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“Oh Yes, They Make Signs for You”, Day 18, June 29th

The boys came home yesterday!

We traveled from Rothschild, WI to our home state to conclude the LOLCB tour of 2017 at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic church in Maple Grove. This was the final drive for our wearying boys, but they were enjoying the trip just as usual. The drive was short from Rothschild to Maple Grove.  After having lunch in Menominee, WI, we arrived in the Twin Cities early in the afternoon.  Charlie drove the bus into get washed while Camden and the boys sat outside to do the annual tour quiz: a quiz of questions about almost every event of tour.  The questions ranged from “How many million gallons of water pours down Niagara Falls in each second?” to “How wins with a headbutt?”.  Out of 25 questions, the victors, having got at most 17 questions correct, nabbed their prizes from the coveted prize bag.

With at least an hour left before the boys’ homecoming, we stopped by a park in Plymouth to stretch our legs, use the washroom, and clean the bus. In less than an hour the boys would be greeted by a joyful horde of parents, family, and friends.  I took the opportunity to interview the last graduate of tour: Alex Hansen.

I asked this 6′ 2″ gentle giant about his feelings about his last tour and what he planned to do with his extra time.  He predicted it would hit him when he got home, and never thought the day would come. With his extra time, he wasn’t sure what he planned to do.  He’ll most definitely continue singing in Cambiata, and start focusing on pursuing his dream to be either a commercial airline pilot or an astrophysicist.  I asked him a few more questions…

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? “On the Alaska tour, when we went to see the Glacier. It was really beautiful.”

What was your favorite activity on tour? “It would be the Jet Boat Tour…I don’t know if I’d be able to do it ever again.”

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year?  “Broadway, Beatles, and Boys”


Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?
 “Yes. [When I sang it the first time], I sang with a younger boy.  I sang very loud, and Aaron complimented me on how I sang.”

What is your favorite book? “Maze Runner series.”

What is something that worries you?  “The future: what might happen and what might not happen. The chances that are given to me that I may not take.”

Who inspires you?  “Adults, because they’re older and more experienced, and more knowledgeable than I am.”

Tell me something about this year that you never want to forget.  “My first year in Cambiata.  It’s kind of a privileged choir; I feel privileged to be part of it.”

Alex, you are one of kind, and we’re so happy to get to know you.

Before arriving to St. Joseph’s Stewart and Aaron gave the boys one last talk.  They explained how proud they were of them on this tour, and how each and every one of the boys demonstrated great character throughout the 18th days. After their end-of-tour address, they handed out roses for the boys to give to their families when they got off the bus.  Soon it was time to come home.

The boys knew they were close to St. Joseph’s when Charlie started honking the horn.  The boys were greeted by jumping, yelling, crying families as the bus approached the crowed parking lot of the catholic church. Signs of “Welcome home…” were waved with great anticipation when the boys came closer to the sidewalk. Families stood close as the boys, one by one, took their final step out their 18-day mobile home. Hugs, tears, signs, Grandpas, grandmas, dads, moms, sisters, and brothers greeted their missed boys.  Several family photos were snapped, then they all went inside with bodies drawn close together for dinner and the concert.

At the end of dinner, Aaron and the staff handed out the yearly awards.  From the 2 year greenhorns to the 9 year veteran, each boy received his award with handshakes and hugs. Tears were starting to well up in the eyes of the graduates and staff.  We knew this was going to be an emotional evening.

The concert went very well.  Because they sang in their home church, the boys performed an abridged concert.  There was no need to describe the program or take questions from the audience because everyone in attendance knew all there needed to be known about the organization. The boys sang very well, having made a concerted effort to preserve their voices throughout the day.  The evening became more emotional when a few boys started to realize it was their last concert of tour and of their LOLCB career. Amongst their incredible singing you could hear sniffles as they finished their last set of songs.  With gratitude, amazement, and admiration the audience gave the boys a well-deserved standing ovation.

The annual homecoming event didn’t end with the applause after the final song.  It continued with a ceremony of awards. There are three awards given out on this celebratory evening: Most Musical, Most Improved, and Choirboy of the Year.  While some were sitting on the rises teary-eyed, Aaron gave out the distinguished awards.  Determined by the staff, the award for Most Musical was given to Braeden Blake, as he had shown his amazing talent for music and his astonishing ability to lead his fellow singers both young and old.  The Most Improved, which also is selected by the staff, went the commendable Jake Bakke.  His leadership was evident at the onset of his officerial duties, and grew throughout the year and throughout tour.  Choirboy of the Year, an award voted on by the boys, was given to the consistent and personable Tristan Christaansen.  He’s been in the running for a number of tours and, having always shown his tremendous leadership abilities, finally received the award he most deserved.

