having a whole lot of free time. The girls had ample time (hours!) to spend at City Creek, a local shopping center a couple of blocks away from our hotel. Ms. Butler, Dr. Jenkins, and I were invited to lunch with the conductor, chairman of the board, and choir president of the Choral Society of Utah. After a quick trip back to the hotel to change into our concert attire, we headed over to The Garden, a restaurant that overlooked Temple Square (quite a view!). Since it was Mr. Ortiz's birthday, the whole restaurant celebrated with us and he released a balloon through the open roof of the restaurant, which meant his wishes would come true! We then headed over to the Eccles Theater for concert number two, and totally rocked it again!

That's it. I'm sorry there aren't more exciting things to share, but it was a much-needed day of rest, relaxation, and SHOPPING!

We look forward to today's activities, as well as heading back home. Tomorrow, I'll be updating the blog from my own home! Wow!


Day Five

Happy mid-afternoon from SLC! We had the pleasure of sleeping in today, as well as a whole lot of free time. I've taken advantage of both of these situations, so I apologize for the delay in writing until now!

Yesterday started out with an amazing breakfast at the hotel (I was finally allowed in after being denied entry in my first attempt). So many food choices! Eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fruit, cereal, juices--oh my! We were all able to find more than enough to fill ourselves prior to the day's first rehearsal.

We walked a few blocks over to the Eccles theater to meet and rehearse with our Maestro of the day, Sterling Paulson. Aside from being the director of the Choral Arts Society of Utah, he also serves as one of Salt Lake City's network weathermen! Talk about versatile! He was impressed with our ladies' preparedness as well as our sound, and the girls were diligent in marking all changes or notes into their scores with their ever-ready pencils. He is a very cool guy, and it is especially notable how he opened up to all of us and shared his insights, as well as his life and musical journey. After the brief rehearsal, we headed down to the stage to work on some logistics, as well as to get familiar with the space. Built as a space to put on shows (rather than specifically for concerts), the Eccles Theater is a beautiful space that fits around 2000 people. It was a beautiful place to be singing in!

After our rehearsal, we then headed over to Temple Square to get a brief tour of the sights. We saw the main Temple (the biggest one in the world!), learned how to tell if a Mormon Church is just a normal church or a temple (I correctly guessed that only temples have the angel Moroni topping them!), saw the Tabernacle (but didn't go inside), saw the Mormons' original worship space built before the temple, and saw various statues dedicated to important figures in their pioneer history. The girls were very engaged with the missionary tour guides, asking thoughtful questions and seeming interested in learning about the Mormon culture and customs that seemed foreign to a lot of us. We then walked around the grounds and enjoyed the beautiful landscaping and fountains, pausing at a visitor center to use the restroom before making the long walk to lunch.

We walked what seemed like forever (oh my gosh, was it hot out!) to our restaurant for lunch. We were all treated to salads, personal pizzas, and a ridiculous amount of gelato. It was fortunate that our lunch was so huge, as we would not be eating dinner until after our concert. Our appetites fully satisfied, we headed BACK to the theater for a rehearsal with everyone onstage. There were the nearly 100 singers of the Choral Arts Society of Utah, the Princeton Girlchoir, and the Utah National Guard 23rd Army Band taking up the entire stage--and I got to witness the majority of the rehearsal from the wings, mainly owing to the fact I couldn't figure out how to get out of the backstage area and into the house. In any case, it was quite an impressive sound when all three groups were firing on all cylinders! We were also excited to be able to hear Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin (that's a whole lot of D's for one person's name!), a jazz singer, and her band. 

After THAT rehearsal, we had about an hour to load up on water and various snacks provided by both Ms. Butler and CASU, rest our voices (you can guess how well that went!), and get changed into our concert attire. At 7:10, the girls took the stage while their fearless accompanist had his picture taken with the Days of '47 Queen and her two attendants (they all had tiaras and sashes, so I just HAD to get a picture with them!). From 7:30-9:30, our girls rocked the house! The audience was very receptive to us, clapping along once "Music Down In My Soul" got rocking (accompanied by a bass player and drummer from Miss Dee-Dee's band). In the second half of the program, we were accompanied by the Army Band on "I Hear America Singing", which was a fun change of pace from only having me play. I must say, it was a lot of fun playing with an Army Band accompanying me on the accompaniment!

