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!

“She’s not my biggest fan!”, Day 6, June 17th

This morning the boys came to the bus well-fed and clean.  You should’ve seen their shoes.  It was amazing to see them turn from mud black to almost gleaming white.  Many of them stayed up late learning to do their own laundry; and some of their hosts stayed up even later to make sure the laundry was finished.  Although it was an early morning, the boys arrived with smiles.  Their day immediately got brighter when they were greeted by Stella the Shitzu, wagging her tail and saying “good morning” to everyone she saw.
After the bus loaders were finished packing the luggage, we were on the road.  On the way out of Thunder Bay we stopped by the Terry Fox memorial which overlooked Lake Superior.  The site featured a great view of the “Sleeping Giant”, a large island visible from Superior’s shoreline that gives the illusion of a gigantic sleeping person.  They read about Terry Fox, talked about the legend of the Sleeping Giant, took pictures, and then were off to Sault St. Marie.

To set the tone for the lengthy drive the staff took some time to remind the boys of where they are in the tour timeline.  With only being a third of the way finished, and having many more days to spend together, the gentlemen needed to remember to treat each other with respect and honor.  Over many tours, Aaron has observed that this is the time when boys realize they’re not going back home any time soon.  They start getting worn out and lose their cool easily.  They need to know they have 12 more days, and it’ll only be a great tour IF they practice respect and think of others before they think of themselves.  It’s easy to be respectful of each other when you spend a short time together, but when that time gets extended you have learn to DECIDE to be respectful.  This is why tour changes boys.  They learn to CHOOSE respect and honor.

That seemed to be all the boys needed to set their day right.  During the whole bus ride they got along well, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Even without devices, they enjoyed time together.

At the beginning of the drive, I talked to another “first year” boy: Anthony Mwangi.  Anthony’s from Champlin and is 10 yrs old.  He also turns 11 on tour, June 22nd.  Much like Josiah, he was relieved to discover hosts provided lunches for the boys.  (It seems to me the boys are really concerned about being fed on tour.)  At first Anthony thought tour was “ok, I guess”.  He’s been having a hard time adjusting to the no-WIFI rule.  But we chatted more about that, and he told me tour has been great.  One thing he didn’t expect was all the Code Red they had to be in because boys were talking too much.  I also asked him my standard get-to-know-you questions…

What do you want to be when you grow up?  “Three things: a basketball player, a construction worker, and an engineer.”

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?  “Teleportation, to get to places easy. My Dad doesn’t like getting to places late.”

If you had three wishes, what would they be?  “Infinity wishes (huh, go figure!), a million dollars…a TRILLION dollars, and world peace.”

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?  “Kevin Durant, because I like how he plays basketball.  He has a good range when he shoots.”

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?  “I would not want to go in the past. I would want to go to the very far future.  To see flying cars, see the new video game consoles, see how the world has changed.”

Thanks Anthony for sharing about yourself.

In Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, people bragged about the scenery we would enjoy on the Trans-Canada Highway.  They were right!  While we played bus bingo there was several times the boys were invited to look out the window and see the beautiful landscape.  Over every hill a new view revealed the vibrant greens and layered blues of Ontario’s breathtaking topography.

We arrived at our destination this evening, and checked the boys into the hotel before going to dinner. Tonight Camden reiterated our expectations for them while eating out.  He asked the boys to tell HIM how to behave in a restaurant: always look your server in the eyes when ordering, always sit with napkins on your lap, bring straws to your mouth when drinking, always push your chair in before you leave, etc.

Dinner was at Wacky Wings, a Canadian wing-joint much like “B-Dubs” in the States.  Having brought us downstairs to a party room called “The Coop”, the servers gave the boys pitchers of pop while they waited for their wings and fries.  Music videos from the past three decades played on the walls around us.  Selena Gomez came on the screens, and some of the boys started singing along with her video.  I asked them if they liked her.  I laughed to myself as one of the boys seriously answered, “Oh, she’s not my biggest fan”; and the boy next to him agreed, “Yes, she’s not a fan of mine either.”  They are so funny, even when they don’t know it.

