Tour Blog

Our intrepid team chronicles the plight of our brave choir boys as they travel hither and yon experiencing life on the road – and having a blast!

“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.

 

 

 

“Come at me, Water!” Day 8, June 19th

Good evening.  We spent the whole day sightseeing at Niagara Falls.  The boys woke up and had some breakfast before loading the bus for Skylon Tower.  Skylon Tower looks much like Seattle’s Space Needle, with its tall, slender, cylindrical frame supporting a huge observation deck.  The deck stands 775 feet in the air overlooking the spectacular Niagara Falls.  One boy couldn’t stop telling me how nervous he was to go up the elevator of the tall edifice.  He wanted to know as many details as he could get from me about it; unfortunately, I didn’t know many details.  He did ask me if it was a mile in the air, and THAT I did know.  “No, it’s definitely not a mile in the air”.  Needless to say he braved the elevator’s ascent, and came out victorious at the summit.

Skylon Tower also has three levels to it.  The large circular structure at the top is more than just an observation deck.  There are three levels: the Revolving Dining Room, the Summit  Suite Buffet, and the Indoor/Outdoor Observation deck.  We had lunch in the Summit Suite.  The food was extravagant. The salad bar (which the boys went for first) was filled with all kinds for salads: cole slaw, fruit, potato, and ceviche.  The main entrees included prime rib, asian noodles, fried fish, mussels, and calamari. I was surprised to see so many boys trying and enjoying the “exotic” seafood.  Some had never had mussels before.  Others weren’t as adventurous as the others; they returned from the buffet with plates full of chicken fingers and fries.

After lunch, we took the boys to the observation deck just above the Summit Suite.  They were blown away by the grand view of Niagara Falls.  Skylon Tower is situated perfectly for an outstanding view of the majestic wonder. The boys circled around the whole tower, taking in the sights.  For all the rainy and overcast days we experienced, today had the most perfect weather for sightseeing.  They were in awe for the whole time they were up there.

It started at lunch and continued throughout the day: impromptu conversations with strangers.  I love watching the boys have conversations with random people who are simply curious about them.  It may just be me, but it seems to be more often on this tour.  Today a man sat down with a group of boys to chat with them before lunch. While we were exiting the observation deck, a lady asked the boys about their tour. And you read last night’s blog: some of the boys were chatting with a man in the breakfast room of their hotel that morning.  When I was a boy I would’ve NEVER carried on a conversation with an adult, much less started one nor knew what to say.

Skylon Tower was only the first thing on the boys’ itinerary today.  This afternoon they got to ride on the most dangerous rapids of North American with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.  Before loading on the speedy orange boat, they were asked to sing for the staff, having found out they were a choir.  (When they sing for others outside of their typical performance setting, it’s always special and never gets old.)  Then they loaded the boat.  Donned with lemon yellow windbreakers, life jackets, and water shoes they started their adventure.  Most of them had never been on a jet boat before, and one of them was nervous about it.  He too wanted to find out every detail of the boat before we entered it.  He wanted to make sure it was safe, he feared it’d capsize.  But after the first “Hamilton” (360 degree turn), his fears immediately dissipated and he completely enjoyed the ride.  As is the case there were other boys who couldn’t wait for the adventure.  When we approached our first rapid, he let out his war cry, “Come at me, Water!”.  The boys got drenched on the boat. There was no dry seat on the boat; and there was no frowning face at the end of the joyride.  The Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour may be the boys’ favorite tour event yet.

Dinner was at an in-hotel restaurant called East Side Mario’s, much like Olive Garden.  There was a man dining there at the same time, and before he left he stopped by the staff table to ask “How do you do it?  How do you get so many boys to be so good? This was the best experience I’ve had with a large group of kids in a restaurant.”  We thanked him for his compliment, and when he left Aaron commented to us “The tradition continues”.
Today was certainly an adventure of “boy things”, and it ended with the “Journey Behind the Falls”.  Under the main visitor centre of Niagara Falls the boys entered tunnels that lead to two separate portals.  These portals were like open-ended hallways, and at the end of each hallway was literally the Niagara Falls.  The boys watched  millions of gallons of water rush down in front of them. They were behind the Falls, up close and personal.  The portals were the first half of the self-guided tour. The next half was an observation deck that got you as close to the Falls as you could get.  Protected from the mist by yellow ponchos, the boys enjoyed watching the Niagara Falls just a few feet away from them.

