Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tour 2010 Day 10

Day 10:  Oh, my.  Checking out of the hotel was complete chaos.  We had to be on the buses heading to church by 7:30.  Kids who were up most of the night did not exactly rally this morning.  A few forgot to re-set their watches and set their alarms an hour behind.  Breakfast wasn’t put out until the last minute, so there was a frenzy at the buffet.  After boarding and doing a head count we realized we were missing about a half dozen kids.  Some were literally rolled out of bed and onto the bus.  After we arrived at the church, some chaperones went back to the hotel and retrieved two large bags of left behind items - clothes, cell phones and some other rather interesting items.  

From 2010 Tour - Day 10
We sang and performed for two services at First United Methodist Church in Lexington.  We only had 15 minutes to unload the instruments, set up and prepare.  It was quite a scene.  We were pretty worried - especially looking at the fatigue on the kids’ faces, their rumpled shirts, uncombed hair and sneakers that replaced dress shoes (which aren’t exactly lost but could not be immediately located).  But these kids never fail to amaze us.  When it is show time, they are on the money every single time.  Getting through two sermons was a challenge for some, especially when the choir loft faced the congregation and their every yawn and head bob could be seen by everyone.  For those seated directly behind the pastor it was especially difficult - and it was all captured on video.  During the second service we were actually asked to do an encore.  As the pastor put it, “Please sing one more anthem - their faces just don’t look like this when I preach!”  
After we have a quick lunch we will be packing up one last time and heading for home.  Exhausted, exhilarated and spiritually charged.  Amen to that!

Click Here for Pictures of Day 10

Tour 2010 - Day 9

Day 9:  Amazingly, we made it through the night without incident, were checked out and on the road less than an hour behind schedule.  It was a rather long ride through Tennessee and across the Kentucky border.  We also rejoined the EDT zone, losing the hour we had previously gained.  Most of the kids made great use of the time to catch up from just a little bit of sleep deprivation.  Several hours into the trip we were in significant need of a rest stop, so we pulled off the Bluegrass Parkway in search of facilities.  After a fair amount of searching we found a Marathon gas station, literally in the middle of nowhere, with exactly two “facilities.”  We made two orderly lines and raided the convenience store.  Forty-five minutes later we resumed our journey.  We lunched at the lovely Masterson Station Park in Lexington, KY.  Pre-ordered boxed lunches were waiting for us when we arrived and they were quite delicious.  
It was only a short ride to the Kentucky Horse Park, a sprawling and immaculately manicured park described by the locals as “The Jewel of Kentucky.”  It was really very interesting, with lots of exhibits and horses of all varieties.  Many of us took the horse-drawn trolley, pulled by two massive draft horses, to get the lay of the land.  The Hall of Champions was a big hit.  The “horse people” loved meeting the celebrities - Cigar, Funny Cide, Da Hoss, Gypsy Supreme.  The who’s who of winning horses.  There are a number of former champions buried here also, including Man O’ War.  Lots of equestrian events are held at the park in various show rings, stadiums and arenas.  There is also a jumping complex, a steeplechase course and dressage complex.   It is really a lovely park - and thankfully many of the exhibits were indoors.  The sun was brutal!  
Our next venue was a little different for us.  We had the privilege to sing at the Cathedral of Christ the King, a very large Catholic church in downtown Lexington  The church was not only spacious and beautiful, its acoustics were amazing.  We had a smaller than usual audience but they were so appreciative.  Every person who was there was touched deeply.  Several approached us to ask about buying CD’s.  Some very generous donations were made.  They all approached us to ask more about our youth music  program.  One elderly couple had met us at the horse park while we were waiting in line for the trolley.  When we told them we were performing a Christ the King, they lit up and said they might try to be there.  Not only did they come, they sat in the front row, led the standing ovations and lingered to lavish their praises on us.  This was probably our best concert so far, and even better because we know how deeply meaningful it was to those who were there.  

