Tour Blog

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

Day...1? 2? Both? What day is it?

As I finally find myself sitting at the desk in my hotel room in Belfast, I'm really quite confused as to what day of the tour we've just completed. I think if I just call it "Day 1.5", it would be accurate. In any case, I've now been up for nearly 36 hours and I'm a tad worried that this post might not make as much sense as it should. Please accept my apologies if this sounds like the ramblings of a very exhausted man...

So yes--we've managed to find our way to Northern Ireland! We survived the insanity of the United Airlines ticketing counter (if you could come up with the most convoluted and inefficient way to get our girls their boarding passes and tag all of their luggage, they NAILED IT!), a not-so-difficult time at the TSA checkpoint, and I even managed to spot a couple of celebrities (a certain wild-eyed character actor from "LOST" and his equally talented wife were snacking on some delightful tacos in Terminal C)! We all enjoyed ordering food with the iPads in the food court, and may or may not have stolen some fruit (if it doesn't have a barcode, how are you supposed to pay for a banana when no one will help you?!) along the way. In any case, Terminal C was a hit as far as airport terminals go. 10/10 would wait for a plane there again.

We excitedly boarded our plane, and managed to totally confuse our flight attendants with our penchant for trading seats once we've boarded. After sorting all of that out, we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed a 6-hour flight. Many of us took advantage of the on-board entertainment--many of us watched movies, TV shows, and even had a few cut-throat multi-player checkers matches! We also enjoyed a lovely (well, I enjoyed it at least) dinner, though the second round of drink service was disrupted by a pretty wild bout of turbulence that lasted a little bit longer than some of us would have wanted it to. After the excitement, we all did our best to get at least a little bit of sleep. Before too long, we had breakfast and coffee on our tray tables and were flying into Belfast--even making out some sheep in the pastures as we made our final descent. Yes, the sheep were very exciting--because they were IRISH sheep!

We made our way off the plane and into passport control, followed by a trip to what must be one of the world's longest luggage carousels. Many of took advantage of the time it took the luggage to make its way around to use the restrooms (which were FANCY for airport bathrooms!), indulge in some candy from the delightfully stereotypical "Tayto" vending machine (featuring a sweet, cartoon potato wearing a hat, white gloves, and black shoes), and--exciting to me--trying some Coca Cola "Life". We're still not sure what makes it different from Coca Cola, Diet Coke, or Coke Zero, but I felt like I was really alive when I drank it! So there's that, I guess.

Once we had all of our luggage, we met our tour guides, got on our tour buses, and made our way through the countryside to Belfast. Our guides talked a little bit about Ireland and Northern Ireland (and they had IRISH ACCENTS, which was enjoyed by many of the girls), including vital statistics about the two jurisdictions. We all found it a little bit confusing that even though both Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland are both considered part of Ireland, NORTHERN Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union. That means that while we are staying in Belfast, we will be using Pounds Sterling; when we travel to Dublin, we will be using Euros. Also, everyone in both Irelands speak English--even if you can't understand what they're saying. But sometimes they also speak Irish. It's all a little bit confusing, but I'm sure with some more tours in the coming days, everything will start to make a whole lot more sense.

Once we entered the city, we were dropped off in front of City Hall and had a few hours to wander around the city and take in the sights. The girls were eager to find some lunch, making our way over to the wonderful St. George's Market. This place was amazing--many artists, food stands, antique vendors, live music, a CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN, and face painters made this a must-see destination for most (if not all) of us. We picked up a lot of food, including samplings of fudge, fried potatoes, crepes, etc. A highlight of the day was when a whole bunch of us got our faces painted. Yes, I did indeed say "us". I am included in that bunch. All of the girls got lovely, sparkly butterflies painted on their faces...and so did I. I guess that is what happens when I let them decide what the face painter should paint on me. I asked the artist, "Is it safe for me to walk around town with this on my face?" She responded, "You're fine in Belfast--but don't go to any small towns."

