Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 6: It's in the books.

We are home.  Safe.  Reason enough to be thankful.

Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures today.  By that, I mean I took one picture today.  It was Olivia.  She apparently woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world today, because she came down to the bus wearing anti-glare black on her face.  Caroline gave her some tea to help get her going.

It was a long trip back.  We made it around 9:30pm (we didn't stop for dinner, just the driver relay at the Georgia line).  That makes it right at a 12 hour experience including all our stops and such.

We watched Dead Poets Society on the bus today (along with another movie or two).  I was reminded of how much I respect what the teacher, Mr. Keating, is trying to do with his students.  He challenges them to think and to grow.  He is funny and profound.  He inspires his students to greatness.

As this tour comes to a close, it is my hope and prayer that I have in some small way inspired the youth--that I have challenged them to be more tomorrow than they are today.  At the same time, I hope they enjoyed our time together...that it was fun(ny) for them and profound.

Next week, on to VBS.  As last year, I'll continue to blog throughout the week.  Maybe this year I'll be able to get some pictures on here for VBS as well.  It should be visually nice this year, as Greg has built us a yellow submarine.

For now, to bed.  I have an early morning!  Good night.

~ Captain Cuatro

Day 5: The End Is Near

It's the morning of day 6...the day to return home.  At some point in the next couple of days I'll do one more entry with some pictures of our trip home today, as I anticipate some interesting opportunities given the current state of the choir...they look something like the walking dead.

But for now back to Day 5.  First, Patrick once again put together a clinic for healthy eating.  He believes this is the best idea ever.  It's a breakfast sandwich consisting of waffle quarters for the bread and egg and cheese in the middle.  Of course, after he finished it he had yogurt and a banana (and there was no evidence of the waffle).  Note to self: ask the bus driver if he remembered the defibrillator paddles...

They're getting tired.  Let me get this straight.  You can't sleep two guys in one bed, but this is ok?  For the record, Patrick, Jonathan and I were in one room for this trip, and all three of us managed to sleep in a bed all week long.  Come on, guys...

At our first concert (where they did in fact know we were coming and we were actually on time), there was a little freelancing.  Kelsey (who you can't see in this picture) started her last solo with a little riff from Alabama (if you gotta play in Texas).  It was amusing.  Also, I see some irony in a picture were Tex is playing an African drum.  Just unexpected I think.  Also at this concert, since it was for kids, we replaced two of the slower songs with audience participation a la Vacation Bible School (form the orange, the pizza man).  Permanent change.  I'll always do that from now on.

More family!  It's great to see so many people coming to hear us sing.  This is Madeleine  with her uncle.

Because today's drive is so long, we're going to have to have a relief driver when we get to Georgia.  That costs a couple hundred bucks.  Carolyn suggested we could save the money if they'd just let her drive.  Of course you can't drive a bus without the proper accessories, so she borrowed Patrick's hat to complete the ensemble.

When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, and peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.  This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius....  (or perhaps: O say, can you see my eyes if you can then my hair's too short...)

We went to my alma mater, Centenary College.  While there, we celebrated Carolyn's birthday and Theresa's.  Our treat of choice was Strawn's pie.  Strawberry, peach, and coconut.  It's the best pie I've ever eaten.  Sorry mom, it's true.  Just so tasty!  Really if you're ever in Shreveport, get some of this pie.

My friend Dave took us across campus and told us a little about the college and the choir.  The kids enjoyed (I think) finding Lisa and me in pictures around the room. It was one more stroll down amnesia lane for me.  Pictures of the choir at Hodges Gardens (below).  Pictures of the choir in the White House.  Finding my name on the "branding board" where everyone signs when they graduate. 

I don't think Olivia was feeling her best yesterday.  She slept a bit on the bus, and she decided to sit out last concert out.  At least it looks like she's enjoying the concert...

Our final concert was at Live Oak, another compound for people a variety of ages (like CC Young).  You could see and hear the fatigue in the choir, but the concert was nevertheless solid.  It was bittersweet singing our last concert as this choir, and I was almost already missing our seniors.

Of course the kids did what they do best...

After the concert we went up to the church where it all started: North Highlands UMC.  I showed the youth where I started in church music ministry and told them the story of how I came to realize that this was what I wanted to do.  We drove around the back, and I showed them the little LITTLE music suite.  Then we checked into the hotel and headed to Monjuni's for dinner.  It was time for our Thursday night banquet, senior night.

In addition to honoring the seniors, we also took a moment to thank Wesley for driving us this week.  We gave him a tshirt as well as a little collection that we took up (and, of course, a thank you note!).

I gave the seniors a tshirt from the 6th floor museum.  It serves multiple purposes.  First, I hope it will remind them of us.  I hope it will remind them of the grassy knoll and of course the rest of their time with us.  But it's also good advice for graduates.  This is a time for boldness and energy.  As they go on to the next phase of life, I hope they will attack it with boldness and energy.  Below, Marshall models the shirt.

We did a few other things for senior night as well.  The seniors got on the bus and were allowed to use the bus microphone (student singers are NEVER allowed to do this).  They can say whatever they would like...or they can choose to say nothing.  Then I asked them to bring their tshirts to our devotional, and we all signed them.