From 2010 Tour - Day 9
Another night in a hotel, this time the Best Western.  We somehow seem to catch our second wind no matter how tired we are.    Never too tired to swim, socialize, play cards and talk the night away.  It’s hard to go to bed when we’re having such a great time, especially on our last night of the tour.  It was a very late night! 

Click Here for Pictures from Day 9

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 8 Nashville!

Day 8:  As we drove in to the church this morning, we got to see in daylight the huge mansions that lined the streets of Brentwood.  So huge and stately.  Some of the kids actually stayed in those mansions last night!  The neighbors include Carrie Underwood, Allen Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, Dolly Parton, Hayley Williams and Ke$ha (if you don’t know who these people are, ask your kids).  Some of the kids were taken out for frozen yogurt at a place frequented by Taylor Swift.  Not too shabby.  
Today we had the whole day to tour Nashville, with no evening concert.  It was such a great day, I’m sure words won’t be able to capture the feelings.  We started with a tour of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, an exact replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon built for the 1897 World’s Fair. Now you may wonder why Nashville would spend 10 years to build a replica of Parthenon for the World’s Fair.  A little known fact . . .  before it was called Music City, Nashville was known as Athens of the South because of all the institutes of higher learning and cultural events.  Inside was an enormous statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.  She was quite a sight to see, in all her 24’ gilded gold beauty.  In the statue, Athena is holding a smaller statue of Laurel, the goddess of victory.  Every little detail of the statue is rich with symbolism.  It was surprising to see how much the kids know about Greek mythology.       
After the Parthenon, we went to the Upper Room Chapel.  This is the worldwide headquarters for Upper Room Ministries, which publishes the Upper Room daily devotional and other Christian literature.  The focal point of this beautiful chapel is a two-story high stained glass window portraying the events of Pentecost and the growth of Christianity.  At the front of the chapel is a large wood carving patterned after Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper.  Walt had the kids just stand wherever they had been sitting in the pews and sing “scatter shift” style, facing the wood carving.  The choir sang Come Unto Me and If Ye Love Me Keep My Commands.  It was very moving and spiritual.  They have never sounded better - the chaperones were moved to tears.  Something very serendipitous happened at this chapel.  On page 15 in the current edition of The Upper Room is a reflection written by Sue Constantanides several years ago, when her son was recovering from a nearly fatal staff infection.  This reflection was based on Psalm 23:4.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou are with me.  After the choir sang, Walt pulled a copy of The Upper Room from the pew and asked Sue to come forward and read the devotional she had written.  It is a reflection about the night the doctor told them the infection might reach Tim’s brain, in which case he would not make it through the night.  “I had never felt so alone or so helpless.  My heart cried out to God.  I willed God to speak to me.  Gradually, peace and resolve came over me.  Alone in the darkness, I trusted that no matter what happened, God would see me through it.  I sat by the bed all night long, knowing that God was beside us.”   There were not many dry eyes in the house.  
We collected our emotions and re-boarded the buses for a short drive to downtown Nashville.  We had a blast checking out the local stores and restaurants.  Next we toured the Ryman Auditorium, which is the original Grand Ole Opry.   Stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West and Bob Hope performed here in the 1940’s.  Because of it amazing acoustics (second only to the Mormon Tabernacle) it soon became the South’s premier performance hall and was heralded as the Mother Church of Country Music.  Minnie Pearl was queen of this stage, and all the great artists have performed here - Hank Williams, Patsy Kline, Ricky Skaggs, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Tammy Wynette . . . the Jonas Brothers.  And yes, Walt talked them into allowing us to climb up on stage to sing He Never Failed Me Yet.  Your child has indeed sung at the Grand Ole Opry.  And the audience (i.e. chaperones) went wild!
We had an early dinner at Maggiano’s, where they accommodated us with a nice buffet in a lovely room.  It was a nice opportunity to just mix and mingle.  With big band music playing in the background, it didn’t take long for a bit of dancing to begin.  Cameron and Becca Grimes showed us how it is really done, with a couple of foxtrot and waltz numbers.  Soon, Cameron was giving foxtrot lessons to the bolder guys.  He also taught a few moves to Emily Rice, who in turn gave instruction to a few others.  Before long we had to move the tables back to make room for a dance floor.  Walt facilitated.  He would pull a guy onto the floor, dance with him for a bit then select a dance partner.  Dan Krotz donned the famous red tour director jacket and did his excellent Walt Edmonds impression, concluding by pulling Peggy onto the dance floor.  We were having such a great time we didn’t want it to end.  But the restaurant had another party coming, so they shooed us out the door.  If we had told you the group would be ballroom dancing in Nashville on tour, would you have believed it?  We’re finding the spontaneous activities that just sort of evolve are the most fun!
We ended this enchanted evening with a tour through Cheekwood Gardens.  This summer the botanical gardens are featuring an exhibit of blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, an internationally renowned artist.  As the sun set and the thunder rumbled, we walked the lush grounds and took lot of pictures.  The gardens were beautifully manicured, providing a wonderful backdrop for the stunning vivid colors of the glass sculptures.  The rain held off and we were able to cover a lot of ground in a short time.  
Haven’t we been so very cultured today?  Museums, chapels, opry, ballroom dancing and botanical gardens.  Any illusions that we were becoming high society were quickly shattered back at the hotel.  The commotion of check-in, the antics in the pool, a quick run over to Sonic for milkshakes and the usual horseplay up and down the hotel corridors assured us we’ve got normal red-blooded teens on board.  And we love them in all of their modes!  