Many of the girls opted to visit the Victoria Square shopping mall, which features a beautiful glass dome. You are able to take a whole bunch of spiral staircases up to the top for a lovely panoramic view of the city. Some of the girls also made their way down to the waterfront (the River Lagan meets Belfast Laugh) to see the "Beacon of Hope" sculpture--A.K.A. "Nuala with the Hula" or "Thing With the Ring", as well as viewing the giant cranes "Samson" and "Goliath" at the shipyards where the Titanic was built. We all made our way back to City Hall, which features some amazing bathrooms (or so I'm told) to get back on our buses and head to our beautiful hotel.

After getting our keys, some girls went swimming, and some girls rested--though we were highly discouraged by Ms. Butler from taking naps so as to avoid serious jet lag. We got dressed (some of us washing off our face paint beforehand, some of us not) and headed down to a lovely three-course dinner: Potato and Leek Soup or Caesar Salad, Salmon or Chicken with vegetables, and finally Cheesecake or some chocolate-covered amazingness--with vegetarian and gluten-free options included, of course. Needless to say, the girls seemed pretty satisfied with dinner before heading to a short rehearsal and then upstairs to get ready for their 10PM lights out.

I took advantage of the long daylight hours (lots of sunlight at night up here in the north country!) to take a nice walk through the city to work off the caloric intake of the cheesecake, enjoying more of the sights of this beautiful city. When I arrived back at the hotel around 10:30, it still wasn't dark. I'm hoping the girls realize that they have sliding wood panels in their rooms to block out the sun, or else they might find it difficult to go to sleep at the assigned time (because we all know they go to sleep right away after lights out!). I know it's messing with me--that's why I'm up writing this so late! Even though I've been up so long, the late sunlight is really screwing with me.

So that was today/half of yesterday! We have our first festival rehearsal tomorrow, as well as some more touring of the city. Should be fun! Until tomorrow night, goodnight!

-R

Here we go again!

What's the craic?

It's hard to believe that we are heading off on another adventure in just a few short hours! I'm happy to say that I'm back onboard as both accompanist AND tour blogger!

Check back here for updates on our Irish antics!

See you soon!

-R

And the reviews are in...

We just received the wonderful thank you note from some of the patrons at our concert in Quebec City, and wanted to share it with you all -

We had the pleasure of hearing the choir in Quebec City last Friday and just wanted to let the performers know how much we had enjoyed their singing. We thought the performance was terrific, what a wonderful group of young ladies. As a singer, I was most impressed with the blend, ensemble, pitch and body percussion! The ability of your very fine soloists to use their voices dynamically and then to disappear into the blend was truly professional. We really enjoyed the concert, congratulations.

Afterwards, we passed a huge crowd and we had wished that they had had the pleasure of hearing your fine performance. We hope the rest of your tour was a success.

Looking back on Canada Tour 2015

For the final blog post this summer, we decided to share a few favorite memories from some of our choristers of their time in Canada. We'll see you again next year when we're blogging from (spoiler alert)...Ireland!
 

It has been absolutely amazing going on the Canada tour with all the girls and chaperones! I don't think I could really narrow it down to a favorite memory, but some of my favorite moments would have to be the times when we were exploring the streets in buddy groups or walking from place to place as a group. During these times I never knew who I would have a chance to walk next to or get to know a little more. I really loved how those seemingly random moments of interactions added up to friendships and new buddies. Another memory that was awesome was the time we spent in Quebec City learning about the history and a little about the current lifestyle. We only spent a short amount of time in the city, but it was packed with so fun that will stay with me for a long time. ~ Melissa Yang
 

I would like to take some time to thank all of the wonderful people in PGC. I have had an amazing time not only on tour, but also in the regular season. Tour has helped me meet so many people that I am going to miss so much next year. It has been an experience that I will never forget. I wish that it didn't have to end so soon. Tour has helped me to grow, not only as a singer and musician, but also as a person. It has helped teach me that there are so many different cultures out there, even some incredibly close to home. PGC has also helped me to grow. I am so happy to have been able to meet everybody here and to have been a part of the PGC family. Thanks for everything ~ Corinne Hansel
 

