I write my final tour post not from the bus, but rather, Princeton University’s Firestone Library, where I am “studying” with the aforementioned Emily (she’s studying, I’m people-watching). Now that I’ve been back in New Jersey for approximately forty-eight hours (of which an embarrassing twenty-three hours have been spent sleeping), I finally have the intellectual capacity and requisite consciousness to fill you in on the final details of tour.
Our Pasadena concert provided us with another chance to reconnect with old friends as a surprising number of alumni made an appearance at the performance. As Dr. Miller often reminds us, there are no former members of Westminster Choir, merely ones who have graduated. This saying proved abundantly true as we sang to former members, including a very recent graduate, Justin Su’esu’e. Justin and I spent two years in the choir together, and I place almost exclusive blame on him for my inability to make it through the performance without bursting into tears. I’ve tried to look for the right way to describe the depth of relationships within the choir, but I’ll never be able to find the words. Somewhere in the singing, rehearing and performing, the interactions made in passing, the weeks spent touring and at Spoleto, the silly outings and three a.m. conversations, we become an irrevocable part of one another. With graduation now coming up on the nearer horizon, this connection to my choir family is a deep source of joy and comfort.
Following the concert, the performance management team and Dr. Miller left the choir unattended as they attended an alumni reception. As such, it should come as little surprise that the bus ride to the hotel was a wee bit more raucous than usual. Once we arrived, we were given time to prepare for the final event of tour: the closing banquet.
The closing banquet is usually a misnomer, as it generally consists of a presentation of the Paper Plate Awards and a toast. But this year, we had a decadent, multi-course meal added to the normal set of events. The Paper Plate Awards were presented by me (I’m not sure what Dr. Miller was thinking when he gave me so much power) but the categories were voted on by members of the choir. There are some annual favorites, such as “Rookies of the Year” and “Most Likely to Make You Laugh,” but I added in a few categories of my own (mwahahaha) including “Most Likely to Be Canonized (as a Saint)”, “Radiant Beam of Sunshine Sent from Heaven,” and “Most Likely to Defeat Everyone in a Cage Match.” Discretionary awards were given to our two accompanists, our ever-patient bus driver, John, and the performance management team. In a shocking turn of events, Dr. Miller won one of the most coveted awards, “Most Likely to Defeat Everyone at Trivia Crack” thanks to his savant-like knowledge of all things Californian.
The toast, however, is my favorite part of the evening. After spending two weeks together (with minimal sleep), logically, we should all be a bit sick of each other. Rather, the opposite is true. The end-of-tour and Spoleto toasts are times set apart, chances to reflect back on what and who we are thankful for and how we’ve grown individually and as a choir. Tears are shed, lengthy hugs are exchanged, and we all leave a little more aware of the gift of being together for this moment in time.
The next morning, we departed the hotel at 6 a.m. The bus was so quiet it was almost terrifying. Thankfully, we had one of those exciting airplanes with individual touch screen T.V.s on the way back to New Jersey, so we only had to exert minimal effort to entertain ourselves over the course of the five and half hour long flight. Now in Princeton, we have a bit of a break before our semester begins on Monday, along with our Homecoming concert at Richardson Auditorium on the same day. Until then, I wish you similarly joyous toasts, some actual toast (I just went grocery shopping so I’m quite excited by the prospect of bread), and thoughtfully-crafted recognition on disposable eating devices.