Click Here for Pictures of Day 8

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 7

Day 7: At about this point, the mornings take on a Groundhog Day effect. Repack the suitcase, eat breakfast (ranging from fabulous buffets to granola bars), shuffle off to the church, hug your hosts goodbye, load up the buses and vans, take a head count and hit the road. The Lost and Found is becoming interesting. One person lost a sandal and we found a sandal, but not the same one. A ring was lost and found, then lost again. Several pairs of sunglasses have been lost, probably never to be found again. We’ve recovered shirts, shorts and shoes and have lost countless toothbrushes, razors and deodorant sticks. We’ve lost and found wallets, cameras and backpacks. We’ve lost a lot of sleep but found new friends, and if we can keep from losing our sense of humor we’ll be just fine.

Today we headed back to Tennessee to see Rock City and Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. Once again, nothing is easy when you’ve got two huge coach buses and a caravan of miscellaneous vans and trucks. It seemed for awhile like we were going around in circles, up and down the mountain. Well, OK, we did sort of go around in circles, up and down the mountain for awhile. But it was a beautiful ride and we certainly enjoyed the scenic overlooks and magnificent homes. Since we couldn’t find an actual picnic area, we found a lovely rock to use as a serving table and sat on the mountainside enjoying the beautiful setting. Then back on the bus, back down Lookout Mountain to the massive underground Ruby Falls. An elevator took us down to the caverns, where we had small group guided tours. These caves at the foot of the Tennessee River have a fascinating history, having been used by Native Americans, outlaws and Civil War soldiers. In 1928, a cave enthusiast named Leo Lambert embarked on a mission to drill an elevator shaft in the caverns in order to open them to the public. In so doing, he and his crew happened upon the magnificent falls, which for nearly a century have been a major tourist attraction. The Falls were so gorgeous, and the kids were so inspired by the echoing of the caverns that of course they just had to break into song (repeatedly). This was a really fun and different side trip - and it was nice and cool in the caverns!