Unfortunately, the guys didn't smile enough to keep Boudreaux.  Beth awarded both mascots to girls yesterday.  Congratulations to Anna and Kelsey!  Also, notice Kelsey's shirt.  It says "Tour de John 2012."  Three of the girls came in to dinner wearing handmade "tour de john" shirts in honor of the event.  Thanks, guys!

The bus will be around in a few minutes, and we'll be headed home.  Some mandatory quiet time on the bus this morning, and perhaps the Indian Jones marathon.  Not sure yet.  See y'all soon!

~ Captain Cuatro

Day 5...

Great day!  There is so much to tell you about...and so little time.  We are in Shreveport now, and though I suspect there are still creatures stirring, they have been taped into their rooms for the night.  Bonus!  Greg Z's going to go around tomorrow and take the tape off the doors.

Anticipation!  I'm excited about everything we did today.  And I got to see my good friend David Hobson.  I'll post pictures and other blog content in the morning

~Captain Cuatro

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 4 Wrapup. Sorry it's day 5.

Good morning, Jim.

Tape = good.  Not sending anyone home today.  It occurs to me that it's a good thing I don't tape the chaperone's now I think we've reached the point that they'd come out of their rooms to get sent home!  Not really.  It's a great group of chaperones this year.

Finally got a picture of our bus driver, Wesley.  How appropriate.  He even has a degree in the Bible.  I haven't asked him where he goes to church or if he's ever felt his heart strangely warmed.  He's a great driver and a lot of fun.

Our first concert was at Oakcliff UMC.  It's a beautiful old church in a depressed neighborhood.  It has really unique features (including a dedicated handbell room just off the can actually see it in the picture below).  We sang there for about 75 or 80 kids from the surrounding community.  They were a great audience.  The concert was one of our best.  You'll notice in the picture below that the kids aren't holding any folders.  At the beginning of warmup I had them put their folders down and then we went through several of the pieces.  Yes.  They were mostly memorized.  So we went with it.  The only one who forgot where we were in the music  And I had my music open.  Great job, Mr. Director Extraordinaire.  The good news is that even with me spoon feeding them the wrong lyric, they got it right.

Speaking of chaperones, Nan Franklin isn't traveling with us this year.  She had always done a centering devotional before we sang.  This year Cindy Petersen has taken up that mantle.  Unfortunately I can't hear them because she does them while I'm figuring out where we'll be singing and such.

Then, of course, there's the magic.  Our youth go to the kids and talk...and listen.  It was a little more difficult in the church setting because of the pews, but they made it happen.  A couple had cute stories.  One younger girl told our youth that she'd wanted to make music ever since she was a little girl! 

Howdy, Olivia!  Great to hear from you on the blog.  Hope Ireland was/is a great experience.  We miss you too.  I think this is a good look for you.  But next time please ask before you take Patrick's hat...

After the concert we changed at the hotel and then went to 6 Flags for the day.  It was a lot of fun...and the lines were short.  And then it happened.  About 4:00 or 4:15.  All around the park, our youth had the same experiences.  They were on the ride or next in line for the ride when 6 Flags closed the park for approaching bad weather.  It was about 40 minutes before the weather came.  We waited a while.  Once the weather (and the bus) arrived, we went ahead and left the park.  It didn't stop raining until sometime overnight--and there were intermittent thunderstorms the whole time.  Good sleeping weather.

Dinner was at a pizza place called Campisi's.  It was served family style, and it was awesome.  Great salad, great pizza, and great conversation.

I've mentioned the youth are beginning to show the signs of stress.  Beth (who by the way has been serving as official photographer this week, for which I'm indebted to her) caught these pictures of the youth finally cracking up.  They can't take much more of this...

Congratulations to Allyn Waller and Madeleine Henner on winning our mascots last night.  The guys are starting to generate some competition--a pleasant change from the beginning of the week when we threatened just to give them both to the girls...

Today we sing a concert and then head to Shreveport for the final portion of the "Tour de John."  Looking forward to seeing my alma mater (and trying to get to the bookstore to get some items for the kids.  GO GENTS!

~Captain Cuatro

Day 4: Long Day. Great Day.

Day four was great for a variety of reasons.  I'd love to tell you all about them.  But day four was also very long!  So I'm once again going to have to do the lion's share of the blogging in the morning (or rather later this morning).

Suffice it to say for now that we had a great concert, a great time, and a great dinner.  Details on the morrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 3: Let Me Explain.

No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up...

This morning started out on time!  Actually we were on time to just about everything today, and we didn't encounter rain.  Let's just pause for a moment and take in the importance of that victory.

Thank you.

We loaded up the bust today and headed down to Dallas.  We past through Patrick's motherland, although I generally refer to this area of the country as the southwest annex of Arkansas.  They don't seem to be amused by that around here (or "around these parts" as they might say).

Our first concert was at one of the Project Transformation sites.  Unfortunately, we had yet another minor snag but then again you knew that was coming, didn't you?).  It seems the Project Transformation coordinator I had been working with neglected to finalize the plans with the site coordinator.  So she wasn't expecting us.  Nevertheless, we set up in the gym and sang during snack time and dismissal.