The boys are now in their rooms chilling for the evening, getting rest for another long drive in the morning.  We head to Niagara Falls tomorrow, and will be there for a couple days.

Good night.

 

“It Was a Boy Thing” Day 5, June 16th

Waffles for breakfast this morning.  The boys woke up from their first hotel stay, and came down room-by-room to the breakfast area.  Aaron, Stewart, and a group of older boys went to get groceries for lunch, while everyone else ate, packed, and loaded onto the bus.  Today was our day for hiking.

We arrived at Pigeon River Provincial Park for our hike.  The staff knew it was going to be moderately difficult before we got there.  Upon arrival Aaron checked out the first part of the trail, and came back and asked the boys to wear long pants and jackets.  There wasn’t a paved path, and the grass was tall and wet from the rain during the week.  The boys put on their hiking clothes, and we set out for our 2 km adventure on the Middle Falls Look Out Trail.  At first it was level ground with tall grass and slightly soggy ground.  Oh, this trail isn’t so bad.  But then the boys started getting deeper into the woods.  They encountered multiple muddy and slippery slopes.  Quickly they learned how NOT to loose their foothold on steep, rain-soaked hills.  Some learned the hard way by climbing up the middle of said hills, and falling with hands and knees coated in mud.  Others learned to find their way up the side of the hills, stepping on leaves and grabbing steadfast saplings.  They encountered fallen trees and man-made bridges over quags and bogs.  Test your footing on those slimy boards lest you slip and loose your shoe in the hungry marsh below.  Yet through it all, they maintained great morale.  You could hear them laughing, chatting, and encouraging each other throughout the whole hike.

 

Still, the trail seemed to go on and on and on.  They went up and down several steep and slippery inclines until they finally reached their destination: the lookout over Lake Superior and the Pigeon River.  With all the panting, sweating, and climbing done, they reached their goal.  It was amazing.  A cool breeze was blowing, and the boys could hear the rush of the falls beneath them.  They were astonished by the view.  One of them said “this is better than a glacier”.  We stayed up there for a good while to enjoy the fresh air and the calm scenery.  The boys took a long moment in silence to take it all in.  After some pictures, we started back down the trail. The descent was just as adventurous but seemed easier for some reason.

Charlie was waiting for us at the bus when we arrived from the trail.  Aaron, Stewart, Camden, and I helped the muddied explorers clean up their shoes and socks before entering the bus.  Still smiling and talking about the view, the boys changed into clean clothing, and headed out for the rest of the day.

Lunch was at the Visitors Center of the park, and we stayed there for rest period as well.  We had planned to hike another trail.  This one was going to be paved and much easier, but time was running out, and we needed to head back to The City of the Poppy for the concert.

We arrived at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in Thunder Bay right on time. When the boys woke up from rest period, they went straight to their tour jobs: pulling risers, setting up merchandise, bringing in garment bags.  Even after the morning’s hike they still did their jobs well.

Rev. Joyce and her parishioners made a delicious meal of baked chicken and rice, which our hungry boys ate up.  They and Aaron spent some rehearsal time in the sanctuary, and they sang their concert.  This concert was a bit different from the others.  The sanctuary had a great balcony, and Aaron wanted to utilize the space for the boys’ performance.  Three songs in the first half, and one in the second were sung as the boys encircled their audience.  The layout of the sanctuary was similar to previous ones so their sound lived really well within the acoustics.  Tonight, if you didn’t notice, we went LIVE on Facebook for a few of their songs.  Did you see it?  We’ll schedule another one, and will let you know more in advance.

After a standing ovation, all the boys were determined to get their tour jobs done with lightning speed.  With efficiency the boys changed quickly. Risers were stowed away, suitcases were lined up, merchandise table was packed, and the rooms were scoured for remnants.  Near the end of the whirlwind of duties, one boy realized something, “I think being in choir teaches us to change faster”.  So parents, when your boy comes home, you can expect him to no longer lollygag when you ask him to get ready for something.