Going on tour to Canada with PGC this year has truly been a blessing in so many ways. This tour, being my first with the choir, blew my expectations out of the water. The culture, music, friends, and experiences that I gained from this trip was simply incredible. An experience I really enjoyed was when we sang at the Notre-Dame Basilica. The acoustics and tone of the venue, choir, and audience was breathtaking. Another one of my favorite memories is related to the "Old Quebec" city. After a beautiful walking tour and an incredible dinner, the whole choir had time to travel through the streets of one of the most gorgeous sections of Old Quebec. I remember running up the cobblestone streets while the warm summer wind whipped through my hair, curling it upwards to match my smile. This was when the true culture and eclectic nature of Quebec came out. All of the artisanal shops, friendly people, and colorful art of the city stood out amongst any other I'd seen before. Thank you, PGC, for giving me a trip I will always remember and an experience I will never forget. Sincerely Yours ~ Julia Toto
 

Since our amazing tour has come to a end, I thought I would write a little blurb to express my love of this experience and PGC as a whole. The only problem is, I can't seem to figure out what to write so please bear with my well meaning but slightly disorganized piece. =)

Let's start with some things that I thought were really special. Numero uno, my roommates. My normal choir friends opted to not go on tour, so I was kinda sorta extremely terrified because I am not a social person by nature and I wasn't sure I would be able to make friends. Let's face it, six days straight without friends or family in a new place could be downright depressing. However, that didn't happen. My roommates are funny and welcoming and loving and I love them all very much. They brought me in, my sarcastic, unsocial self and made me feel comfortable right away. So thank you guys. Secondly, I loved our tour guide, Marie. She was so incredibly helpful and not only showed us her love for Canada, but made it so that we all fell in love with Canada and felt at home. From translating French to English, to coming to concerts, to parading around in the rain in Montreal, to recommending restaurants, she was there. Thank you, Marie! We love you. This post is getting to be a bit long, so I'll start to wrap it up because I think the next person would appreciate if I got off the computer. The last part of the trip I want to highlight is the paper plate awards. Basically, paper plate awards are exactly what they sound like. The older girls took paper plates and gave cute titles, "awards", highlighting a positive aspect of a younger girl's personalities. I won't go into a lot of detail, but it was a great part of my Canada trip because everyone showed their appreciation and love for everyone else in the funniest and most entertaining way.

That's what's special about PGC. We all love, appreciate, and respect each other and go out of our way to make each other feel welcome and happy. So, finally, I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who went on tour and everyone who made this experience possible. ~ Caitlin Haas
 

This tour was my first PGC tour, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more! Everything and everyone was amazing! It really reminded me of why I love PGC so much. Here are the two memories that I loved most on tour. So first, on Friday, we were going to a waterfall. I forgot the name of the waterfall, but it was 97 feet of rushing water (my friend and I agreed it looked kind of like milk) with a long and narrow bridge strung overtop, just a bit over where the water rushed over the cliff. As we were going up in a cable car (that literally rocked when we moved in and out of it!) I was stressing just a little about whether this bridge was safe or not. I mean, let's be honest, we were 97 feet up, on a narrow bridge, over extremely fast rushing water. Before we left for Canada, my mom and I looked at pictures of the falls, and what she told me was pretty much a gentler version of "Man up and go on the bridge." So, that was exactly what I did. When I was on the bridge, it was amazing! The view, the sounds, everything was just... more alive. I loved it. My absolute favorite memory, though, was the paper plate awards. The Cantores girls on tour had all grouped together and wrote wonderful things about the younger girls on paper plates. Each award had a fun, funny or sometimes punny name. Some came with stories, some were funny, some were even tear-jerking. But each and every one of them were amazingly sweet. It reminded me of how everyone likes everyone at PGC, no one is mean, or selfish. And thats what I love about PGC. ;D ~ Emily :D
 

I'm actually quite disappointed that tour is over this year. I loved every moment of it, from the touring to the bus rides to the concerts. Canada is amazingly beautiful, even in the pouring rain. I loved the many cathedrals and churches that we visited; their architecture was amazing and their sheer size and intricacy was awe inspiring. The waterfall was super cool as well! This tour was fantastic and I really thank everyone who organized and chaperoned us for making this so wonderful.
Of course, I loved all my fellow choristers. They are all so sweet and kind and I hope I get to sing with every one of them again! I expect more funny stories the next time we meet! I hope to see you all next year in PGC, or in Ireland for tour! ~ Audrey

Day 5 - A lovely day in every way

We started today with a great breakfast buffet (some AMAZING croissants), and then headed off to see a few sites outside of the city. First, we stopped off at the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, a gorgeous cathedral that welcomes nearly 1 million visitors each year.