Project transformation is a sort of childcare/school program.  I don't have all the details, and I hope to learn more as we sing in more sites the next couple of days.  The audience was kids of all ages.  Michele took a great picture of some of them...

Also it was nice to meet Carolyn's aunt and uncle at the concert. This actually turns out to be a recurring theme for the day.  We just kept seeing people we knew.  You know, as I think of it, that's happened more on this tour than any before.  We've seen people we know at virtually every concert.

The chaperones have been up to interesting antics lately.  It seems they'd like to see the youth choir a bit more animated.  They've taken to making signs and dancing at the back of the room.  Well I guess that explains the sudden and unexplained smiles that come out of the kids now and again.  Hey...if the kids smile, this is a good thing!  Take a look below.  Scary lot, they are.

Fortunately we were able to hang out with a few of the kids before we left (and before their parents came to pick them up).  The youth proved once again (as they have over and over) that they are capable and willing to connect with the people who hear us sing.  I've said before and I'll say again: that connection--the time we spend visiting--means as much or more to the audience as the music we make.

I have several sibling pairs in the choir.  Some of them get along remarkably well.  Some perhaps not so much.  Having and older brother and remembering some of what he pulled, I can understand that.  Kate and Alex do more than simply exist in the same house.  You can see here just how much they love each other.  Of course they'll be horrified when they see their picture on here.  But hey, if you can't embarrass on the blog, when can you embarrass?

After we sang the concert we went to the Sixth Floor Museum.  This is the museum they have made out of the book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, fired three shots, mortally wounding John F Kennedy, president of the United States.

Or did he?  Look at the picture below, enhanced and age regressed.  You'll see the choir on the grassy knoll.  If you look in the shadows to the right you'll see the outline of a man.  While we may never know the truth, we now believe the evidence points to one of two theories.  It is possible that it was this man on the grassy knoll.  This theory has been explored and debated for years.  After extensive and exhaustive investigation (we spent 45 minutes there), we now believe it was the choir on the grassy knoll.

The youth are beginning to show the signs of brain fatigue.  The picture below, also taken in the 6th Floor Museum, shows it clearly.  You can see it in the crazy eyes and uncontrollable hand gestures.  I'm asking for your prayers as we enter this next phase of the trip where more and more singers (and ultimately chaperones) begin to crack under the pressure...

I mentioned that we've had lots of family joining us for concerts on this trip.  We had three guests at our second concert.  It's always good to see familiar faces.  We were happy to see the Patterson's aunt, Anna's dad, and Patrick's mom.

Our next concert was at CC Young.  We sang in a very nice room for a pretty big crowd.  We were a little more tightly packed.  We actually had time to prepare in the space.  For these and a few other reasons, this concert was our best yet.

My voice, by the way, is coming back slowly.  During the concerts I've had Jonathan speaking for me.  I've been told this is not nearly as funny as I think it is. 

One of the reasons the concert was better is the presence of a seven foot Steinway piano.  Although Mitch asked if we could take in our keyboard (we usually call it the "fun machine"), we insisted that he play the piano instead (sorry, Mitch).  Man, it was nice to sing with a nice instrument.  I think Mitch was in love.

Of course the youth continued to do great work engaging the residents.  I never cease to be amazed at how easily they touch the hearts of the audience.  If you look in some of the pictures below, you'll see what we're giving out this year.  The folks at Embry Hills (actually one of our singers too) made these 3 inch quilt squares.  They have a cross inside that you can feel.  There is a knot tied on each square that serves as a reminder that we are praying for them.  At every concert, each youth takes one square to hand out (and we always carry a few extra so everyone in the audience can get one).

I had an interesting first at the concert as well.  I've never had a heckler before.  I explained (through Jonathan) that How Can I Keep from Singing is included in the program because living in constant thankfulness leads one to be thankful even in difficult circumstances.  How can we keep from singing?  She said, "Well, I guess you could lose your voice!"  Everyone laughed.  After the concert Beth took my picture with her.

Olivia had a pretty quiet day today.  We've started making sure we explain in the concert that she's in Ireland.  Some folks, seeing the cutout, wonder why she "isn't with us."  This wasn't a problem last time I had cutout participants, so I wasn't ready for that.  You should also know (or does it matter?) that Olivia has been disqualified from winning the smile awards at the end of the day because her smile looks like it's been pasted on.

More uncontrollable hand gestures below.  I really need to seek help for some of these kids...

And who won Boudreux and Thibodeaux?  Well, the guys were warned that if they didn't get with the smiling, we were going to award both mascots to girls.  While they wouldn't smile to look pleasant or to brighten the days of the audience or anything petty like that, they would smile to make sure the girls didn't get their mascot.  Congratulations, Riley and Daniel!

Today we sing a concert at 9:00 and then head out to Six Flags for the day.  Though we finally seemed to emerge from the rain yesterday, it'll probably rain today.  It's just how we roll this trip.  In any event, have a good one!

~Captain Cuatro