To top off the evening, the boys were given a special treat specific to Thunder Bay.  Not only is the city known for the “Sleeping Giant”, but they’re also known for their delicious, pink-frosted delights called Persians.  The boys got to taste the doughy cinnamon pastries before they went home with their hosts.  Hopefully they’ll have enough sugar in them to get their muddy clothes laundered and packed for tomorrow’s drive to Sault Ste. Michelle.

 

“Whale!” Day 4, June 15th

 

Today was the day we traveled across Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario: 708 kilometers (or 440 miles for those of you down south in “The States”).  The boys were entertained throughout the whole trip.  Again, most were on their devices while others found means to play “unplugged”.  The staff got to hear about their hosts in sound bites:

  • “our host family had a humongous flashlight”
  • “we got to go to Dairy Queen”
  • “our hosts gave us two hat pins”
  • “our host home told us how to use every appliance in the house”
  • “we got a mist shower”
  • “…had a lot of [animal] skulls”
  • “they also brang us to Starbucks this morning”
  • “we got to take a fun shower, when you turned the faucet on, it blew off the wall”
  • “we got to stay in a condo, they gave us lunch bags with superheroes”

They LOVE to tell us about the cool things they encounter with their hosts, but sometimes they don’t tell us EVERYTHING.  Today, Aaron got an email from the host of Caleb and Thomas.  After he read the email privately, he felt he needed to call the two boys up to the front of the bus.  Of course when Aaron calls you to the front of the bus, you know he has something to say to you…and it may not be good. When the boys got to the front, Aaron looked at them sternly and asked if there was anything they needed to tell him about last night’s home stay.  Their eyes grew huge as they searched their brains for anything they could’ve missed. They could think of nothing.  When the suspense was at its highest, Aaron began to read, “We hosted Caleb and Thomas last night in Winnipeg…”.  He stopped to let them soak in the moment.  “…and were very impressed with them in every way…”.  I watched as the boys’ countenance changed from concern to glad relief. Tickled by Aaron’s prank, they laughed with us as they went back to their games.

It was getting close to lunch time.  The boys were playing.  Some were sleeping, including some of the staff.  And some were relaxing in their seats, taking in the beautiful terrain of Ontario.  The bus was quietly bustling when some yelled “Whale!”.  We all quickly went to the window to see the animal, and found it was only a rock protruding from the lake’s surface.  I think I was the most surprised.

Every day the boys get mail, and they are always so happy to get a letter or a card.  Some of them even get emails.   One of the boys recieved a card that had this joke on the back,

“How do you know there’s a soprano at your door? They can’t find the key and they never know when to come in.”  

 

 

So, every day they receive mail, play bus Trivia, and listen to the Song of the Day, but on this trip I just discovered there’s another thing they do every day: “Pillow-tionary“. Click on the link to download the video.

After lunch at a park on Jackfish Lake, the boys had a long, much-needed rest period.  The bus was so quiet this afternoon.  At least an hour later, they awoke to watch the ending of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  We had crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, and arrived in Thunder Bay around 6pm.

 

 

There was no concert tonight so we ordered pizza, read a story and the blog, and celebrated Henry’s birthday.  Tomorrow we’ll take the boys hiking, and perform for the good people of St. Andrews Presbyterian here in Thunder Bay.

 

 

When we were almost finished with our 8 hour trip, I took some time to interview the 3rd “first year” boy on my list.  Let me introduce to you Mr. Josiah Mlodzik. He is 10 yrs old, and will be turning the big One-One on June 28th.  Another birthday on tour!  Wow! I asked him what he thought of tour so far, and he’s said it’s been awesome.  He knew there was going to be singing, driving, and host homes, but he was pleased to find out they made lunches for him as well.  I asked him what part of tour he’s looking forward to the most.  He said “Niagara Falls”.