From there, we traveled to Montmorency Falls, an amazing waterfall with a crazy amount of water flowing over it. We rode up to the top of the falls on a cable car, which gave us a great view, then got to walk across a bridge above the falls and look down on the water below. A truly amazing sight, and a great opportunity to see the natural beauty of this area.

After a lovely picnic lunch in a park right in downtown Quebec City, we headed over to a huge toy store - Benjo. Apparently it's where Celine Dion takes her kids when they're in town. It was great fun to poke around, and we found some fun things to take home. We rounded out the shopping at a delightful Farmer's Market that gave us the chance to get in a little more shopping. A few of the highlights - French macarons, fresh strawberries, maple treats, jewelry, and souvenirs.

We got a couple of hours to rest at the hotel before heading out for our final concert of the tour at St. Andrew's church. Although it was a small audience, it was a wonderful concert, thoroughly enjoyed by all. We followed up the "post-concert high" with a lovely farewell dinner, hosted by the funniest waiter. We all wanted to take him home with us. Before the evening was over, our 10-12 grade girls graciously shared paper plate and postcard awards with our entire tour family, including "Al the Bus Driver" and Marie, our French Canadian guide. What a delightful way to end our day!

 

 

Day 4 - I think we just drove to Europe

If you haven't been checking the PGC SmugMug page, you're missing out on a LOT of great photos of our trip! The Canada tour has its own folder within the 2014-15 season, and we're uploading photos from our travelers every day. Please contact the office if you need help with the password or other login information.

Today's blog post comes to you courtesy of a couple of our choristers (because we all know their point of view is far more interesting than mine). Enjoy - 

So far tour has been wonderful. Each and every day has been a new adventure. I am so amazed at how close I have become to some of the girls that I had barely interacted with beforehand. So far my favorite day has definitely been today, July second. Today was just a relaxed day of touristing and shopping. It was amazing to see all the culture in a place that is comparatively very young. You look a old Quebec compared to old city in my home town of Philadelphia and you would never be able to tell that they are roughly the same age. Also, everyone in Canada is so nice! I have only encountered one person so far that has been anything other than lovely. If I were back in a place like Philly it would have been the other way around. It has been such a fun experience getting to visit new places with all around wonderful girls. I can't wait to see what the next two days will hold! That's all for now. Au revoir!  ~ Corinne Hansel
 
Unlike yesterday's tour of Montreal, today we were dry and warm. We took a tour of the artsy, European styled Quebec City. Quebec was filled with replicas of French buildings and churches and everywhere you looked, unique paintings covered the stone walls and the ceilings were precisely decorated. Our tour guide explained the history of Quebec and the past behind all of the chapels. I really enjoyed viewing all of the gorgeous churches and museums and learning about it's culture. I'm looking forward for our last two days in Canada and can't wait to preform in our last concert tomorrow. ~ Sarah Scatena
 
A few other highlights - we tried Poutine, and it was great! The Canadian people are super polite and helpful. For example, one of our girls dropped their wallet at a department store, and the store found the PGC Cell number in her wallet, so they called 3 times to try and get hold of us so we could get the wallet back. Imagine that happening in New York...

Day 3 - Water, water everywhere...

The day started with another bus trip, although much shorter this time since Montreal is only about half an hour from Laval. We had the chance to visit a beautiful viewpoint up on the mountain, and then headed into old town for a walking tour. Really, the only problem that it was raining with varying degrees of enthusiasm pretty much ALL day! Not a problem when you're indoors, but it has a bit more of an impact when on a walking tour. Our brave guides did their best to move us from covered space to covered space while giving us a feel for this lovely and historic city. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, our choristers very much enjoyed seeing the area.