As usual, we dallied at the Falls and got ourselves a little behind schedule, but not too bad. We changed time zones and gained an hour, so that helped. Most on the bus used the time to get some quick shut-eye. Our original bus driver, Johanna, was cleared by an ophthalmologist this afternoon to resume driving and re-joined us after Ruby Falls. We were grateful, since our substitute driver was very competent but not used to this kind of equipment. About an hour into the trip, we climbed a steep mountain that went uphill for miles. The climb proved a bit too much for the Gold Bus engine, which progressively slowed down and ended up chugging along on the shoulder at 5 mph. To save stress on the engine, we shut off the air conditioning (that went over well). A half hour later we reached the crest of the hill, and we were soon able to exit the Interstate and check it out. We began making contingency plans for consolidating buses, borrowing nearby church vans, bringing in a new bus or revising the performance But after checking all the engine fluids and topping them off, a test run seemed promising, so we just gave it a shot. All went well until we were about 20 minutes from our destination, then the slow cycle repeated itself. We truly chugged our way into the church, arriving two hours late at 6:30. Plenty of time to haul all the equipment and luggage in, set up, rehearse, eat and change before the 7:00 performance. All we can say is thank the Lord for the boy scouts. Since the kids had to set up for the show, the parents were responsible for hauling all the luggage in. As we did our middle-aged best to move the luggage quickly, we observed some boy scouts, arriving for their Thursday night meeting. Their scoutmaster, who had seen our predicament, said “Boys, there are two big buses out front and they need our help.” In the blink of an eye, more than a dozen 10 young scouts lined up and shuttled the remainder of the Damascus belongings into the church. Just in time, ahead of a torrential downpour.

Brentwood United Methodist Church is huge - the largest in the conference and the largest church in Nashville, with very high ceilings and an enormous pipe organ. Stephen Kalnoske joined us here and played beautifully. The choir and orchestra sounded great in this setting, especially from the high balconies. Because we were so late starting, it was a slightly abbreviated performance with no puppet show and no encore performances, but we packed a lot into a short period. It was a great venue and a memorable evening.

Click Here to See Photos of Day 7

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 6

Blog Day 6: It took awhile to gather the group this morning, as some actually made the journey to the church by boat. But once we did gather, we had the chance to enjoy a few last minutes gathered together in their beautiful sanctuary - this time with the morning sun shining majestically through the stained glass while we prayed and sang. Not a bad way to start the morning.

Our new driver, Deborah, joined the Gold Bus and we made the hour and a half drive in just over 2 hours You know, if you miss your turn on these mountain roads (which we did a few times), it’s not all that easy to turn one of these rigs around. We had a quick picnic lunch at the Toccoa Valley Campground, then grabbed our tubes and lifejackets and floated two hours down the Tocca River It was very fun and very relaxing. For most of us, anyway. Rather than take the relaxed approach, Jane Webb decided to do a back flip into the river. The judges gave her an 8.5. Groups of kids tied their tubes together and floated en masse for parts of the trip. We had a tight schedule, so as quickly as we could, we shuttled back to the campground and hopped back on the buses.

So the medical report for today: Carly moved from a soft cast to a hard cast for her broken thumb. Cameron got his hand smashed during orchestra set-up . . . splint for now, more to follow. As you might imagine, given the intense 95 degree sunshine beating down on us all afternoon, we had quite a few with sunburn. We quickly got some industrial strength aloe, hoping to soothe things a bit. Surprisingly there has been very little complaining!

Tonight our concert at First UMC of Union County (Blairsville, GA) was an hour earlier than normal. So we hurriedly unpacked the vans and buses (oops, looks like our last host church has inherited a couple dozen DUMC music stands), gobbled down a pizza dinner and tried to clean up as best we could. Only so much you can do when you’ve been soaking in river water all afternoon.

This contemporary church sits high atop a hill in a wide open, mountain community. As only Walt can, he convinced the music director of the church to cancel their own choir practice to allow us to play our full concert. It’s hard to figure out how it happens, but there is a transformation that happens during these concerts. This afternoon it was apparent these kids are really worn out - a lack of sleep, busy days, high heat and humidity have taken their toll. Then they spend a couple of hours playing and singing, glorifying God, and emerge revitalized. The Holy Spirit is surely at work, thanks be to God!

