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!

Day 12, June 24th

Good evening from Columbus, GA.

Caleb - goodbyeThe boys came from their host homes this morning, warm and well-loved.  St. James Episcopal really took good care of them.  It was another hot day in Florida; even the natives were saying it was too hot.  To help, Charlie parked the bus in the shade.  It was a wise move because today was a good day for the boys to switch seats with their our partners.  They had to spend a bit more time outside for that.  Switching seats is something we do around the middle of every tour.  It changes the scenery a bit for them.

William - letterToday Keegan Wagner was the Officer of the Day. He encouraged the boys with “If you have hope and faith you can do lots.” He selected “Hope” as the Word of the Day, and played “The Final Countdown” for his Song of the Day.  Stewart took some time to ask the gentlemen about their host homes.  Evan and Daniel stayed with two dogs, a parrot, and “a cat that looked like Grumpy Cat”.  The parrot was a favorite of theirs.  It liked to say “Good morning”, and “Want some coffee?”.  Our two jesters taught it to say “E-Luhman-ati” by the time they left this morning.  Caleb was at a host home that owned a plane, and  Cole got to drink astronaut drinks. Gus played pool, and Luke and Joey received personal chocolate muffins and kisses (not the Hersey’s kind).  Luke loved the kisses.  After host home stories, Stewart handed out letters.  Tristan C. and Roman led everyone in Bus Bingo until we got to a park in Sylvester, GA.

Sam A - huddleIt was a great place to eat the lunches packed by St. James’ parishioners. Although it was gnat-sty, the boys enjoyed the swings, a playground, and a huge green space for ultimate frisbee.  We were there for about an hour then started again for Columbus.

Joey - dinnerRest period lasted for a couple hours. The boys needed their rest.  Last night’s concert was great but, from the director’s perspective, they were below their normal level of energy.  Thus an extended rest period was very called for.

We arrived in Columbus at a brand new Best Western.  Dinner was at a local restaurant called B. Merrell’s.  The wait staff was excellent and let the boys sing after they ate.
IMG_0900We capped off the night with pool time. Stewart, Camden, Joseph, and I joined them.  Needless to say there were plenty of chicken fights, attempts to dunk the staff, and a conga line.  There were two little non-Choirboy gentlemen swimming with us as well.  They joined in some of the fun.

Tomorrow we travel to Birmingham AL, but stop by the National Civil War Naval Museum here in Columbus before our three hour trip.  They boys will not perform tomorrow.  They will meet their host families at All Saint Episcopal Church in Birmingham.

Thanks again for reading.  Goodnight.     

Day 11, June 23rd

Connor - host dadChoirboys - paperThe boys arrived at the bus in the sweltering Florida sun.  It wasn’t too bad in the shade but the moment you stepped into the light it was H.O.T!  Nevertheless they were in good spirits.  They got to spend two nights with their host families and formed great bonds.  On the bus ride to Clearwater, Stewart asked the boys about their host homes.  One threesome got to do a photo shoot on the host’s motorcycles, instead of “wild hogs” they were labeled “wild boys”.  The boys told all about how their host family spoke spanish, how they watched Harry Potter, and how they played with the host’s three year old son.  They really liked his toys.  Some boys actually got into a Nerf gun fight with their host family.  After their stories, Cole brought to the front of the bus a newspaper with the Choirboys on the front page.  Resurrection Catholic did a really great job spreading the word about Tuesday’s concert.  This was the same church that interviewed Aaron and Sam Anderson earlier on tour. Sam’s interview was in the paper.  On the mic, Aaron announced to the boys that they made the front page of Lakeland’s paper, and someone called out “We’re famous.”

Jake - stingrayWe arrived at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium around 10am, and enjoyed an arRAY of exhibits and presentations.  The boys got to see Winter, the star of “Dolphin Tale”, and touched stingrays and sea urchins.  The aquarium had sea otters, sea turtles, and pelicans on display as well.  It was around noon when they were all finished with their visit.