Even though these three boys were specifically recognized last night, all the boys in the LOLCB organization exemplify the extraordinary ability to be a gentleman in their world today. LOLCB takes pride in their 41-year tradition to invest in boys from ages 5 to 15 years old.  Thanks to the vision and leadership of Aaron Carpenter, who tirelessly tends to LOLCB’s business and artistic administration, boys from Pine City to Buffalo learn to be unbelievable citizens of the world. Along side Aaron are LOLCB’s strong, amiable, and corrigible prefects, Stewart and Camden. Their abilities to train the boys through stern but tender discipline maintain the organizations renown of “ordinary boys doing extraordinary things”. Combined with Aaron’s artistic abilities, Joseph Krueger shines behind the piano as an incredibly intuitive collaborative artist. The foremost element of our motto “Music, Respect, and Honor” increases with Joseph’s presence every year. Without the expertise of the boys’ bus driver Charlie Meuser, they would not return home in safety and in the good spirits.  His highly trained skills of weaving that large motor-mammoth in and out of heavy traffic and tight New England streets is what transported our boys safely into the arms of their awaiting families last night. When boys start early in the program it is Associate Director Corrine Olinger who greets them at their first Prep Choir rehearsal, trains them, and then ushers them into the requisite Training Choir. Her homefront efforts during tour are what contributes the success of the boys’ homecoming.  She’s the communication with Aaron as he’s out of the office, and facilitates the festivities when the boys come home.  The success of the choir is truly a team effort, and everyone did their part last night to make a meaningful evening for the boys and their families.

So, today, the boys woke up (hopefully late) in their final and permanent host homes. They’ll celebrate the 4th of July, go on family vacations, and enjoy the rest of their summer off until camp in August.  Keep them in your thoughts as they start their new season in the fall with new music, new families, and a new team of staff members.

This is the final blog entry for the Land of Lakes Choirboys Tour of 2017, and the final blog I’ll be writing for the LOLCB.  I will no longer be one of the Associate Directors of this great organization.  I’m moving on to direct music at Elk River Lutheran church, conduct the Eagan Women of Note, and focus on my own music career. I will never forget my work with the staff and boys of LOLCB. I learned to be a more detailed writer, a harder worker, a better planner, a deeper musician, a more thorough teacher, and kinder person because of LOLCB.  Five and half years ago I came on board as a staff member somewhat skeptical of the impact the organization could have on boys, and today, on my final day, I know without a shadow of doubt the good Aaron and the rest of the staff can do for the world by instilling music, respect and honor in the 50+ boys yearly.  My hope was to have left a legacy with the boys I worked with; also my present hope is to extend LOLCB’s motto “Music, Respect, and Honor” to the rest of the world I work with. Thank you all for reading the blog and supporting the Land of Lakes Choirboys.

Have a wonderful summer!

 

 

 

“O Say, Can You See”, Day 17, June 28th

Petoskey was good to the boys this morning.  As we were leaving the small but abundant town, the boys told Stewart all about their stays.  Two separate host families woke up their boys in a unique way: they serenaded them.  One man made our gentlemen wake up to a song he always sung to his own sons: the national anthem.  Another man sang “O What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma.  Other boys stayed with retired librarians, received silver dollars, talked about D&D, danced to music when the TV didn’t work, learned what it meant to be a “plantaterian”, attempted to play with a big fuzzy dog, and stayed in the summer home of the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway.  Their final stay at host homes was a great one on which to end their tour.  Many memories were made, not only with last night’s host families, but with all of their host families throughout their 18 days on the road.  The boys will remember their stays for ages, and will benefit from meeting so many people in so many states and countries.
We left Petoskey for Rothschild, WI.  It was a bright sunny day with just enough chill to either wear pants, a long-sleeved shirt, or a make-shift blanket with what you have on the bus.  The boys enjoyed their games while Charlie drove them safely from the Lower Peninsula to the U.P over the 5 miles of the Mackinac Bridge.  The weather was still beautiful, and the boys could see the blue waters of Lake Michigan glistening up at them from high in the air.  Many boys took pictures in awe of the majestic bridge, but were soon back in their seats playing games as the bus touched ground on Michigan’s northern half.

We stopped at a park in Manistique, WI for lunch and a couple hours of playtime.  The boys enjoyed their homemade lunches of turkey sandwiches, gooey chocolate banana bars, and Haribo gummy bears. Spread out throughout the playground, marina, and grassy field, some boys played ultimate frisbee while others played on the swing sets and slides. There were teeter totters in the playground, and there was at least one boy who had never played one before.  You know, from the first taste of calamari to the first ride on a jet boat, I and the staff are so pleased and honored to be part of these boys’ lives.  This tour had a lot of “firsts” for some boys, and it’s so amazing to witness those minuscule but landmark moments with them.

We continued our travels to Rothschild for another 4 hours. The boys voted on a movie to watch.  Much to Stewart’s chagrin they chose “School of Rock” over “Nacho Libre” and “Nacho Libre 2”.  Saddened by their choice, he went to sleep in the front row while the boys enjoyed Jack Black teaching young students to “stick it to the Man.”

Near the end of the drive I interviewed Chris Hess, the 5th graduate of this year. This tour is bittersweet for him. It’s sad because it’s his last year, but it’ll be nice to get back to swimming.  He planning to do Cambiata, and participate in a field study with the herpetological society.  Here are his answers to my questions for the graduates…

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? “When I got that call from Aaron telling me that I was in the concert choir.”

What was your favorite activity on tour? “Hiking was fun.

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year?  “Broadway, Beatles, and Boys”


Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?
 “Not at choir. Because my birthday’s in July.  One time I went to Joey’s house for D&D, and he made me sing it.”