Now they are dry and warm in their hotel rooms, resting for the another lengthy bus trip of tour.  Tomorrow they travel to Merrimack, New Hampshire to start another series of concerts in the States.  Our Canadian visit ends, and the second half of our tour begins.

Good night.

 

 

 

Day 7, June 18th

Happy Father’s Day from the Boys!

This morning the boys got up for another travel day to Niagara Falls. They had breakfast at the hotel, but this time no waffles.  🙁  We needed to get to Niagara Falls in good time.  The room was buzzing with boys efficiently eating and the hotel staff busily refilling; but amongst the bustle the staff was sure to compliment the boys and their manners.  In fact there was a man in the same hotel who happened to be at Lower Fort Garry with us in Winnipeg.  He made a point to stop Aaron and tell him how impressed he was on how well they carried on a conversation and how well-mannered they were at both sites.

The main events for the day didn’t really happen until our arrival to Niagara Falls, but there is a bit to talk about between our destinations.  For lunch we stopped at the A&W.  Much like Tim Horton’s, the frosted-mug-and-root-beer franchise seemed to be everywhere we went.  The boys enjoyed their hamburgers, chicken fingers, fries, and onion rings; which, they discovered, tastes great with A&W’s special seasoning.  At the end of the meal, when they were all on the bus, one boy said “A&W made everything better”.

Every day we have rest period after lunch, and the boys were OUT. It was SO quiet.  It wasn’t until the thunderstorm when they started waking up; the enthusiastic chatter and game play filled the bus again.  The rain continued until we stopped for a “washroom” break in Port Severn.  There the staff finally got to taste the famous vanilla lattes from Tim Horton’s.  When the boys were finished with their break they loaded the bus, ready for the final leg of the trip.  They enjoyed Camden’s favorite movie “The Princess Bride” until we got to Niagara Falls.

After the movie I took some time to interview Aiden Blaeser, another “first year” boy.  Aiden is 13yrs old, and lives in St. Michael.  He told me about his tour experience.  “Tour is good. I like the host homes better than I thought.” His favorite part of tour so far is the sightseeing.  He also said that tour concerts are different than regular concerts because you get better at the music every time.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  “Working with animals or something with music”

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?  “Flying, ‘cuz then you can get to places fast.”

If you had three wishes, what would they be?  “Have a recording studio, have a zoo.  I’d also want a flying bus.”

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?  “Bruno Mars and do a concert because he does fun concerts”

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?  “Stay in this time.  If you go in the future then your life is already told.”

Thanks, Aiden.  It’s great to get to know you.

Niagara Falls looked kind of looked like Las Vegas with the lights and bustle.  The boys were very ready to get off the bus from the long trip.  We arrived at the Four Points Sheraton around 6pm, got them settled into their rooms, and had dinner from a highly recommended pizza place called Zappi’s.

The boys finally got to swim in a hotel pool tonight.  You could tell Stewart was hesitant to go in right away.  He knew what was coming…and what he was obligated to do.  After watching Camden get toasted by the boys, he finally went in.  All the boys saw him jump in and they immediately clumped around him for their turn to take him under.  Alex was first to get to him.  With his size and strength he went after Stewart full force, lifting the master Prefect and capsizing him victoriously.  Needless to say, that was Alex only victory against the LOLCB’s Pool Powerhouse.

With a little bit of time left in the evening, the belly flops and chicken fights ended, and Aaron took them down to the Falls for a colorful, misty nightcap.  The Falls were lit with red, green, yellow, and blue hues. A perfect ending for the day.

Goodnight.