Louis - busThe bus ride to Lake City was short.  Stewart took some time though to play poker with the boys in the back. Reece wanted me to make sure I wrote in the blog “Stewart owned us in poker”.  Jake was the Officer of the Day today.  “You can do anything or be anything if you try” was his Quote of the Day.  His Word of the Day was “Belief”, and he chose “Fireflies” as his Song of the Day. Several boys sang along.

Sam G - dinnerWe made it to St. James Episcopal Church around 4:30pm, and the boys went straight to their tour jobs.  The kind people of St. James grilled burgers for the boys, complete with potato salad and a delicious orange marshmallow fluff.  They also got watermelon which is extremely tasty down in the South. Ben really liked the burgers, “It’s like heaven between two buns”.

Group - concertTonight’s concert went well.  The Q&A time is always interesting.  It’s fun to hear the questions from the audience and the answers from the boys.  Tonight someone asked “What made the first year guys decide to join the choir?”  Tristan Wellman got to tell his story.  He had gone to an LOLCB Day Camp a few years ago, but it wasn’t good timing for him.  He later was asked again by his schoolmate Ethan Rud to join.  That’s when he took the big step and joined.  Another person asked, “Are any of you  worried about that moment when you wake up and you can no longer hit that hight note?”.  Several older boys raised their hands.  The final question was a fun one, “Who’s the biggest prankster?”  ALL the boys slowly turned their heads to Chris Hess. 😉

Isaac - hostAfter the concert, everyone went to the Fellowship Hall to have some cake and cookies.  The boys met their host families and are now home with them. One lady stopped by my table and raved about our program and how much she loves the boys.  People see good things come out of them: their manners, their singing, their maturity.  She was happy to hear there are programs like ours in our world.

Tomorrow we start heading north.  Our next stop is Columbus, GA which is only a hotel stop.  The next day the boys get to visit the National Civil War Naval Museum and make their way to Birmingham, AL.

I hope you all enjoyed the Facebook Live video tonight.  I’m sure you are now looking forward to hearing the rest of the concert on the 30th.  You won’t be disappointed.

Goodnight.

Day 10, June 22nd

imageThis morning was an early morning for the boys. Many of them went to bed late last night. Their bedtime was up to their own discretion. Today was scheduled to be a lighter day with the Clearwater Threshers game and a short concert at Savannah Court Assisted Living back in Lakeland.

imageThe good people of Resurrection provided a great breakfast for the boys. We all gathered in a part of the school called the Shiedy Center for the meal. Plates of Krispy Kreme donuts were on each table. Cereal, eggs, biscuits and sausage were served with orange juice, apple juice and milk.

imageWe didn’t have to leave for the Threshers’ game until 9:30am so the bus crew cleaned the bus while the rest of the boys checked their garment bags. Stewart also started the process of selecting Choirboy of the Year. Today was a perfect day for nominations. As you saw on Facebook, Aaron also led the boys in his 7-minute ab workout. Right before we left for the Threshers’ game our young gentlemen started a game of Four Corners.

imageIt took a little over an hour to get the Clearwater. The Clearwater Threshers are a minor league baseball team who play at a stadium called Bright House Park. The boys got there with time to spare. It was a relaxed day at the park. The sun was out, and the boys were sunscreened. At first we all gathered on a “grassy berm”, and then the boys in their red tour shirts spread out amongst the stadium. Some immediately found shade. Others dared to stay out in the sun in hopes to catch a foul ball. Several of them in fact did. Even Cole got a t-shirt shot from a cannon. Donovan and Sam Anderson had their five seconds of fame on the “Smile-Cam”.

imageThe Threshers ended the game with a win against the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and the boys were off to dinner, and a performance.  Back in Lakeland, we found a Cracker Barrel for them (because none of them had ever been there before). They again enjoyed Stewart’s Root Beer, and learned how to conquer the infamous and difficult Triangle Peg Board Game.