What is your favorite book? “‘Scorpia’ from the Alex Rider series.”

Is there a character from any book, game, or movie that you think about sometimes?
“My character from D&D Drak Skarfold. He’s a bounty hunter, and he’s a lizard folk.

What is something that worries you?  “Grades”

Who inspires you?  “Steve Irwin.  I’ve loved him since I was little. He’s really smart.”

Tell me something about this year that you never want to forget.  “The day I came to my audition.  There was a boy who was super nice to me. I don’t remember his name, but he was very nice to me.”

Chris, thank you so much for being part of the choir.

We crossed into the Central Time Zone on our way to Rothschild, and got into town in time for dinner.  The staff found a local Pizza Ranch, and we drove the boys there for dinner.  By this time the boys were a bit testy with each other.  I’m pretty sure they were hangry because once they got a sizeable amount of delicious buttery-crusted pizza in their bellies, they were happy singers. The staff at Pizza Ranch thoroughly enjoyed how well-behaved the boys were.  We celebrated two birthdays today: Josiah and Reece.  We shared cake and songs with the staff.  They sang Happy Birthday to the two birthday boys, and our gentlemen sang “Morokeni” for them and the patrons at the end of the evening.

Now, the boys are falling asleep in their hotel rooms, having had some pool time for their last night of tour. They’re ready to come home tomorrow, sing for everyone, and then rest well in their own bed petting their own dogs, being tucked in by their own parents.

See you at the concert.  Goodnight.

 

“I’m Not Good at Defining Things” Day 16, June 27th

It’s been fun observing the boys on tour.  At first they’re well-rested, excited to go on tour, ready to be away from home and explore the world ahead of them.  On Day 16 of tour, they’re ready to be done.  They miss their family. They miss their siblings. They miss their pets.  One of them even said he misses his trampoline.  I’m actually impressed with how well they’ve all been throughout tour. They’ve stayed absolutely positive for the most part, and they’ve gotten along with each other very well.  Older boys help and hang out with the younger, and the younger ones find inspiration from their older peers.  They have truly done “extraordinary”.

Yet they know they’re not done.  Although they miss their homes and family, they are in great spirits as they reside in every moment with each other.  Today during the bus ride they were doing their normal thing: card games, video games, reading, sleeping, chatting, etc. For lunch we stopped at McDonald’s, where they ate mountains of fries, concocted soft drink recipes, and then continued the trip to Petoskey, MI.  Rest period lasted a couple hours until we got to our destination: Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Before we got to Petoskey, I interviewed Tristan Suojanen, another graduate this year. Tristan’s 14 yrs old, and lives in Elk River.  He’s been with the choir for many years; yet, he’s ready to move on.  After he graduates he’s looking forward to hanging out with his friends more.  This year he was officially named the choir’s prankster.

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? “Getting to meet new friends and have fun with them.”

What was your favorite activity on tour? “Cedar Point”

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year?  “Going to Staples with other boys, get to hang out with host families and tour partner.”


Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?
 “Yes.”  What was it like the first time? “I was nervous. I was going over it in my head: ‘don’t screw up, you’re going to publicly humiliate yourself.’

What is your favorite book? “Lord of the Rings series.”

What is something that worries you?  “During the school year, I worry about getting good grades.”

Who inspires you?  “Stewart, he strives to make everybody happy. I strive to do that too.”

Tell me something about this year that you never want to forget.  “The joke I pulled on all the boys when I started passing out [Faure’s] Requiem.”

Thanks, Tristan, you make us proud.

We arrived fairly early, so the boys had time to play in the church’s recreation/dining room. There was tons for them to do: air Hockey, mini cars, and board games.  While some took advantage of the church’s playful amenities, some boys played their own video games.

Emmanuel Episcopal was a very unique church.  Originally it was home to one of Petoskey’s wealthy businessmen William Wirt Rice.  At some point he donated his home to the church, and they added a stone church to it. The layout was like a maze, and the boys found it interesting to walk around.  They oriented themselves fairly well by the time the concert started. They sang very well, and the community of Emmanuel Episcopal and Petoskey were thrilled to listen to the boys’ music.
We heard many positive comments about the boys at the dessert reception afterwards.  The boys met their host families, and sat with them, eating chocolate ice cream and cookies.  One group of boys had a math professor as a host. They were pretty proud to tell him how good they were at Quadrant formulas and Algebra.  “I’m reallygood at Algebra”, one of the boys said.  His host, questioning the boy’s mathematical knowledge, then asked him to define “Algebra”.  The boy quickly came back with “I’m not good at defining things”.  I’m sure the boys are learning much more than they know tonight at their host’s homes.

Tonight was their final concert before coming home.  We’ll travel over the Mackinac Bridge tomorrow for our trip to Rothschild, WI.  The boys will be in their last hotel for tour, and enjoy some time with Stewart and Camden in the pool.  I’m not sure if our prefects will enjoy pool time, but we know the boys will.  😉

Goodnight.