Let’s get to know Josiah a bit more…

What do you want to be when you grow up?  “I would love to be a composer…because I love to sing.”

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?   “Invincibility, because I could live forever and sing a lot.”

If you had three wishes, what would they be?  “To be invincible, be able to create songs faster, have a huge swimming pool.”

 

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be?  “I’d be the President for a day.”

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?   “I would love to go to the past to the Bible times and see Jesus, in Israel…or further to Moses’ time.”

Great to get to know you more, Josiah.  It’s an honor having you with us on tour.  Have fun!

 

Before I leave you tonight, I wanted to ask on behalf of the boys for your support.  Check out this link to Give MN, and read about the recent project 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.  Spread the word about our tour, and share the wonderful upcoming events of the Land of Lakes Choirboys.

 

 

“Pop Goes the Weasel”, Day 3, June 14th

It was a light day today.  Since the concert choir was booked to sing in Winnipeg again tonight, there wasn’t much traveling to be done. It was still an early morning though, as we had an appointment at Lower Fort Garry for sightseeing.  The weather for the trip was overcast yet comfortable.  On the way there the boys were singing show tunes and playing their games. They were happy; evidence of being well taken care of.

 

Upon arrival at the Fort, there were people dressed in period garb outside in front of the entrance. When the boys got out of the bus, they were greeted by Miss Fox (dressed in First Nation attire) and Mr. LaRon (donning apparel from 1850’s Metis people). Miss Fox and Mr. LaRon began the tour of Lower Fort Garry teaching the boys about the three main people groups of Canada in 1851: First Nation, Europeans, and the Metis (meaning “mixed”.). They were then split into two groups, and introduced to all the historical buildings of the 19th century compound.  In every building, including the teepee, there was a person or two costumed to fit their trade: farmers, blacksmiths, housemaids, etc.

Our young gentlemen learned a lot and asked many questions…very good questions.  One thing they learned at the farm house was yarn spinning.  After watching a demonstration on creating yarn, they noticed a machine set off to the side.  They found out the machine was called a weasel. When the wool was spun to a certain length the weasel would make a “pop” sound to indicate the prescribed length was finished.  Miss Fox told the boys “that’s where ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ comes from”.  Miss Fox was good tour guide, and was so grateful for the group she led.  She said they were one of the best groups she’s worked with.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they sang for her and Mr. LaRon at the beginning of the tour.

We had lunch at the Lockport Provincial Heritage Park on the Red River.  The boys enjoyed their meals and learned the park featured a pelican conservation area in the river next to it.  There had been rain this morning but by the time we got to the park for lunch and some playtime, the sky opened up with some nice sunshine.

On our way back to Winnipeg proper, the boys got their mail (thank you, parents and families), heard from the Officer of the Day Isaac Stokes, and were entertained  by Chris Hess’ bus trivia.  I also got to interview another “first year” boy: Steven Jordan.

 

 

 

Steven is 11 yrs, and just turned 11 on the day we left for tour.  I asked him about what he though of tour, and he said it’s different that what he expected.  He thought there’d be more driving.  He also questioned why they had to stay with host families on tour, but after experiencing them he felt very welcome.  Here are some other questions I asked Steven…

What do you want to be when you grow up?  An ER doctor. They get paid a lot and save people’s lives.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?  The ability to have ALL super powers.

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?  A dead person because you get to see heaven.

If you could time-travel, where and when would you go?  Germany, 1980’s, that’s when my dad was growing up.

Thanks, Steven, for letting us get to know you a bit.  Have a great tour!

Well, it didn’t stay dry for long.  It started raining again by the time we got to Westminster United Church.  The people at Westminster were ready to greet the boys as they arrived a bit soggy.  Dinner was delicious.  Tour jobs were done.  Then to rehearsal.  About this time in the tour is when Aaron reminds the boys of their stage presence.  They rehearsed a bit but also spent time talking about how to carry one’s self while on stage: decorum.  The boys reminded each other to stand up straight, avoid yawning, and communicate with their faces.  (Although someone can sing very well, they also need to learn to SHOW their music in their bodies.)  The boys learned well, because after tonight’s performance the staff commented on how they were much better at it than previous concerts.  