Tonight’s performance was one of the sweetest moments of tour. Most of the time the gentlemen sing in church sanctuaries, but tonight they sang in the dining room of a senior assisted living facility. There were a handful of residents there to enjoy the boys’ strong and resonant sound. Everyone smiled, and you could tell they were thoroughly enjoying every musical moment. These ordinary, baseball-loving boys did another extraordinary, soul-touching thing today. The residents of Savannah Court Assisted Living knew that all too well.

image

Tonight they’re back with their host families, hopefully doing laundry and enjoying another evening with some very loving and generous people.

Tomorrow, they’ll spend time at the Clearwater Aquarium and hopefully meet the real life dolphin “Winter” from the movie “Dolphin Tale”. They’ll also head to Lake City FL to sing for the people of St. James Episcopal Church.

Goodnight.

Day 9, June 21st

Nine days down. Nine to go.  Cocoa Beach is behind us, and we’re moving on to the second half of tour.  Breakfast was served at the hotel, and we were off to Jungle Adventures and Lakeland FL. On the bus ride our Officer of the Day  Cole served his duties.  His Quote of the Day was “The die is cast”, and his Word of the Day was “Try”.  The boys enjoyed his appropriately selected Song of the Day “The Eye of the Tiger”.

Group - bear cageWe arrived at Jungle Adventures around noon, and were greeted by a ginormous gator mouth.  Megan and Donna from the JA staff welcomed the boys.  They got to hold a baby American alligator, a ball snake, and a tarantuala.  You should’ve heard the ‘gasp’ when Megan came in the room with the tarantula.  The last animal they got to touch was Theo, a copper and white colored skunk with “fur like a cat”.  He didn’t stink.  The foxes did though.

Alex - baby gatorMegan fed a few of the 150 alligators of the park. The boys watched as she threw raw meat directly in front of their round snouts.  When the gators finished their lunch, we had ours, NOT raw meat.  Donna, the other staff member, took us on a tour of the premise. She introduced us to Boris and Natasha, two Florida Black Bears.  The boys got to feed them food pellets through a tube in their cage.  Donna continued the tour, showing off all the cool animals of Jungle Adventures: fox (the stinky ones), deer, blue and gold macaws, turtles, alligators of all sizes, lemurs, and a feisty macaque who entertained Joseph by attacking his own tail.  “I’ve never seen Joseph laugh like that”, Stewart said.

Roman - tarantulaDonna concluded her tour, and Reptile Ryan took over.  He gave us a pontoon ride around the duckgrass-filled swamp surrounding the refuge, and showed the boys where the gators sunbathed.  They saw a hand full of them on the shoreline, and met JA’s largest alligator Goliath.

The boys spent some time in the gift shop purchasing alligator heads and what-not.  Moms, be prepared for this. Our adventure in the jungle ended, and we were off to Lakeland FL.  In Lakeland, the boy were served a delicious dinner of burgers and chips.  They changed into their concert uniform, and prepared for rehearsal. When they arrived in the sanctuary, there were people already waiting in the lobby.  I was amazed by how many people were there so early.  While the boys rehearsed, the lobby filled with eager listeners.  They were almost bursting at the seams. Finally the doors opened around 6:40pm, and the sanctuary started to fill with the largest audience the boys have seen so far on tour.  It was impressive.

Tristan S - chattinThe people in Resurrection Catholic church adored the boys.  They were a very responsive and enthusiastic crowd.  You could feel the joy they felt, listening to the boys. At Q&A time, they asked lots of questions. “How do you keep from getting home sick?” I gotta say Jack comes up with the best things. “I wait for the next day.  If something fun is happening, I don’t even think of [home].” Someone asked about the different “levels” of sopranos, and Aaron had the Sop 1’s demonstrate how high they could sing.  Everyone was in awe.