 

 

“It Looks Like Valley Fair on Steroids!” Day 15, June 26th

I have a confession to make…I have one more “first year” boy to tell you about.  His name is Thomas Leibig.  This dimple-faced ball of energy is 10 yrs old and lives in Maple Grove.  He thinks tour has been good.  This is his first tour, which means he’s learning the rules of tour, “like when we go to the pool”.  He also said there’s definitely longer rest periods, and he didn’t expect the long bus rides, and being rushed so much.  He likes the host homes, and likes the time spent with host families. It’s one of his favorite things about tour plus the pool and hiking.  Here some more questions I asked him…

What do you want to be when you grow up?  “A marine biologist”

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?  “Turn into animal, because animals are cool and I could feel like an animal.”

If you had three wishes, what would they be?  “Seeing a big shark (one’s you don’t find in the aquarium), people would stop poaching, if I could speak to animals.”

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?  “George Washington, because he was the first president.  I’d like to feel what it’s like to be a president”

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?  “Before the United States, and in the United States; when vikings discovered it.”

Thomas, you are a joy to get to know.  Thank you.

Now onto the day…

Throughout tour the boys maintain daily journals.  The first thing they do on the bus is write in their journals, and then once they’re done, they submit their entries to Stewart.  Some boys are very good about it, and other boys take a little bit longer to finish their entries.  It is a must to finish a journal entry before a boy continues with his day.  Today, there was a BIG threat.  If anyone wasn’t done with their journal, their involvement at Cedar Point would be severely delayed.  The boys know this reality very well, and today they had a collective moment of rejoicing for one boy in particular who finished his journal. Initiated by his conscientious choir brother, the whole bus congratulated the boy with a loud round of applause; not in jest but in sincere empathy. Even near the end of tour, the boys look out for each other with the deepest respect.

But I’m not sure they’re keen on looking out for their staff.  Fifteen days into tour, and now, on the bus ride to Port Clinton, they decide to break into “this is the song that never ends…”.  We knew it was too good to be true, having worked hard to keep that delightful song (only to the boys) from resonating in the bus’ close quarters.  Just like the song, I guess it’s a tradition that will never end, no matter how hard the staff keeps it from the boys’ consciousnesses. What would tour be without the sudden outburst of “This Is the Song That Never Ends”? And what would tour be without stopping by a Cracker Barrel for a meal?  We stopped in Willoughby, Ohio today to have lunch at the rustic restaurant.  Once the boys found out, they were ecstatic.

From Willoughby we continued on to Port Clinton where we would check into our hotel.  On the drive there, the boys enjoyed the Disney movie “Holes”.  You know, the one with Shia LeBeouf “before he wasn’t cool”.  When we got checked into our hotel overlooking Great Lake Erie, we were off to Cedar Point amusement park.  Only a couple of the boys had been to Cedar Point before.  They were the ones who toured with Aaron a few years back in this same area.  So, naturally, most of them had never seen nor been to the Roaster Coaster Capital of the World.  Since the amusement park is built on an island, we had to take a bridge to get there.  While on the bridge, the crowd in the bus came to a stand still when they saw the massive park across the bay.  One boy loudly exclaimed “It’s looks like Valley Fair on steroids!” This is what the boys had been so excited about for the past couple days.

As is every time the Choirboys patronize an amusement park on tour, there were groups of boys who did the extreme rides and those who did the more tame rides. All the boys enjoyed their separate preferences.  It was a chilly day on the island, and time was limited but they enjoyed every moment they could.  Even at the end of the day while they were finishing up their shopping, the boys were giving piggy-back rides, dancing with the lights on the street, and talking about how awesome the rides were.

While they all talked about their experiences at Cedar Point on the bus ride back to the hotel, I interviewed another graduate, Tristan Christiaansen. Tristan is 15 yrs old, lives in Elk River/Zimmerman, and this is his 2nd farewell tour.  He was a graduate last year but came back for another season, much like Mr. Wellman.  I asked what he thought of tour, now that he’s REALLY moving on…”It feels like a normal tour.  I think it’s going to hit me like it did Thor, 5 minutes before I get home.”

What will you do with your extra time now? During summer I’m going to do football stuff, and will do Cambiata next year.

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? When I first got into Nordic Choir.

What was your favorite activity on tour? Cedar Point.

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year? Broadway, Beatles, and Boys.

Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?  Yes.  What was it like the first time?  You’re asking a lot there because I have to go back to when I was 6.  I don’t remember.

What is your favorite book? Percy Jackson and the Harry Potter series.

What is something that worries you?  I’m not really a worrier. When I do it comes in little spurts then it’s gone.

Who inspires you?  Roddy White (retired football player from the Falcons).  He’s very dedicated to what he does and what he believes in.

Thank you, Tristan, for always being a tremendous Choirboy.

And so, tonight got to be a late night for the boys, so they’re fast asleep now and resting for their trip to Petoskey, MI; where they’ll be singing the penultimate concert of their 2017 tour. They’re nearing the end of tour, and the excitement now turns towards home.  Although these extraordinary boys are ready to be home in their own beds, they are also ready to end their tour strong with two more amazing performances.

Goodnight!

 

“Friday the 13th”, Day 14, June 25th

The boys sang for the 9:45 mass at St. Mary’s this morning.  We weren’t quite sure if Nathan (the boy conductor from last night) was going to be there.  He certainly was! Sporting a blue jacket, red tie, and red shoes.  The boys gave him a “do extraordinary” t-shirt and he wore all morning long. Donuts were served in the reception area while the boys talked more with their host families.

