Aptos, Fresno and Clovis

Once again, I write to you from the road. According to the ever-trusty Google Maps and slightly invasive GPS technology, we are currently passing through the bustling metropolis of Visalia en route to Santa Monica.

Our time in the Central Valley has been demanding yet refreshing. After arriving in Aptos, we had a chance to explore the grounds of Cabrillo College where we performed that evening. As a chronic East Coast/Midwesterner, I can’t describe how idyllic it is to lounge about in summer clothing during January. I was in paradise. Choir members read, napped, played Frisbee, enjoyed the nearby artwork, and took a much-needed chance to rejuvenate before our second in a series of three concerts in less than 72 hours.

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Following that night’s concert, we embarked upon our first homestay. For me, homestays are one of the most exciting parts of tour. They provide us with a chance engage with our audiences on an individual level. My first host, Gayle, provided my three tour roommates and me with a delicious dinner (including thoughtfully selected vegetarian soup), over which we got to learn about her experiences performing in local choirs and her work as an educator in schools in California and the former Soviet Union. It is always a bonus to stay with a host who has a deep love of music, and as such, the conversation flowed freely as we each reflected on the different roles music has played in our lives.

The next morning, we departed early, heading off to Fresno, the homeland of current choir member Sarah Michal. Sarah’s family has been deeply involved in this tour, attending all of our concerts up to this point and arranging innumerable logistical details of our stay in Fresno.

Our performance in Fresno was in the recently renovated performance hall at Fresno City College, a beautiful location with ideal acoustics. The audience in Fresno was so vivacious, there was a contagious energy in the room. Between certain selections, we could hear their eager comments while standing on the stage. As all of us were beginning to fade a bit at this point in the tour (due to our rigorous schedule and a touch of remaining jet lag), their enthusiasm certainly made a positive impact on our performance.

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My host family last night, the Von Sauns, hosted my roommate Lauren and me in their stunning historic home in Fresno. In addition to graciously providing us with a delicious dinner, their children serenaded us on the piano and the organ as well as playing board games with us after dinner. I felt like I’d walked into a tastefully modernized Jane Austen novel. During the school year, I often find that the things I miss most are being around people of multiple ages (especially children) and seeing animals. As they also had a magnificent Begnal cat who could leap over six feet into the air and took to wrapping himself around my leg and swatting my skirt, both of these voids were filled a bit during our overnight visit.

But there is no rest for the wicked, the good, or anything in between whilst on tour. This morning, we were off again for a series of three workshops in the Fresno area. The first, which was at Buchanan High School, featured a surprising twist: at the end of the workshop, their choral director passed out a piece for Westminster Choir to sight-read and sing with the high school’s concert choir. As the text of the piece was composed of the appropriate solfege syllables (in movable do/ la-based minor), a spirited debate broke out on the bus afterwards regarding solfege methods. Blows were exchanged, lives were lost, but thankfully, with half choir now gone, tour will be significantly less expensive. (Of course, I jest—the factions remain as strong and impassioned as ever, ensuring that we will never want for conversational fodder even after our two weeks on the road together).

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For the second workshop we returned to Fresno City College to work with their choir. I’ve only ever done WC workshops with high schoolers, so to work with a choir with members closer in age to ourselves was exciting. From there, we gathered our lunch (provided by the ever-generous Cater/Michal family—In-and-Out burgers for the omnivores and Chipotle salads for the vegetarians) and went to our final workshop of the day at Clovis North High School.

The choir shared a few stunning works for mixed and women’s choirs that I was unfamiliar with, and to finish out the day, we sang a setting of “Unclouded Day” together. Throughout the tour, I am continually amazed by the level of musicianship and sophistication shown by the choirs we have worked with. It is inspiring to see other musicians in action, whether they are professional educators or students.

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Currently, we are near Bakersfield. The bus is pleasantly quiet, filled with sleepy choristers catching a bit of rest before our free night in Santa Monica. The only stirring creatures are the Trivia Crack addicts (as what was once a diversion has evolved into an all-out competition between different members of the choir). Here I shall leave you, for I am determined to both:

  1. Not fall asleep (as to avoid having my picture taken whilst unconscious and put on the album of Sleeping Beauties on our secret choir Facebook page)
  2. Defeat everyone once and for all in Trivia Crack (which unfortunately entails sports trivia, my Achilles heel).

I promise to bring further installments of our adventures in Santa Monica and beyond!

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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