Group - ice cream trough (1)After the concert, the boys did their tour jobs and met their host families.  Check out the epic sundae they got tonight!

They’ll be spending the next two nights with their families.  Tomorrow is the Threshers game in Clearwater, and they sing for the Savannah Court Assisted Living at 7pm. Wish them fun.

Goodnight.Daniel - dinner, finger gun

 

 

Day 8, June 20th

Cole - beachChris - wavesToday was a full day as expected.  The boys got  to FINALLY swim in the ocean. For some, it was their first time.  The wind was breezy, and the air was slightly humid.  Overall the day weather was beautiful for ocean swimming. As you could see from the video I posted earlier today, the boys were throughly enjoying the morning…except for the water’s saltiness. Roman found out, “That water does not taste good”, but he wasn’t discouraged by it.

 
Ben - lunch (1)For lunch, the boys ate at a restaurant called Long Doggers: Radically Relaxed Grill, and it was radically relaxed.  The smiling tattooed wait staff were so nice, chill, and extremely accommodating for our little “groms”.  I saw that charming term in the kids section of the menu.  It’s Californian slang for a young surfer, mostly for ones under the age of 15 and of respectable skill.  I think this is going to replace “padawan”.  The wait staff never called them “groms” but they certainly respected the boys’ behavior.  One of them stopped by the staff table and asked “How do you keep them so well-behaved? Beat them.”  We said “Yes, and shock collars and brainwashing.”  No, that’s not true. The boys are well-behaved because that’s what they do.  That’s what makes them extraordinary. At meal’s end, they were given jolly ranchers and freeze pops for dessert.  Thanks, Long Doggers. When the boys were in bus, ready to leave, Stewart was stopped by the deputy fire chief who was eating lunch in the same restaurant.  He loved seeing the boys, and said that he was a choir boy.  He sang with an Orlando-based choir in his youth.

Connor - guns (1)Long Doggers gave our groms nourishment for the rest of day spent at Kennedy Space Center.  We arrived around 2pm, and started our visit with a bus tour. Our guide Brad told the boys about the Vehicle Assembly Building and other incredible facilities while he drove us to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.  There the boys learned about the Apollo missions through a couple short movies and saw a real Saturn V rocket.  The bus returned us all to the main area, but in transit the boys got to see their first alligators of tour.  The Kennedy Space Center “shares a common boundary” with the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.  They were floating in a nearby inlet.

Evan taking a pixOur next stop was the Atlantis exhibit.  They showed a couple short movies about Atlantis, and as the second movie ended the screen lifted to show the real Atlantis Space Shuttle within an immense, multi-storied interactive exhibit.  Atlantis was epic, and filled the whole space with command.  Around it and under it were several activities the boys participated in. They crawled around inside a replica of the International Space Station (ISS).  They slid down a giant slide mimicking the glide degree Atlantis needed for re-entry.  They also found a whole room of flight simulators.  The last thing for the boys was a spectacular movie in the Imax theater: A Beautiful Planet.  It told us about what it was like to live in the ISS and look down on Earth in its stunning vastness.

We spent much of our day Kennedy Space Center.  It was 7pm by the time we left for dinner: pizza at the hotel.  The boys had to finish their letters, and get settled in their rooms before coming over to my and Aaron’s room for some blog reading and a story about starfish.

The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world

They’ve enjoyed a couple days off, and now they get back into the swing of things with a concert in Lakeland tomorrow. On our way we’ll stop by Jungle Adventures. THERE they’ll see many more alligators.

Thank you all for reading.  Goodnight.

 

Day 7, June 19

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.  We have three on tour with us.

Ethan - busThe boys didn’t have host families last night so they stayed in the hotel with the staff. When they have hotel stays after concerts the evenings get late. So when we checked them in they were sent straight to bed.  They had to get up early as well; to sing at two church services.  Braeden wasn’t happy with it at breakfast, “Why are we up so early? Tell Camden to get a snooze button.”