We have an early morning tomorrow, but before I sign off I wanted to share with you one of the weirdest answers I’ve heard during the Q&A section of all our concerts.  Tonight someone asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  While most of the boys answered with conventional responses like “a veterinarian”, “a singer”, “a teacher”, one of the boys (I don’t know who it was) answered “a sea eel.”  I think we were a bit perplexed as we chuckled at the odd answer.

Tomorrow we travel to a long 8 hours to Thunder Bay. Think of us as we find creative ways to keep the boys engaged, eh?

Good night.

 

 

 

 

 

“Canadian Cows”, Day 2, June 13th

What a full and fun day!

We have six “first year” boys who experienced their first home stay last night.  Although some of them were apprehensive about their hosts, they came back to the bus this morning with smiles and hugs.  The weather may have been overcast and rainy, but their hearts were sunny and full of love.

 

 

One of those boys is Henry Boese.  He had a great time with his host family.  They lived on a large farm, and Henry and his friends got to tour the whole thing during their stay.

Throughout this blog I’d like to highlight our first year boys.  Henry was the first on my list.  He’s from Elk River, and joined the choir because of his church.  He’s 9 years old, but turns to double digits in just a few days.  He’s excited to celebrate his birthday on tour.  I thought I’d ask Henry a couple questions so we could get to know him a bit…

 

 

  • What do you want to be when you grew up? “A lawyer or orthodontist”.
  • If you could have one super power, what would it be and why? “Give off wishes; it’d be fun to grant people’s wishes.”
  • What are the 5 best things about being you? “I have a sister.  I get to go on a cool trip. I still have a higher voice. I play tennis very well. I have a mom, a dad, and a sister that love me”.
  • If you had three wishes, what would they be? “Infinity wishes. World peace. Stop world hunger.”
  • If you could time-travel, where and when would you go? “I’d travel to the year 1,000,000, and go around the world”.

Thanks, Henry, for telling us about yourself.  We look forward to meeting the other boys in the “first year” class.

Today was the day the boys crossed over the Canadian border into Manitoba.  Before entering Canada they had a lesson in filling out declaration forms.  There were no issues except when Jake Bakke was taken aside by the staff.  Aaron told Jake there was an issue with his passport, and he was very concerned. Jake was told he needed to stay at the border with another staff member while his parents drove all the way up to come pick him up.  After letting the situation set in, Jake was escorted back in the bus by Aaron and the staff.  The Border Service hadn’t come out yet, so they decided to stay in the bus until further notice.  Wondering if this was truly his fate for the rest of tour, Jake turned to Aaron and asked “Are you serious?”.  That’s when Aaron came back with a chuckle, “No. We’re not”.  They pranked him, and they pranked him good!  There was no issue at the border, and Jake was able to continue with us.  He was a great sport about it.

It was windy today, up here in the land of the Canucks.  The drive to Winnipeg was a bit wobbly but Charlie kept us safe on the road.  The boys weren’t bothered at all; they were in high-spirits for the whole drive. They quickly found out about Canada’s wildlife.  A young moose crossed the road while we were traveling.  It’s a rare thing to see a moose in MN, but not so rare in Canada.  They also saw herd of what they called “Canadian Cows”.  They were so excited, never had they seen cows in Canada.  😉  We convinced them that’s where canadian bacon comes from.

We visited the Royal Canadian Mint today.  The boys enjoyed the interactive displays, especially the 28-pound gold bar they all tried to lift.  The olympic medals from 2010 were also on display, along with a light-up panel that told patrons where the millions of coins from the Royal Canadian Mint go throughout the world: Australia, Thailand, Colombia, the United States and more. The boys learned more about the production and circulation of the coins when Melody came by to give them a tour of the factory.