When the concert was over (and after I was scolded by an over-zealous stage manager for missing a curtain call that no one invited me to partake in), we all hurriedly made our way over to the local Olive Garden to have a VERY late dinner. The girls enjoyed the endless salad and breadsticks (some of them learning that Mr. Brechmacher's way of eating Olive Garden breadsticks is the BEST way to eat Olive Garden breadsticks), as well as our entrees, in the company of Ms. Bulter's mom! Running into family seems to be the theme of the past couple of days (although this one was planned ahead of time). We closed the day up with a rousing rendition of "Music Down In My Soul" in the middle of a Salt Lake City sidewalk, where we happened upon a piano that was shockingly in tune! 

We got back to the hotel a little bit after midnight, hence the sleeping in. Today we have our final concert, and it's our last day in Salt Lake City. We've been having a great time!


Day Four

Good morning from Salt Lake City!

Yesterday, we started our day with a quick (overly CROWDED) breakfast in what must have been the most popular hotel in Moab. We gathered our suitcases and boarded our bus for one more exciting stop before heading north: Hole N" The Rock [sic]. This place was pretty wild--there was a 5000 square foot home that was inside one of the huge rock formations, and you could take tours of it. I opted not to go on the tour, seeing as it was $4.25 AND you couldn't even take pictures. According to some of the girls who opted to go, it was full of creepy taxidermy (including a donkey and a horse). Yikes. There were many other things to do and see while we were there: a monument to FDR carved into the rock, some gift shops, "Bigfoot" (literally, a giant foot), a jeep made completely of license plates, an elephant sculpture, and a zoo where the girls could ACTUALLY get kissed by a camel. Some of them did, indeed, get kissed by the camel. A great time was had by all.

We then got back on the bus and began another LONG ride up north. We enjoyed the rest of "Enchanted" (and, I must say, it's quite an amusing experience watching that movie with a bus full of girls), were amused by a very special cameo by our current President in "Little Rascals", and basically just hung out until we arrived in Provo, Utah, for a very quick lunch at a local mall. We then headed over to a rehearsal hall at BYU for one more touch-up rehearsal before meeting with the conductor of our next two concerts today. Ms. Butler was kind enough to get us all some of the very famous fudge from the University Store, and we sampled the four different choices on our ride up to Salt Lake City.

We arrived at our hotel (a lovely Radisson two blocks from Temple Square) and had just enough time to change into an outfit of our choice (I just kept what I was wearing on, while the girls got decidedly more fancy than their tour t-shirts) before heading over to a local shopping center for a dinner on our own. We then headed through Temple Square to the LDS Conference Center (and were verbally accosted by an overzealous religious nut along the way) where we were lucky enough to sit in on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal. They were preparing for a couple of very special concerts for the Pioneer Day festivities, and it was pretty impressive to see all 364 of them up there on stage with a full orchestra. After accidentally running into some of my in-laws (seriously!), I got a new hairdo while we were waiting on the girls who had checked bags (no backpacks were allowed inside the rehearsal), and then it was off to Crown Burger for some ice cream and a Q&A session with some members of the "Tab" choir. We then headed back to our hotel, and since it was way past our curfew, we all went right off to bed.

So that's it for yesterday. We've got a lot of exciting things planned for today, including a concert tonight! 


Day Three

Good morning from beautiful Moab, Utah. We've all had a great night of sleep after another great day of touring.

Yesterday started out with an early call time to the bus--7:30AM. We all managed to make it on time, getting breakfast ahead of our departure at the hotel's continental breakfast again. It was going to be a long day of driving, so we brought some movies to watch along the way. If only it were that simple...

When we put the DVD into the player, there was much confusion as the beginning of the film was in Spanish. After about fifteen minutes of struggling to figure out how the heck to change the DVD and bus entertainment system's language into English (our bus driver Jose could offer little assistance as he was responsibly keeping his eyes on the road), I managed to get it set up and find the way to reach the DVD's root menu to get the movie to play with English audio. We enjoyed the first two Harry Potter films, as well as about half of "Enchanted" (we will be finishing that this morning I'm sure!) on our long ride yesterday. Hopefully Jose hasn't been watching any movies in the bus since yesterday afternoon, or we might have to go through the whole process again. At least this time I will have a better idea of how to do it!

We stopped for lunch at a pretty nice mall in the middle of nowhere in Utah. After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the bus to complete the final leg of our journey to Moab and the Arches National Park. We arrived at the visitor center, had a quick bathroom break, applied copious amounts of sunscreen, and drove with mouths agape through the park. To say the scenery was unbelievable is an understatement. I guess I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves. We arrived at Devil's Garden with about an hour of time to make the one-mile hike to the Landscape Arch, with some of us opting to see the Tunnel Arch and the Pine Tree Arch instead. I think I was the only one who managed to catch all three (getting in my cardio for the day for sure!), and because of that some of the girls got some video footage of me sprinting back to the bus to get there before the parking lot closed.