Click Here for Pictures of Day 6

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 5

Blog Day 5: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. The mantra of the U.S. Marine Corps and now the Charles Wesley Singers. What a day. At the Tolbert farm, it started with the realization that the gate by the pond had been left open the night before. The cows were no longer in their field but were now grazing in the field across the pond. Ooh, hate when that happens! Next, we learned our wonderful bus driver Johanna suffered a scratched cornea last night and by this morning her eye was swollen shut. While she was diverted for emergency treatment, we re-thought the day’s plans. It was quite amazing to see, actually. Plan B: Our other wonderful driver, Paul, took the youth and a couple of chaperones on to Gainesville, GA to connect with our hosts at Gainesville UMC. The rest of the chaperones and “tall friends” used the time to reorganize over bagels and coffee. A chase vehicle followed the silver bus, retrieved Paul and drove him two hours back to Anderson, S.C., where he picked up the remaining passengers in the gold bus. The group ultimately reconvened at the church in Gainesville. We’re hoping Johanna’s eye will heal enough for her to drive tomorrow, but we’re working on a back-up plan just in case!

In spite of the challenges, our kids made it to Gainesville pretty much on time and were greeted with a pizza lunch. They joined with some of the local youth, and one group went to the movies (Toy Story 3-D) and the other went bowling. One of the Gainesville church’s buses broke down, so they improvised, adapted and overcame with other vehicles. Then, what else, the second Gainesville church bus broke down. Okay, improvise/adapt/overcome is getting a little tedious. Now we’re having to divide and conquer - and that’s not even our mantra. While a chaperone was being treated for multiple bee stings in an Anderson, SC urgent care center and our bus driver was having her scratched cornea treated by an ophthalmologist, a CWS soprano was being x-rayed for what we discovered was a broken hand. Buses and people are not the only things breaking down - we lost a flute and violin, too. But all are thankfully now on the mend.

On the brighter side, you should see this magnificent church! It is unbelievable. Forty foot high stained glass windows, rich wood walls and ceilings, gardens, fountains, and a huge recreation center. They have an entire youth wing with ping pong tables, games, a bandstand for their two praise bands and a DJ center. How convenient, we just so happened to bring Montgomery County’s best DJ, Blake Motter. The kids had fun just being kids - playing, singing and dancing.

One of the coolest things about this church is their Lakeside Chapel. A wooded path next to the church takes you to a big outdoor amphitheater, right on the lake. There are tiers of wooden benches, but the pastor told us most folks just bring their lawn chairs to worship at 8:30 on Sunday mornings, from Memorial Day through October. In fact, some of the locals just pull their boats up and either dock or stay right on the water, where they are able to pick up an FM signal for the service. We were treated to a magnificent southern barbecue dinner prepared by Frank, who this very day was awarded “Best Barbecue in the Greater Atlanta Region.” Needless to say, we cleaned our plates and shamelessly went back for more.

The concert tonight was amazing. As the choir sang Omnia Sol, the sun was setting, hitting the massive stained glass windows - the sanctuary just glowed. It was so serene and beautiful. We ended the night with a favorite from last year - My Soul is Anchored in the Lord. The choir was just on fire and has never sounded better! What a high note (literally) to end this day on.

Click Here for Pictures from Day 5

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 4

Day 4: Hot enough for you? At least we got to sleep in a little this morning. We re-grouped at our host church at 8:45 and went for a really nice tour of Clemson University. Much of the tour was blissfully on an air conditioned bus, and the campus was really beautiful. We had the chance to run down Cardiac Hill at the football stadium and enjoy the luscious Botanical Gardens. Don’t be surprised if your kids come home decked out in orange and purple T-shirts. Go Tigers! Never too soon to start applying for those out-of-state scholarships. After the tour we strolled through the town, chatting with the local shopkeepers and enjoying the quaint atmosphere.

We scrapped plans for the outdoor shopping excursion and opted for the comfort of an air conditioned mall. It was nice to have some down time to just hang with friends. One group pretended they were on tour from England and completely fooled the locals, who couldn’t get enough of their British accents. The mall had an indoor bunjee jumping center that was fun, a place to get massages and the usual array of mall chain stores. As we regrouped on the buses, waiting for the stragglers, we couldn’t help but notice some commotion in the parking lot. Now first, we want to point out that we were spectators, observing from the safety and comfort of a luxury motor coach with tinted windows. Second, we want to assure you we were not in any way in danger. That said, we were in for a bit of excitement as some reality-TV style drama between a few young men began to unfold in the mall parking lot. First came the posturing and smack talk, then the dance that says “you want a piece of me?” Then the intervention of buddies, girlfriends and grandmas, pleading for cooler heads to prevail. As it continued to escalate, Jane Webb called 911 to report the incident . She called out the play-by-play action to the police, as the two young gents danced and punched their way around the parking lot in the classic, testosterone-enhanced interaction that is half ballet and half street brawl. The police quickly moved in (with the help of our own Jane Webb), arrests were made and the buses rolled out. It was all caught on about a dozen phone videos and may already be posted on YouTube. Quite exciting, indeed.