On the bus to Lockport, Stewart asked about their host homes.  We all had a great time hearing the stories about ice cream, prisons, indoors pools, and relatives’ names that all started with the letter D.  Aaron also told the boys a couple stories he heard last night from attendees of the concert.  There was an elderly lady who, although she was partially deaf, said that she heard every note the boys sang last night.  Also, a man talked about how the whole evening was a wonderful coincidence for him.  He was thrilled to find out last night was the boys’ 13th day on tour.  The number 13 was his favorite number.  He was married on Friday the 13th.  He also mentioned how moved he was when the boys sang “What a Wonderful World”; that was the song he and his daughter danced to on her wedding day. The boys were so excited to hear these wonderful stories about the impact they have on the people who hear them.

We arrived in Lockport to check into the hotel before heading to First Presbyterian for dinner. The mood of the boys was different today.  They were more antsy and excited.  Normally the din of the bus is a dull roar but today it was starting to become more boisterous.  At dinner I learned the boys were excited to start their adventures at Cedar Point.  Although they were excited for tomorrow they kept their focus on giving a great concert to the people of Lockport.

Before the concert, I interviewed the second graduate on my list: Tristan Wellman.  Tristan is 15 yrs old, and lives in Ham Lake.  He was a graduate last year, which was also his first tour. I asked him how he felt about this being his last tour.  He feels sad, considering this was only his second tour.  He would’ve liked to go on more; however, he’s ready to move on.  He plans to start taking ground school for a private plane pilot’s license.  “That’s my dream job.” Here are some more questions I asked him…

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? Meeting new people and getting to know more people like me.  Going on tour.  It’s something not everyone can get to do.

What was your favorite activity on tour? Ultimate Frisbee.  I’m not good at offense, but I can shut people down in defense.

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year? Christmas with the Choirboys.  I like our Christmas season.

Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?  I did this year.  What was it like the first time?  My birthday passed without having to sing.  I was ok by not singing, but kept waiting to be called up to do it.  It took three weeks until when I did. I was glad I did it.

What is your favorite book? The Martian.

Is there a character from any book, game, or movie that you think about sometimes? Tin Tin because of my red hair.  Everyone at school calls me Tin Tin.  My dad looks like James Bond, a detective.  So I like to look like one too: Tin Tin.

What is something that worries you?  If my dad lost his job, it would mean everything would change.

Who inspires you?  My parents: my Dad because he’s a really hard worker and has taught me to do a lot of things, and my Mom, her music gifts, for how kind and respectful she is to everyone.  I want to be a mixture of them but I want to be my own person.

Tristan, it’s been a pleasure having you in the choir!

Tonight’s concert went very well, and the boys came back to the hotel for a late night swim.  All of them enjoyed being flung into the pool by Stewart and Camden.  After their showers, they’ll be resting for their day at Cedar Point tomorrow, and their last few days of tour.

Good night.

 

“Who Has the Best Voice?” Day 13, June 24th

We were lucky to leave with the boys this morning.  The hosts from Holy Cross Lutheran wanted to keep our charming gentlemen; they were so impressed.  Last night a boy wasn’t feeling so well, and didn’t want to sleep alone.  The host was moved when an older boy volunteered to share his bed with the young one.

Maine was the eastern most destination of tour, so today we started heading west.  Aaron gave a great pep talk to our slowly waking boys. At the end of his talk he invited them to say positive things about each other.  Several of them took the opportunity to speak well of their fellow choir brothers.  After each affirmation the boys yelled what they learned from the Boston Tea Party Museum, “HUZZAH!!!  Stewart also invited the boys to tell him about their host homes.  Here are some moments they shared…

  • I slept on the porch.
  • They had really cool Native American things
  • They helped with my sunburn
  • They had a cool car and took us around the beach
  • I woke up very early and the birds were chirping.
  • A duck timer woke us up.
  • Our host had a convertible.
  • They had a hand drawn map from Native Americans; it was the only one of two in the world.
  • We played board games with our host families.

We traveled through three states today: Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The bus ride was typical: videos games, card games, naps, and books.  Since we’re nearing the end of our tour, I wanted to start interviewing our Graduates.  The first on my list was Donovan Schumacher.  He’s sad but excited to move on.  With his extra time he’s planning to do more at his school: Anoka High School for the Arts. Here are some questions I asked him…

What has been your favorite moment as a Choirboy? When I got all the standing ovations for “Pueri concinite”.

What was your favorite activity on tour?  The Jet Boat Tour

What was your favorite Choirboy event this year? Broadway, Beatles, and Boys.

Have you ever sang Happy Birthday to yourself?  YES.  What was it like the first time? Not hard at all: I shared a birthday weekend with two other people. I’ve never sang it by myself.

What is your favorite book? I hate reading.

Is there a character from any book, game, or movie that you think about sometimes? The popular characters. I strive to get my name known.  I want people to look up to me too.

What is something that worries you? Musically, I fear songs like choral music are going to be forgotten.  To lose a chunk of those songs with their emotion would be a big deal.

Who inspires you? My dad. He really got me into music, played Beatles music. That got me into music. If he hadn’t been in the choir I probably wouldn’t have been in the choir.

Thanks for the interview, Dono.