The day was topped off by a fun-filled dinner and a friendly concert with the Winnipeg Boys Choir.  Dinner was fresh, colorful, and delicious.  The choir and their families were a joyous, delightful crowd, and the boys made quick friends.

 

For tonight’s performance, the talented gentlemen of the WBC performed a few of their own songs, and then LOLCB took stage in the richly resonant sanctuary of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church of Christ.  In every seat you could hear the boys fill the rafters.  Camden mentioned how some people just heard the boys from the street, and decided to come inside to hear more.  Everyone who attended heard a great show. The most entertaining part was the Q&A section again.  There were some really good questions tonight and one in particular got a tons of laughs: “how has manners and etiquette you’ve learned affected your relationship with the “ladies”?

Like I said in the beginning of this blog, the day was full and fun.  The boys enjoyed their introductory trip into Canada, and the Winnipeg Boys Choir and the generous people of Crescent Fort Rouge gave us a wonderful evening!  Thank you and good night.

 

Hello from Thief River Falls…

We’re all finished with the 1st day of the Land of Lakes Choirboys Tour of 2017.  This is LOLCB’s 41st tour!  40-some years of practicing and living “Music Respect Honor” on the road!  And now a new group of boys carry on the history of gentlemanly conduct for 17 more days.

After their breakfast and bye-byes with their families, they were introduced to the in’s and out’s of tour.  The first year boys needed to hear what the veteran boys had already known from tours past, like the expectations for daily journals, Officer of the Day, and bathroom usage.  It was also good to be reminded that they are going to be challenged and needed to stay positive while on the road.  Sometimes it’s hard but well worth it: boys come back as changed individuals.

After the brief tour orientation and staff introductions the boys were able to chill out for the morning ride.  Most of them  immediately went to their video games, and some returned to games they played in past tours: Dungeons & Dragons and Coup.  Others enjoyed a solid nap or a good book.

We stopped in Detroit Lakes for lunch.  The weather was BEAUTIFUL: sunny and not too hot.  While some staff went to Subway for their lunches, Camden led the boys to a nearby park.  They enjoyed their home-made meals, and had plenty of time to play.  We didn’t have to have be in Thief River Falls until later that afternoon. Games of Ultimate Frisbee and tag started while others engaged themselves in a casual game of Improv in an amphitheater on the premises.

After awhile, Stewart gathered the boys at the amphitheater where Aaron led them in a refresher rehearsal before the evening’s concert.  Stewart handed out birthday treats to celebrate Steven Jordan’s birthday.  When they were all finished, they practiced their first count-off of the tour a few times, then headed to the bus.

We arrived in Thief River Falls in great time (Thanks to the teamwork of Camden and Charlie). This stop started the routine they’d be in for the next 18 days.  The boys went right to their tour jobs, then to rehearsal and dinner.  Dinner was delicious, but some new boys found out how hard it is finish a plate of salad before they get their main dish.  As is the tradition of the Land of Lakes Choirboys, the first thing you eat at a meal is always salad.  For some that’s a tradition they have a hard time swallowing if they aren’t necessarily keen on leafy greens. 😉

Tonight’s concert went very well.  Aaron was proud of how good they sounded, and is excited to hear how they’ll be throughout tour.  Just wait until the 29th when YOU get to hear them after a full tour!  You’ll be very happy.  They showcased their hard work very well tonight.

Every tour concert  has an element in it when Aaron asks the audience questions about the boys and the program.  Tonight a dozen kids the same ages as the boys were sitting in the front two rows, and one of them started the Q&A time with “Do they get to have fun?”  Why yes, they do get to have fun…lots of it.  Many questions came out after that, and the boys and Aaron enjoyed answering all of them.

To close the evening, the boys were served jello and cookies before they went home with their hosts.  Tomorrow they travel into Canada where poutine and Timmies flow like honey.

Good night.