Next came the highlight of the trip thus far. We had the pleasure of being hosted at the fabulous farm of Caroline Tolbert. Caroline is a member of St. John’s United Methodist Church here in Anderson, and we connected to her through the vast network of lifelong friends that Peggy and Walt Edmonds maintain. The farm is quite large, complete with cows, a pond, estate house with wrap-around porch and rocking chairs, and a pavilion shaded by what is officially the largest pecan tree in South Carolina. We wish you could have all been here to experience an evening that can only be described as magical. Many of the kids reflected on this as the best time they have ever had on tour. Who knows what serendipitous combination of factors merge to create that kind of spiritual energy. Perhaps it’s a few days shared together singing of God’s love and grace, an appreciation for the genteel ways of our Southern hosts, the love for one another that grows day by day. And a great backdrop, complete with volleyball, pedal boats, a go-kart, adventurous rides in the pick-up truck and great food. The young folks enjoyed being together but also loved spending time with their hostess. Many of them talked after we left about how touched they were by Miss Caroline and the wisdom she shared with them. To top it off, the singing group “Cruz Control” came out to the farm for a very entertaining barbershop quartet performance. They were so great, and of course we felt obliged to perform for them as well (Siyah Humba, The Lord Bless You and Keep You). We were having so much fun we didn’t want to stop singing, but all good things must come to an end. So as dusk faded to dark on this equinox evening, we boarded the buses to the church and bid farewell to the amazing Miss Caroline. A night to remember, for sure.

Click Here for Pictures from Day 4

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 3

Day 3: We love it here in Johnson City. Especially our host homes and the wonderful Munsey Memorial UMC. After the concert last night, we went “home” to some good times - more great food, swimming pools and plenty of laughs. A large group crashed at Ina Sue’s (Mamaw Motter) who soon became everyone’s grandma. She makes the most amazing blueberry muffins! There’s other stories that could be told, but what happens at Mamaw’s stays at Mamaw’s (Blake and Blake, ‘nuff said).

Sunday morning we sang and played at both services. The youth sang “Hallelujah, We Shall Rise,” the orchestra played Adagio and the congregation said AMEN! After a pizza lunch, we loaded back up and hit the road, pressing onward and southward. Next stop, Anderson, S.C.

So we are having a few medical issues. The weather is hot and it’s tough for the kids to stay hydrated. Substantial stomach distress in the violin section. A broken toe in the choir. Cellists with cut fingers. A number of complaints of general malaise (that’s French for exhaustion). But these kids are troopers! We keep passing the hand sanitizer, gargling with Listerine, drinking lots of water . . . one minor detour to the ER for IV fluids and medication. So please, join us in fervent prayers for our good health. At any rate, the show must go on!

Tonight we sang at Boulevard Baptist Church in Anderson S.C. Very hot and humid - upper 90’s. But the church is magnificent - and thankfully, the air conditioning that was not working this morning is working this evening. We were served a wonderful meal of Mexican baked ‘taters, a delicious salad, sweet tea and freshly baked sugar cookies. We sang a roaring rendition of Happy Birthday to Matt DeHoff (a John Deere birthday cake no less) then sang to a delightful crowd. They just loved the performances.

After a few rigorous days, we are ready for a little break in the action. Our hosts tonight will have us for two nights, as we look forward to a little R&R, soaking up the sights here in sunny South Carolina!