We arrived in Auburn, NY this afternoon, and the boys had an early dinner of baked chicken, corn, and fried potatoes.  They finished and went up to the sanctuary for a quick warm up before they sang for the 5:30 mass.  They were in awe as they admired the ornamental paintings and pillars.  Ornate iconography was everywhere they looked. St. Mary’s Catholic church was a large and resonant space for the boys to sing in.

After singing for the 5:30 mass, the boys did their tour jobs, rehearsed, and changed into their concert uniforms.  I hope you all enjoyed the live portion of the concert.  We didn’t stay live long enough to capture the special moment during the Q & A part. The last question was given from a boy sitting in the audience. He asked “Who has the best voice?” The boys pointed to a variety of older boys to answer the question, but that wasn’t it.  Aaron took the opportunity to meet him, and asked him to come forward.  Nathan was star-struck.  You could see in his eyes how enamored he was to be in front the cool kids.  He was also surprised when Aaron asked him to conduct the next song, “Over the Rainbow”.  He was reluctant at first, but after giving the first downbeat he went on to conduct the whole song while Aaron sat in the pew next to him. The boys had never been so animated.  They loved the magical moment.

Nathan was part of the group when they all gathered for desserts after the concert.  The boys enjoyed time with him and each other before leaving with their host families for the night. Tomorrow they’ll be back to St. Mary’s to sing at their morning mass, and we hope to see Nathan there as well.

Good night.

 

 

“It Was Cold but It Was Fun”, Day 12, June 23rd

Today was full of adventure. We all got to sleep-in a bit this morning, and didn’t meet at the bus until mid morning.  As soon as everyone was ready we headed to the beach.  We passed through the historic streets of Kennebunk to the shoreline of the Atlantic.  Upon arrival the staff wasn’t sure if the boys would want to swim in the overcast and slightly chilly weather.  He was made aware of the water’s temperature by the locals, but when Stewart stepped in for a test, he knew the boys may not want to stay too long.  All it took was Joseph running face first into the frigid waves for the boys to be convinced they could do it as well.  Cut to two hours later, and the boys were laughing, swimming, playing frisbee, and making sand castles.  The shores of Maine also gave them unique finds such as crab skeletons, live clams, and flat rocks perfect for skipping.  At the very end when most were shivering and smiling, one boy exclaimed “We’ll have a lot to talk about today.  It was cold but it was fun”.

After lunch on the beach we took a “Sunday” drive through the Lower Village of Kennebunk to see the summer home of the 41st President George H. W. Bush; then we made our way to Parsons Field for an afternoon of fun.  The sun made its appearance by the time we arrived in the city park. The boys enjoyed all of the park’s amenities. In the playground boys played tag and swung on the swing set.  A game of Ultimate Frisbee took place in a field kitty-corner of the playground. All the boys played so well together; the older boys did an extraordinary job including the younger ones. There’s always a few boys who aren’t as athletic as the others.  As gentlemen do, the ones gifted in sports still gave the more clumsy ones plenty of chances to be the star while they played.  During the final game of Ultimate, the pressure was on.  All were trying really hard to win.  The last play was a throw to the end zone to a boy who, let’s say, has less physical prowess than the others. He reached for it, fumbled it a bit, and then grabbed it for the winning point.  It felt like a “Rudy” moment.

To end the afternoon in Parsons Field, the boys played a fun game of kickball.  As passionate boys do, they started the game getting after the less-experienced ones for not knowing the game well enough; however, through some encouragement of the staff, they learned to teach each other with patience and understanding.  But sometimes the staff doesn’t have to coax the boys to do the right thing.  Throughout the game they took turns pitching, which can sometimes be a source of contention for those who want the spotlight.  There was no bickering about who pitched the next inning.

We headed to the neighboring town of York for dinner, but made a pitstop at Nubble Lighthouse on York Beach. The boys got a chance to see the lighthouse on its island.  They also took a moment to sing for the locals, and shop before dinner.

 

Dinner was at Lobster Cove.  Aaron had called ahead, and when we got there the wait staff had everything ready of us on the patio overlooking the beach.  The boys were so excited for this dinner; they knew lobster was on the menu.  We had several first-time lobster eaters who learned to split the tail of the bright red crustacean from its body, and pry the succulent salty meat from its limbs and torso.  It was a messy but completely satisfying meal.  And to top off their experience the boys gratefully sang for the wait staff and patrons of the eatery. Everyone had a great evening.

Today was another “boys” day, and the adventure continues tomorrow when they head to Auburn NY for their concert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  They’ll be live on Facebook at 7:30pm Central, broadcasting a portion of their concert.

Don’t forget to help the boys out in their latest project on Give MN.  Check out the following link to read about how you can help through your financial gifts: https://www.givemn.org/project/tour-supporters5930617f42d52

Also Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @TheChoirboys.

Good night.