This is where our story gets a little bit juicy. I had arrived back at the bus with about 5 minutes to spare before the parking lot closed, and about two seconds before torrential rains hit. The sky let loose with rain and hail, and it was really amazing to see all of the scenery we had just been hiking in covered in hail (it looked like it had snowed!) from a distance as we drove away. Wanting to see a few more arches before the park closed, we turned onto a side road and headed toward them, spotting some temporary waterfalls coming down the cliffs and over some arches. We arrived at a little parking lot, and a few of us braved the rain to try to get a quick shot of one of the Window Arches. It was then that I heard over a bullhorn, "PLEASE RETURN TO THE TOUR BUS IMMEDIATELY! PLEASE RETURN TO THE TOUR BUS IMMEDIATELY!" I looked back to the bus, and there was a ranger vehicle with the blue and red lights blazing. Uh oh. Apparently, we had missed a "Road Closed" sign (in reality, a "Road Closed Ahead" sign--we might be able to fight this), and because of this we were "detained" for a good 15-20 minutes. Facing up to a $700 fine (we almost had to give a benefit concert last night), we managed to get away with a $130 slap on the wrist --but man was it a bit tense for a few minutes there!

After being let go by the Feds, we headed back into Moab for a great dinner. The girls learned about some new culinary treats: fried bread and fry sauce. Apparently, both are big deals in Utah, and both are big hits with the girls! After huge portions and ice cream on top of that, we checked into our hotel and many of the girls took advantage of the free time to have a short pool party. All of us were back in our rooms by the 10PM curfew, and we settled down for a good night's sleep (I know I did, at least!).

So today, it's onward to Salt Lake City!

Day Two

Good morning! I fell asleep before I could update the blog AGAIN last night. It's amazing how tired we've been at the end of these first two days! I apologize that there are no pictures with this post...yet. I'm having some wi-fi issues today.

Yesterday started off with breakfast at our hotel (the standard hotel continental breakfast: cereal, waffles, eggs, BACON, sausage, bread, etc), and some of the girls had some nice conversations with other hotel guests. We got ourselves ready to be on the bus and headed back into downtown Santa Fe for some more exploring. We were thrilled to find many local Native American artisans selling their jewelry, and many of the girls bought some lovely pieces and had some friendly conversations with the people from various tribes from the area. After hearing some cool local musicians rock out on the harp, we headed over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and took a few minutes to enjoy its beautiful interior. Having taken it it, it was back onto the bus for a quick (and somewhat perilous!) drive to Los Alamos. We were amazed by the awesome scenery, but somewhat distressed to see a wrecked car while looking down into the bottom of a canyon.

We were greeted by the members of Coro de Camera, who were a very friendly bunch! They were all wearing name tags, and we all received name tags, so it was much easier to have the choirs intermingle over the wonderful lunch they provided. It was then onto a joint rehearsal, where we learned about the history and culture of New Mexico through some very clever choral warmups--my personal favorite was the one about chile peppers. We rehearsed "When I Sing to Make You Dance", which was extra fun because we had never sung it with tenors and basses--and was extra fun for me because I actually got to sing with the choirs rather than accompany! Dr. Jenkins then led us all in "Take Me To the Water", and followed that up by teaching everyone a South African song (including choreography!). After a short break, we headed over to the performance venue to rehearse some more, and sweated quite a bit because there was no air conditioning. My plan of wearing a tux was quickly changed.

We got back on the bus and headed over to Pasta Paradiso for some lovely Italian food. We were once again joined by Jan Westrick, but it was extra fun to be joined by PGC alum Paige Kunkle, who is working this summer at the lab at Los Alamos! After getting well carbed up on the pasta, we headed back to the church to sweat off all the calories with an AWESOME performance. To say the audience loved us would be an understatement--there were times in the concert when I was wondering if they'd ever stop applauding between numbers! After a couple of rousing combined numbers and a short encore, we basked in our applause (and some enthusiastic "WHOOOOO!"ing--ask your daughters about this!) before heading offstage for a small reception and cookies.

Today we are (looking forward to? Maybe?) taking a six hour drive up to Moab. I'm sure I'll have plenty to tell you about tonight!



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