Click Here for Pictures of Day Three

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 2 - On the way to Tennessee

Day Two: We were sad to be leaving Cross Lanes, WV - just when we were making new friends and discovering new fun (greyhound and dachshund racing!). Marin and Preet recounted the chatter from the breakfast table, where they joined their hosts, the Nesbitts, and Walt and Peggy. The adults were discussing how they had first met, and the Nesbitts confided their first encounter was a game of Spin the Bottle in 7th grade. Walt, being Walt, wanted to incorporate the girls into the conversation and asked if they had ever played Spin the Bottle or another favorite of his generation, Post Office. As he went on to describe how the games were played, the girls squirmed with discomfort and, well, disgust of the images now embedded in their brains. As Marin put it, “Thanks, Walt for the totally awkward memories!”

Following gourmet breakfasts (egg casserole, fresh fruit, Belgian waffles, homemade cinnamon rolls, breads and muffins), we boarded the buses and wound our way through the mountains. Mile after mile of untouched natural beauty, under a cloudless blue sky. After an hour of enjoying the scenery, most opted for a snooze. Some snoozed through the rest of West Virginia, our short breeze through Virginia and on through the eastern tip of Tennessee (the Volunteer State). Those awake (thankfully including the drivers) noted signs for Hatfield and McCoy, Thoroughbred Steakhouse, and Damascus, Tennessee. Peggy Edmonds saw a custom motorcycle, with a beer keg on the gas cap and a kitchen chair for the drivers’ seat. You gotta love it! Soon enough we were pulling in to Wetlands Water Park in Jonesborough, TN. As the temperatures soared well into the 90’s there were only two places to be - the shade or the pool. Fortunately they had both. We enjoyed burgers on the shaded deck then cooled off in the fountains, pools and water slide. Just the ticket to relax and revive for a couple hours.

We then made the short drive to Johnson City, Tennessee where once again we were met with overwhelming graciousness and kindness. This is the home church of Linda Motter’s sister, Pam. It is a large, elegant church with stunning stained glass, high ceilings and intricate moulding. After a bit of rehearsal, we enjoyed what Rachel Wilson described as the most fabulous meal ever on tour. Table after table of delicious entrees, side dishes and desserts. Do the Methodists know how to throw a pot luck dinner or what? Especially in the South! Some on tour have family connections in these here hills. Of course, the Motters’ extended family lives here. Ken Koeritzer was joined by his sister’s family, who were delighted to hear Lauren’s solo performance of Mozart’s Laudate Dominum. And Rebecca and Shannon’s father, Sid Perry, grew up here, so their cousins gave them the grand tour of the holler where his misspent youth occurred - the quaint town of Elizabethton, the Doe River and beautiful Wassauga Lake. The sight of these glorious mountains and scenic views gives thrills and chills!

What a joy it was to perform in this lovely church, with its tremendous acoustics. Day two and they are already sounding quite polished. Again, we were so pleased to sing and play to a full house. They enjoyed the orchestra, the puppets and of course the soulful, heartfelt anthems. We went our separate ways for the night, excited to be making new friends and new memories.

Click here for Pictures of Day Two

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 1 - West Virginia

Day One: So, the day began with the usual organized chaos of assembling 75 adults and kids, 3 vans full of instruments, music, luggage, food, water, music stands, concert clothes, and - oh, yes - puppets and stage props! Label the instruments, number the music books, tag the luggage with red/blue and silver/gold ribbons, find out if you are in the green, yellow, red or blue group and if you are in Section 1 - 20. Make sure you check in with your section leader, get with the right color group and on the right bus. As parents waved goodbye from the church parking lot (smiling the kind of smile that says “boy I’m glad I’m not on that bus”), the youth and “tall friends” quickly settled into excited chatter. From the buzz of conversations, it sounds like we averaged 4.5 hours sleep last night. Which sounds about right for the next 10 days!