With the tour finished, it was time to prepare for our first formal concert at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. So, it was back to the bus to pick up our dresses, as well as the keyboard and amp (the Basilica only has an organ, no piano!), and haul them up the cobblestone hill to step-up. The audience for this concert 

was HUGE and very gracious, and the girls sounded lovely. Unfortunately, the concert came to a somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic ending when the guide who was scheduled to lead our girls on a tour of the space following the concert decided that it was time for the tour to start, and came up right behind Ms. Jenkins during the final piece to let her know they should stop mid-song to start the tour. Of course, the girls were as professional as could be in finishing the piece and responding positively to their audience. We were particularly moved by the number of audience members who came up afterward to express how much they enjoyed the performance, and to 

apologize for the abrupt concert ending!

While we had originally planned to watch fireworks that evening, we all agreed we had been in the rain long enough and loaded the bus to check-in to the hotel before heading to dinner. Well, that's when we discovered that our original hotel had cancelled our reservation. Oops! They had the contract, just not the rooms. Seemlessly transitioning, we headed directly to dinner (which was REALLY good, by the way) while the hotel worked to rebook us elsewhere. It worked out well, since we spent the evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was nicer than our original hotel, and we didn't have to pay for the upgrade! The evening wrapped with a little pool night, which was surprisingly popular, despite the amount of water the girls had endured earlier in the day. And all's well that ends well!

Day 3 (the Reader's Digest version)

Well, tonight's entry will have to be short and sweet because I'm having trouble with the Internet and am composing this on my phone (please forgive the inevitable typos and auto correct errors in advance). With that in mind, I'll leave you with a few teasers... - apparently some restaurants close on Canada Day - Montréal is gorgeous, even when you and the city are both a bit damp - a gorgeous and definitely memorable concert for a large and very appreciative audience in a freakishly gorgeous venue - while hotels don't close for Canada Day, sometimes they do cancel your reservation - if you're lucky, it might mean a night at a nicer hotel (although the wifi might be sketchy). Hopefully that's enough to whet your appetite to tune in for more details tomorrow!

Day 2 - We made it to Canada

After a decent breakfast buffet at the hotel (I myself crafted an egg, cheese, and sausage breakfast sandwich on an english muffin out of the available fixings), we once again loaded the bus for our continued journey to the land north. A couple more hours of bus fun (heads up is quickly becoming a bus favorite, although the ensuing shrieks of laughter are a little less popular with our poor bus driver) and we reached the Canadian border.
 
Somehow, it doesn't matter that I know we are completely legal, crossing the border always makes me nervous, regardless of what country I'm in. Something about the way the agents looks at me makes me think that surely I've done something wrong, I might just not know about it yet! Luckily, we passed the inspection and cleared the border quite quickly. 
 
This put us in Laval a little earlier than planned, so we took advantage of the extra time by moving our lunch stop to one of the largest malls in Quebec, located near our hotel. In addition to what was truly one of the greatest food courts I've ever seen, there were a plethora of delightful shops to temp our girls into spending the first of their Canadian per diem. The Canadian money, by the way, has been quite the hit so far. Between the fancy colors, the see-through panel, and the fact that it's waterproof, I had a hard time convincing some of the girls to spend their lunch money, rather than saving it for (I can only presume) an art piece of some sort or another.
 
 

It was then time to meet our Canadian guide, Marie, who will be with us for the rest of our time in Canada. It's a good thing

 too, because my French is VERY rusty! After checking into our hotel (completely with indoor balconies of some of the rooms - talk about fancy!), we headed out to a chicken place for dinner. The regular menu options offered a choice of chicken strips, chicken salad, chicken breast/leg, or "Hot Chicken," which is apparently a VERY popular dish here in Canada. It's a sandwich with chucks of chicken, then smothered in "hot sauce," which we soon learned was gravy (apparently they meant hot as opposed to cold, not spicy), with peas on top. Basically, envision Thanksgiving dinner in a sandwich. Although not quite what was expected, those who tried it seemed to really like it. Sounds like poutine might be quite popular with this crowd.
 