On the ride to the church, Roman got time on the mic as Officer of the Day. After his weather man duties, he gave his Quote of the Day: “Do or do not; there is no try.” His Word of the Day was “Animation”, and chose “Here Comes the Sun” as his Song of the Day.

10-45 service - sanctuaryWesley United Methodist has about five Sunday services. The boys sang at their 9:00am and 10:45am services. For the first service they sang a four-song Prelude.  Between services Aaron a chance to rehearse them for an hour. It was good to spend focused time on problem spots in their songs. I gotta say the boys sounded great this morning. Aaron mentioned that he’s noticed through his hundred years of experience that some choirs are morning choirs and some are better in the evening. This choir is a morning choir. You could tell at the services. Their sound was better blended and their energy was at its highest…except for the occasional “yawners”.  For the second service their songs were divided between the Prelude and the Offertory. They got to sit through a Methodist-style service which some of them had never experienced.

Jack, Keegan, Gus, Roman - singing 10-45amThe people of WUM were very appreciative after both services.  One lady greeted me with a choral conductor’s question, “how do YOU cut off an ‘s’?”  I came to find out she was a retired vocal music teacher from North Carolina, and very complimentary of the boys.  Another lady soon interjected in our conversation, “I had never heard a boy choir before”.  Also, Aaron chatted with the president of a local college.  The gentleman used to be in the military, and his comments “reinforced the importance of our program”, said Aaron.

Dono - mid kickThe service ended around 12pm, and the boys were hungry. The church prepared some lunches for us, and we found a municipal park on the island not too far away.  When we arrived, Stewart noticed a baseball field.  He immediately grabbed a soccer ball, hoping to start a game of kick ball after lunch.  Chris organized the game.  The Chicken Wangs and Wonton Soup engaged in a friendly competition of kickball skill. Evan and Alex called the game, with Evan serving as color commentator.  Up in the tower behind home plate, they attracted a gang of hecklers.  Together they nicknamed several of the players: Cole Miner, Loui Armstrong, Nick-olas Cage, Roman Empire, Reece-pect, Dan-iamond, Sir Isaac Newton, Alex-ir, Will.I.Am, Do-na-veen, Jo-jo Fry, Fos-zy Bear, Vander Heyden Horse, Concussion Rifle, Christian Tristiaansen, E-Luhmanati, Ethan-ol, Crop Gus-ter, and Lizard Boy.  Wonton Soup were the victors, and Stewart had the boys shake hands.  For some boys this was the first time they experienced a “good game” line.

Sam G, Luke - up to batThey all kicked the dust off their feet and returned to the bus; The Chicken WangsWonton Soup, and the heckler gang needed to continue their journey to Cocoa Beach.  They wrote in their journals and completed letters to parents and family.  Rest period was much, and lasted until we crossed the Florida state line.  It was pouring rain outside with 18mph winds.  Unaffected by the weather, the rejuvenated boys started to sing “It’s raining, it’s pouring.  The old man is snoring”.  Luke - bus

Charlie and Camden got us to Cocoa Beach around 6:30pm.  Dinner was at a nearby restaurant called Backwoods Steakhouse.  Soon after the wait staff served drinks and took entree orders, they found out the boys weren’t a baseball team.  They found they were serving a boy choir.  The assisting manager made sure the boys knew they needed to “sing for their food”.  Aaron and the boys happily obliged.  Their sound filled the restaurant as they sang “Saints Bound for Glory”.  Dinner was great and filling.Group - before dinner

To cap off the night, Stewart led the boys to the beach, breezy and moonlit.  This was an exhilarating experience for the boys who hadn’t been to the ocean before.  The wind was strong.  The waves were crashing against the shore.  They were all happy!

Tomorrow brings beach time in the sunshine and a trip to the Kennedy Space Center.  We’ll be sure to lather them up with sunscreen and make sure they buy their family great souvenirs.  :0)

Goodnight.