A scenic drive through western Maryland and W. VA on a delightful, sunny day got us off to a good start. First lesson learned: middle-aged, coffee laden bladders are not equipped to travel four hours without relief. So, it was with great relief that we arrived at our lunch spot in Clarksburg, W.Va. It is always a logistical challenge to maneuver the buses in these quaint towns. Like where do we park the buses? Paul, the driver of the Silver Bus, dropped us off and thought he’d found a great place to wait. Come to find out it was a bit of a tight squeeze. Too tight, in fact. When he tried to pull out, he had Cameron rearrange the poles in the parking lot that were blocking his egress. Apparently not cool with the local police, who were quickly approaching on their official Police Segways. Paul deftly maneuvered a slalom through the poles, and as the authorities closed in, he quickly accelerated, opened the door and yelled “Cameron, quick, jump in!” And with that, they made their daring escape. As they pulled off, Suzy Renauer chimed in, “Now is the time I suggest you flip the switch that changes your license plate.”

Not to be outdone, Johanna - driver of the Gold Bus - managed to pick us up directly in front of the pavilion. It was too late when we discovered the mud moat separating us from the bus. Ken Koeritzer gallantly helped passengers aboard, but those of us with short legs could not quite make the stretch. Just ask Peggy Edmonds, who bravely fought the mighty forces of the dreaded quicksand, which violently laid claim to her shoe. Not prepared to concede defeat, Sir Kenneth valiantly retrieved the shoe and like a scene out of Cinderella returned it to its rightful owner.

Whew! With all the drama and excitement, it will come as no surprise that we found ourselves slightly behind schedule. But with only minor delays, we reached the destination of our first venue - Cross Lanes United Methodist Church. Just in time to unload the 3 vans of instruments, music, luggage, water, concert clothes, music stands, puppets and stage props; rehearse; eat the fine Mexican dinner provided by our gracious hosts; and do our quick change from grungy teens to sophisticated performers.

Just a word about Cross Lanes UMC and the wonderful network of support we at DUMC enjoy. Our host coordinator here was Linda Nesbitt, who is the mother of DUMC’s own Kelly Shiflett. Curt and Kelly Shiflett, soon to be parents of twins, were married at Cross Lanes UMC, and Walt traveled here to officiate that ceremony. Cross Lanes will be remembered by us for their tremendous hospitality, their fabulous food and one of the largest (nearly 200) and most appreciative audiences we have ever had. We could not have asked for a more wonderful start to our Tour.

Click Here for Photos from Day 1

Tour 2010 - The Departure

The youth tour kicked off this morning with everyone gathering at the church early. The buses and vans were loaded, the kids and "tall friends" were pumped and after a great prayer by Pastor Frances, they left for 10 days on the road.

Blogging duties will be turned over to Jackie Perry and her support group to post the daily summary and maybe some photos. I've already seen some "on-bus" video from a couple of cell phones. Everybody seems to be in high spirits.

Their first concert is just about now in West Virginia.

Doug T.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tour 2010 - Pre Tour Post

Well here we are again, Tour 2010 is just a few days away. Rehearsals are going full force and the Charles Wesley Singers and the Academy of Saint Cecilia Orchestra are eager to hit the road. Posts from the road will be made here, so check back often.

Below is the itinerary for the 2010 tour.

Friday - 6/18 - 7:00 pm - Cross Lanes United Methodist Church, Cross Lanes, WV

Saturday - 6/19 - 7:00 pm -
Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Johnson City, TN

Sunday - 6/20 - 8:45 & 11 am Morning Services - Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Johnson City, TN

Sunday - 6/20 - 7:15 pm - Boulevard Baptist Church, Anderson, SC

Tuesday - 6/22 - 7:00 pm - Gainesville First United Methodist Church, Gainesville, GA

Wednesday - 6/23 - 6:00 pm - First United Methodist Church of Union County, Blairsville, GA

Thursday - 6/24 - 7:00 pm - Brentwood United Methodist Church, Brentwood, TN

Saturday - 6/26 - 7:30 pm - Cathedral of Christ the King, Lexington, KY

Sunday - 6/27 - 8:30 & 11:00 am Morning Services - First United Methodist Church, Lexington, KY

Monday - 6/28 - Homecoming Concert - Damascus United Methodist Church, Damascus MD

If you have friends or family near any of our tour cities, please tell them about our concerts.