 

 

 

“Does the Bus Driver Sing?” Day 11, June 22nd

Today was a good day.  All the boys were safely transported to Our Lady of Mercy for their departure from Merrimack.  The first stop on our way to Kennebunk, ME was Harvard College. The boys were scheduled to tour the Ivy League college in Cambridge late this morning. We arrived in Cambridge in great time, giving Camden, Aaron, and Charlie ample opportunity to navigate another complicated system of streets.  You definitely could tell we were approaching Harvard.  Historic looking brick buildings started to appear more often and you could see Crew teams practicing on the waterways beside us.  Yes, you could definitely tell you were approaching an Ivy League community…IF you were looking.  Most of the boys were engrossed in their morning dose of Mario Cart and Pokémon; however, there were some who noticed the significant scenery change.

We met our tour guide Sam in Harvard Yard. Stewart did a count-off, and Sam was already impressed. She said “I’ve seen a lot of groups do that before, and your group is the most efficient.”  Sam was very articulate and very smart.  She took us to several buildings on campus, and with each one she gave very interesting facts and stories.  The boys really enjoyed her tour.  They liked how well she described everything.  “I could see things in my head when she explained them,” one boy told me after the tour.  Amidst Matthew Hall, Massachusetts Hall, the Science Center, and Memorial Hall, the boys loved Memorial Hall.  This was a massive building that featured a dining room Sam described as a “Harry Potter-style hall”.  We didn’t get to see it but the boys’ imaginations were peaked.  The sheer size of the foyer of Memorial Hall was impressive.  On either side were high stained glass windows, and dark wood covered the walls and ceiling.  Aaron took the opportunity to let the boys sing in it.

Sam led us through a Common area with over-sized chess, yard jenga, and food trucks, and ended our tour at the Statue of Three Lies. This was said to be the statue of the college’s namesake John Harvard, but it turns out they didn’t really know what he looked like so instead they used a guy named Leonard to model for the statue’s sculptor.  Sam explained the other two lies, and said there was actually for fourth as well.  Overall, Sam was a hit with the boys.  They really enjoyed the Harvard tour, and were surprised it was so entertaining and informative.

It didn’t take long for us to get to Kennebunk today.  With a freshly washed bus, we arrived at Holy Cross Lutheran church just in time for dinner. The food was summer-like and delicious: corn on the cob, salad with fresh red tomatoes, and baked chicken breasts.

Tonight’s concert went really well, too.  Our gentlemen nailed their songs, complete with smiling faces. The audience was a vocal one, it felt like they responded to every nuance of music with astonishment and joy.  The Q&A time always presents interesting questions from the audience.  One question tonight was “Who’s got the best dab?” Once the boys realized the question they were quick to show everyone who dabs the best.  Another question we’ll probably never hear again was “Does the bus driver sing?”

Like I said tonight’s concert went really well, and the boys knew it. They left with their host families in high spirits.  I predict it’ll be another great day tomorrow when we go to the beach.

Good night.

 

 

“I’m the Only One Who Gets the Huzzahs Here”, Day 10, June 21st

We spent the day in Boston today.  The boys and staff met at Our Lady of Mercy to clean the bus first.  While the bus crew picked up and swept our home away from home, the others sat outside on the grass, enjoying each other’s company.  There were some morning grumpies, but they quickly went away as quick as the morning dew leaves the grass on a sunny day.

When bus crew was finished, the boys loaded up for their trip into Boston.  On the way Stewart and Aaron briefed them about visiting a big city: stay with your partners ALWAYS, be ready to get off the bus quickly, ALWAYS thank Charlie. Stewart also handed out a plethora of mail for the gentlemen.  His hands were filled with an overabundance of letters, emails, and packages for the boys; some of which who needed a dose of lovin’ this morning.  As I said there were some morning grumpies going on, and the letters and packages were just what they needed today.  Stewart and Camden continued the 2nd round of voting for Choirboy of the Year after mail call.  The eleven nominees were Archie, Braeden, Cole, Connor, Donovan, Jake, Louis, Luke, Sam A, Tristan C, Tristan S, and Tristan W. The second round of voting was evidentially narrowed down to the three.  The final three nominees and the Choirboy of the Year will be announced during the June 29th Homecoming concert in Maple Grove.  Sorry, no spoilers!

We entered Boston, and when Charlie was finished expertly moving through the complicated streets of downtown, the boys disembarked in Boston Common. There we met our tour guide for the first tour of the day: The Freedom Trail.  Lucy was an energetic, dramatic tour guide playing well her 18th century role, complete with a parasol and silly hat with feathers. She taught the boys a lot about Boston’s history: the golden domed State Building, the unsuspecting location of the Great Elm, and the roles of Paul Revere and Sam Adams in the American Revolutionary war. She also taught the boys the opinionated expressions of “Fie” and “Huzzah”.  If she or someone said anything you disagreed with, you were encouraged to say “Fie” in disapproval.  On the flip side if someone said anything in the positive, you were to say in a rousing tone “Huzzah”.  There were several boys that received a “huzzah” during the tour, but there was one boy, not wanting to share, who insisted later “I’m the one who gets the huzzahs here”.  Lucy led the boys through Boston Common to see the grave sites for Paul Revere and Sam Adams, and then ended our tour at the site of the infamous Boston Massacre.  There, through a reenactment with the boys, she explained how the massacre started with just one misheard phrase “Don’t fire”.  Lucy loved teaching kids, and loved choirs.  As an expression of gratitude for her fun and engaging tour, the boys sang for her.  She was delighted. You can see the video of their performance on the Land of Lakes Choirboys’ Youtube channel.

