Our first official day of tour! Yeehaw! I woke up at 6 am! Yeehaw! Not really. However, it wasn’t too difficult to wake up that early because I was looking forward to the day’s events. I was one of the first choir members downstairs for breakfast. Oh my gosh. I fell in love with the South right there. Very lovely ladies greeted us like old pals. We had a breakfast buffet that was quite wonderful; scrambled eggs, potatoes, biscuits and gravy and oatmeal. It was a great start to the day.
After loading the bus and roll calling, we set off to Greeneville High School, just a short ride down the road. When we pulled up, it did not look like a normal high school auditorium. It’s the town’s performing arts center, but it’s attached to the high school. It’s a relatively small school, 800 kids 9-12.
We warmed up and started a few numbers, and then the chorus came in during their choir period. We sang only a small portion of our pieces. Some of the choral conducting grad students were able to introduce the pieces. My personal favorite was Brian’s introduction to the Simpsons set. He always knows how to stir a crowd. The students were a good audience, and we were excited when they were able to sing for us. They sang the Javier Busto Ave Maria. It’s one of my favorites. Then they performed a Renaissance piece with the In dulci Jubilo melody. They were a great choir with a lot of great singing. All of the students took leadership and contributed to the ensemble. It was great to see such commitment from each student. Dr. Miller then took about 10 minutes and worked on a couple of things. He is brilliant working with singers and the students really responded well. It was interesting; the last time Dr. Miller was at Greeneville High School was when he was auditioning for the Tennessee All-State Choir. Many, many years ago. After taking the kids on their rollercoaster and racecar, the Busto just bloomed. We sang a few more songs for them and then it was time to hit the road.
Before heading off some of us went to use the restroom, and as my bus buddy returned to our seats she was so excited. She told me how there was a woman in the ladies room who went up to her and just hugged her. Maggie, being an extremely friendly person, hugged her right back. Then this woman, who was in the audience for the workshop, said that every year for Valentine’s Day her husband gets her flowers and chocolate and something nice. She said that this year she told her husband all she wanted for Valentine’s Day was to see the Westminster Choir in Knoxville for our performance. She sang in two choirs, her church choir and community choir and loved choral singing. So for Valentine’s Day her husband is taking her to hear us, the Westminster Choir. What an honor to have that effect on someone’s life. We are very privileged students.
So we set off, just down the road to Asbury Methodist Church where we were served lunch! Again we were received with great hospitality and a fine meal provided by the church. After singing of the Lutkin to show our appreciation, we again hit the road, driving by Preisdent Andrew Johnson’s house! It was an hour and a half drive to our next stop, Maryville College, just outside of Knoxville.
Our workshop was with Powell High School. As we drove through Knoxville, where Dr. Miller is from, he pointed out some of the interesting things from his past. Like where his father lived and worked as a teacher and coach. Maryville College is where Dr. Miller’s parents met.
It’s a lovely campus. We strolled in and warmed up in the recital hall. What a fantastic space to sing in! We were all very excited because of the great acoustics and so we all just indulged in singing in that space. The Powell High School choir was wonderful. It is during their winter break, but the students all came to hear Westminster. Not knowing they would be singing for us, they performed a couple of Christmassy tunes since they were still in their brains from their last concert. It was a great performance. All of the students were committed, and you could tell they enjoyed singing and were glad to be there. It’s also worth noting they had some pretty powerful basses. At the end of the workshop we all joined together on stage to sing the Lutkin Benediction. It was thrilling to sing with them. I stood next to Greg, a baritone from Powell High School. He is a senior and will be attending University of Tennessee for music. It was great to meet and mingle with students. They also provided a meal for us AND gave us a lot of munchies for the bus ride. We were elated.
We boarded the bus and headed to Nashville. It was a long 3-hour ride, plenty of sleeping and movie watching. I was so excited when we approached Nashville. We all had a burst of energy and hit the town.