The highlight of our day, however, was definitely our time at CAMMAC, and summer music camp near a lake outside of Montreal. The scenery was gorgeous, and the adult amateur musicians we met with were truly delightful! We had the opportunity to listen to a rehearsal of the orchestra, sit-in on a choir rehearsal where they were sight-reading some complicated 8-part music, and explore the grounds a bit, before coming together for our first concert of the tour. The space was lovely to sing in, and the audience couldn't have been more receptive to our program. They even demanded an encore, which took the form of Rossini's Cat Duet. We then had the chance to hear performances by several members of the camp's staff. While we all loved one particularly upbeat violin and cello duet, the highlight of the evening for us was definitely the amazing whistled solo performance of the Queen of the Night aria from Magic Flute by one of the male teachers on staff. He's basically a rock star in the minds of our girls now. Really. They were lining up to take pictures afterward!
 
Now it's late, and other than the bus driver and I, everyone is asleep or resting on the bus. We'll be pulling into the hotel shortly for another well deserved night's rest and a (luckily) late morning departure for Montreal. Until tomorrow...

Day 1 - The Tab Choir thinks we're cool!

Our first day of tour started off with waiting for the bus, then trying to figure out where we were supposed to load the bus, but our fearless driver, Mr. Al, was there to help. Once we finally settled in for the drive north, it was clearly nap time for about two hours as the bus was eerily quiet. Clearly I'm not the only one who started the packing process a bit late! Once everyone woke up, however, things got quite a bit more lively. There were some rousing card games and a lovely round or two of heads up - none of which were enough to distract our leader Ms. Jenkins with her ninja-like focus on her laptop. That woman knows how to be productive!

After a stop for lunch at the New Baltimore Travel Plaza (a pretty decent rest area - I recommend it for any future travel plans), we pulled into the Best Western in Saratoga Springs with just enough time to settle into our rooms before heading over to the SPAC for our brush with fame (aka meeting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). We traded our backstage passes for green wristbands at the front gates, and our guide escorted us down to the the front section of seats. First impressions - boy those are a LOT of singers on that stage! We later learned that there were 320 people singing with the choir today (although full choir is made-up of 360), and with the orchestra, crew, and travel companions, the choir is traveling with 800 people, requiring 3 chartered jets from Utah.

Once the sound check got started, two of our choristers, Bria McKenzie and Lexie Salomone, along with Ms. Jenkins, were invited to join the choir onstage to sing with the group for sound check. Talk about a once in a lifetime experience. It was a lot of sight-reading for these intrepid singers, particularly since a great deal of their time was taken up by just trying to figure out where the music was in the folder for the right song, and where on earth the conductor was starting in the piece! The report from these lucky ducks was overwhelmingly positive, particularly how nice all the choir members were to each of them.

 

At the close of the sound check, we were joined in the audience by the choir's Director of the choir's Training School who started answering questions, then we were surprised to be joined by Associate Director, Dr. Ryan Murphy. We were feeling pretty cool already, but then the one and only Dr. Mac Wilberg came to hang out with us as well, answering questions and telling the girls all about the musical and logistical aspects of the choir. Despite having a major concert in a few short hours, these two men were excited to spend time with us, and really made us feel special. Of course, the multiple professional photographers and PR folk surrounding our gathering certainly added to that feeling. And that was just the start...

 

We hopped back on the bus to run over to a local market (Putnam Market) to pickup our boxed dinners, then return to SPAC to settle into our lawn seats for a picnic. Then members of the choir started passing us to get backstage and change for the concert, and they kept stopping to find out who we are and to thank us for coming. Then MORE photographers stopped by to get photos for the Tab Choir's social media pages (stay tuned). The toddler aged son of the one of the choir's staff members was seated in front of us, enthusiastically conducting the choir throughout the concert, and stealing all of our hearts, so of course they had to get photos with us as well. Bottom line, we're pretty popular here in Saratoga Springs, NY, and we haven't even started singing yet!

After all that attention, I think we were all excited to get to sleep, because I have rarely heard all the hotel rooms on tour quiet down as quickly as they did tonight, and I'm excited to join them!

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