Tour #2 was at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.  Hosts, guides, and characters dressed in 18th century costumes led us through extremely interactive exhibits. From the rousing town hall meeting to throwing tea overboard to watching holograms and living paintings, the boys thoroughly enjoyed Boston’s top-tier museum. They loved how it felt like they were immersed in 18th century Boston with no connection to the modern world, except, of course, for the two holographic women and the Harry Potter-style paintings coming to life before their eyes.

They shopped in the museum’s gift shop, and then loaded the bus to head back to Merrimack for hot dogs and chips.  On the trip one of the boys shared this joke from the microphone: Q: “How many Altos does it take to screw in a light bulb?  A: “No one knows. They can’t get high enough.”

Dinner was waiting for them outside the church as they arrived.  The community of Our Lady of Mercy was hosting a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association of New Hampshire.  For the past three years they’ve raised money to help eliminate Alzheimer’s and the other diseases associated with Dementia. We were happy to donate our resources for the cause, but the boys still had to sing for their food.

The evening ended playfully as the boys had a chance to entertain themselves in a nearby playground. The morning grumpies were far from their hearts, and they went home with their host families happy from the day’s events. They’ll be resting for tomorrow’s trip to Kennebunk, ME where they’ll sing at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.

Further down the road the boys will be singing at St. Mary’s Catholic church in Auburn, NY on Saturday, June 24th. There I’ll be broadcasting another portion of their performance on Facebook live.  It’ll be the latter part of their concert so stayed tuned for more details the further we get into the week.

Until then, good night.

 

“I Will Not Be Hanged for My Crime” Day 9, June 20th

Good day, everyone.  Today was the last of the longest drives for tour. We traveled from Niagara Falls, ON to Merrimack, NH.

The first thing we did this early morning was cross the border into the United States, our homeland.  No pranks from Aaron this time, we were on a schedule.  So much of a schedule, the boys had breakfast on the bus: cereal.  Thanks to our genius prefects there was no milk spilt.

Surprisingly the boys were chatty for how early the morning was.  I thought for sure they would be so tired they’d go right to sleep once Charlie put the bus into drive.  No, not these boys.  They were yakking it up right away.  We overheard some boys jesting over the earth being flat or round.  There was only one boy, shall we call him Galileo, who held the stance “The earth is round”.  The other boys continued the comical vignette, “No, the earth is flat. Everyone knows that”. “Right, the earth is flat.”  Galileo stood his ground, “I will not be hanged for my crime.”  Some of us got to chat about yesterday’s adventures.  The boys LOVED the Jet Boat tour. Someone said, “I would say yesterday was my favorite day of tour.”

About mid-morning we stopped for a restroom break.  Camden and Charlie fueled the bus with Aaron, while Stewart, Joseph, and I oversaw the boys.  This extra time allowed the boys to play a few rounds of the classic game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.  It was a beautiful day to play outside.  It seemed that when we crossed into the US, we crossed into a new climate.  For most of tour we had rainy weather with overcast skies, but today we enjoyed open skies with the warm sun beaming inside the bus. It was nice to give the boys a chance to enjoy the sunshine while they let off some steam from their long journey.  A good game of DDGD was what they needed.

This afternoon I interviewed Archie Smith, part of the “First Year Seven”.  Archie is the youngest boy in the choir, only 9 yrs old.  Boy, has he been doing great though!  Never is there a day when Archie isn’t smiling.  He lights up the whole bus with his cheery countenance. He thinks tour is going good. The Jet Boat was his favorite as well.  He had been on a jet boat before, and this last one was a bit different.  He still loved it. He also said tour is what he thought it would be, except for the drives.  He thought the drives would be longer.  He’s learned to entertain himself by playing Mine Craft on his iPad.  I asked him a few more questions…

What do you want to be when you grow up?  “In a band, I want to play bass.”

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?  “To fly, you could go way high and you could see the world.”

If you had three wishes, what would they be?  “To have $1,000 and give it to the poor, to stop hunger, to own my own bus.”

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?  “Paul McCartney, cuz he’s a good singer.”

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?  “1930’s, WWII, to watch how the war began and ended.”

Thank you so much, Archie, for letting us get to know you.

Before our arrival into Merrimack, Stewart started the nomination process for Choirboy of the Year.  This award is to be given at the end of tour to a well-deserving boy chosen by this peers.  He is to be chosen based on his leadership, respectfulness, and integrity, and the staff has no say in who gets the award.  It’s up to the boys.  During the drive, each boy came to the front of the bus to give Stewart and Camden their vote.  Several boys got nominated.  Some of them we expected, and some of them were a complete surprise.  All, we thought, would be deserving of the coveted award.  The second round of voting will take place again tomorrow.  What was cool about the results of this first round was the confidence all the nominees exhibited after they were announced.  Even getting the nomination gave the gentlemen a significant boost of confidence and pride in themselves.

We arrived in Merrimack in good time.  Thomas’ grandmother Marie was there to greet us.  The boys had a great dinner of salad and spaghetti.  They sang their concert for an eager and delighted crowd, and received an immediate standing ovation.  Ice cream and cookies were served after they met their host families, and now they’re resting well for tomorrow’s adventure to Boston.

Good night.