I volunteered this year to be a chaperone for the Maple Mountain High School choir tour. The choirs around here are amazing. When I was in choir in high school, it was one class period, with around 25 kids in it. About 5/8ths of those kids could carry a tune. Our choir uniforms were white shirts, black pants or skirts, and a school supplied red cummerbund and bow tie. We were really pathetic. We went to a couple of small competitions where our patheticness was reinforced. These guys however are something else entirely. There are hundreds of choir students making up 6 different choirs both open choirs, and audition only groups, and the sound they make brings me to tears.
This was the small group of girls I was in charge of . For the most part, they were wonderful. But, of course there has to be some drama --these are teenage girls!
Beginning of the bus ride everyone was pretty cheerful and excited. That was a long long first day though. Then we had a long long second day. Then a really long third day. I started to detect a pattern. We wore these kids out so they fell into bed at night exhausted.
The first day we drove as far as St. George, and they performed a concert in the Dolores Eccles hall on the Dixie College campus. The acoustics in that place were overwhelming. I know the tabernacle choir couldn't sound more amazing to me in person.
They spent the second day at UNLV which had a highly skilled choir director which taught our kids for most of the day. Towards the end, we listened to his choir, and believe it or not, it seemed like he got the sound and quality out of his 20 singers that we got out of our 120. There is always more progress to make.
We traveled the rest of the way to California that day, and the next day the kids performed in a choir festival/clinic at Azusa University. Our kids sounded so good --especially the chamber singers doing the 23rd Psalm. So so good. In contrast were the performances from the High Schools in the poorer parts of Long Beach/L.A. I cringed --I felt like I was one of them. In one group, they didn't even have a separate pianist from the director. The woman tried to direct from the piano bench. I hope our kids realized after seeing this, not how GREAT they are, but how LUCKY they are to have the resources/opportunities they have had.
After this festival we drove down to downtown Hollywood. I tried to take pictures out of the bus window that didn't work out at all.
Tia asked me why I took a picture of the Scientology building. I said "No! the walk of fame! I was taking a shot of the star sidewalk!" Obviously.
After some drama from one of my girls, and a dinner of fries and a shake (keeping it real --nothing sounded good to me so I ate what I wanted), we got to Pantages theater to see Newsies. This building was amazing. So art deco!
A word about my friend. This is Tia, her,and her daughter. She is wonderful --like the sun: warm and brilliant. Her daughter is sharp as ...what's the sharpest thing you can think of? Diamond edge surgeon's scalpel?
Now. About the performance - I told my cousin I would review it. I loved it. I had seen the Disney movie more times than I could count, so to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. They changed the story and characters slightly in a way that was very smart and sleek. It got rid of awkward extra characters and plot sidelines is all. There were a couple of songs that were not great: the newspaper baron's song could have been cut completely with no one missing it. Although his speaking voice was wonderful, his singing was average. None of the solo singing made me want to stand up and cheer, but the familiar hit Newsies chorus pieces are so well written I ...wanted to stand and cheer.
The dancing though was the best. Acrobatic and precise, with stellar choreography. I would have paid to see the dancing alone.
When we walked out of the theater, Tia and I realized that the whole Hollywood boulevard was the dang walk of fame. I took a close up.
When we went around the corner, we noticed we were walking right by the stage door. Two of the dancers were just walking out, and some of our girls took pictures with him. Then he and his friend put on their baseball caps and backpacks, blended right into the crowds milling around the entrance and walked away. So interesting to see that juxtaposition of fame and ordinariness.
Saturday was Disneyland! Oh I love this place! I was so worried because we were going to be there on a Saturday during spring break time, and it would be packed, but it was just fine. 20-30 minute lines for the most part, and with a smart phone in your hand, that's no big deal.
My friend stayed with me the whole time. She warned me that she was slow, but she WASN'T. Turns out she had been used to trying to keep up with her 5 minute mile husband, but with us normal people she was plenty fast.
The girls got to do their own thing in Disneyland as long as they checked in with a text every two hours. We did run into them at lunch, so that was fun. It was nice to see Tia hanging out with different groups of people for the whole tour.
My friend swore she wouldn't do any roller coasters, but it didn't take long for us to end up on California Screamin'. I knew if I rode it I would be carsick the entire next day. I was. It was worth it anyway.
By Sunday, as you can see in this picture, the kids and all of the chaperones were wiped out.
They did a performance in a local church (fantastic) first thing in the morning, then later in the day they did this performance in the L.A. temple visitor's center. The acoustics were horrible, but the kids did their best.
It was so lovely to visit here for me. This is my childhood temple: my parents used to attend this temple, and bring us kids with them. We would play on the far part of the grounds for a happy couple of hours waiting for them while they did sessions. I also did youth baptisms for the dead here.
As you can see, the grounds are amazing.
Last thing there, we tried to get a group picture. It was a job.
But they pulled it off!
Aren't they cute?
I took this picture from the balcony of the hotel looking down into the courtyard. The last night , Sunday night was the only time the kids had free time. The music directors suggested that this might be a time they could go swimming, order pizza and movies to their room, etc. Now, not everyone's choices are the same to honor the Sabbath day, and I'm fine with that. In our family however, we have taught our kids to not make unnecessary purchases, not watch movies or t.v., go swimming, etc. I'm not even saying all of these things are wrong on Sunday, we are just trying to teach them that to set aside a day to think about and focus more on God than the regular stuff in life is a good idea. When the choice was presented to the kids, I determined not to talk to Tia, figuring this was her choice and a special case in a way. Later I found her in this large group of kids, who had decided to gather and study the scriptures and talk about missionary work. One of them had just gotten his mission call to another country, so the focus went that direction. I was so proud of her and these good friends. I feel really blessed to live here.