Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Greater Colorado Tour – the prequel…

Hello readers! We’re baa-ack. Yes, that’s right – the blogs from Opera Colorado’s Greater Colorado Tour 2014 are about to begin. Well… almost. This blog is a bit of a teaser. A prequel if you will. We’re taking a short jaunt to Gunnison for a couple of days; testing the waters. The longer, more extensive tour happens in May this year. We needed to shift our schedule a little to accommodate an opera we’re doing. You may have heard of it… Carmen? Anyone? Rigoletto just closed and we had a small window of time before rehearsals begin for Carmen, so we’re hitting the road.


If you’ve read the blogs before, you’re familiar with how this all works, but if you’re a new reader (and we hope there are lots of you) let me introduce you to our group this year, the Opera Colorado Young Artists. No doubt you’ve heard about them already and you’ll be hearing much more as the blogs from tour progress. The incredibly talented line up is as follows: Colleen Jackson, our soprano. Louise Rogan, our mezzo, Brett Sprague, our tenor, Jared Guest, our baritone and Ben Sieverding, our bass. Taylor Baldwin joins us as our accompanist and coach. That leaves me – Cherity Koepke, the director, tour guide, occasional den mother and blogger. Oh wait, I forgot… there is one more. Mr. Quacksworth. If you read the blogs from last year, you’ll remember him. The Quack is baa-ack too and you’ll no doubt be hearing about him as we travel Colorado’s Western Slope.

We were up early, needing to be in Gunnison by 12:30 for a series of programs today and more tomorrow. We’re taking a rental car the size of the USS Enterprise and our touring vehicle, lovingly referred to as “the Yukon.” OK, it’s not very loving, but that vehicle and I have a past and it’s best to tread lightly. I arrive to pick up the group, minus Taylor who we will get on the way out of Denver, and I see happy, smiling faces. No really, this group is happy and smiling. It’s still early. We’ll see how they’re doing at 7:00 tomorrow when we’re getting ready for an 8:40 performance of The Barber of Seville.

Loading the Enterprise goes quickly; it’s just an overnight trip this time, so there’s not a lot of luggage. Me thinks this will change when we’re going out for 2 weeks in May. As soon as Jared and Colleen figure out how to work the seats and Brett figures out how to actually get in the car, we’re off, with Louise and Ben following us in the Yukon. It’s important on road trips to stay together. You know, keep each other in your sights in case something happens. The following thing lasts about 2 blocks – Ben soon goes his own way. Thank goodness for GPS.

We make it to pick up Taylor and Colleen and I have the added bonus of getting a guided tour of the local sights which consist of Brett and Jared’s favorite Chinese food buffet.  Seats are shifted, Taylor is in the car and we’re off - again. Ben leads this time and when I catch him, we do a reasonable job of staying together.

The topic of conversation immediately goes to Rigoletto, Opera Colorado’s production that just closed. All of the Young Artists were involved and had an amazing experience. Such a fabulous production! Everyone is still buzzing about it.

We make a quick pit stop and peruse the convenience store. Colleen tries on several hats; my favorite being the lady bug and Brett and Jared sing for the staff. I admit, I was startled to be asked to sing upon exiting the ladies room – how did they know we were performers? I admit, I sing in the shower but that’s as far as it goes. Oh… the jackets. We’re wearing our Opera Colorado jackets. People see them, they talk – it goes from there. (If you don’t have one, you need one – they’re super cute and warm!) We take a minute to admire the breathtaking scenery and snap a group photo before we get back on the road.

After the guys try unsuccessfully to get Colleen to reveal dark, hidden stories about her formative years (which was basically attempted by making her laugh about noises the human body makes) the conversation in the car shifts to other genres of music. Brett and Jared are in charge of today’s play list. I reassure Taylor that it will be fine and we put our tunes on the stereo. We start with some Jason Robert Brown and move into some lively Irish gigs. As we drive up Monarch Pass, the tunes become more insightful, moving to classic musicals and deeply moving ballads. I think the scenery adds to the emotion in the car; or not. Taylor has gone quiet and Colleen is asleep.

Off the side of the road are signs warning us to keep a watch for wildlife and rocks (Which to be honest has always confused me – rocks? They’re everywhere, we’re in the mountains) Taylor accepts the job of wildlife watcher but passes on rock sentry duty to another as it’s just too much for him. No sooner have we stopped laughing but he gives the alert for deer. We see quite a few as we make our way into Gunnison.

We stop for a quick lunch before heading to Western Colorado State University for a masterclass with their vocal students. The class goes really well and it’s so great to be able to share a little of what we’ve learned with the students. I think some of my favorite advice comes from Brett who tells the students that they have a choice when singing, they can choose to breathe or they can choose to die. Laughter quiets down but not before Louise shoots me a look that tells me plainly that she misses her homeland (our Louise hails from the UK). I try to emote that I am sympathetic and supportive and we move on. Right after the class, we set up for tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet in Taylor Hall. Ben sees the piano; it’s a Baldwin. Now get this – and you’re not going to believe it – we’re performing in Taylor Hall and with a Baldwin piano. Taylor… Baldwin… Get it? If not, review the opening section of the blog and you will. Ben is savvy I tell ya.

Set up done, we check into our hotel and grab just a few minutes of down time before heading to dinner. We’ve selected a popular Italian place, which, upon reflection may not have been the wisest choice before a performance. The food is wonderful, but we’re now all feeling like slugs and moving about as fast. At dinner Taylor shares with us his philosophy on the relationship of birthdays to inspirational biblical figures and Louise tells us about a particularly challenging audition where she was asked, by a director, to sing a Cherubino aria as if watching a specific type of film inappropriate for a 14 year old to watch. Stay with me readers – trying to keep this blog family friendly. Colleen is again laughing about the human body and it’s noises, encouraged by Brett. Ben and Taylor bond over their lagers and Jared presents an artful representation of the Olympic rings with the onions on his salad before announcing, quite boisterously, that we will be performing OPERA tonight. Our waitress actually asked when we were performing; - he heard what and went with it.

The restaurant is busy so dinner takes longer than expected and we’re left dashing back to the theater to get ready for the performance. We’ve been away from this show for a while so there are some jitters. We review what we can and do a fight call so that things are as safe as possible and it’s time to start. We’ve got a great turnout and I begin the evening by welcoming the guests. I notice that there are quite a few younger kids in the audience and I have a moment of brilliance as I tell them that tonight’s show is a tragedy, which means it won’t have a happy ending. I follow that up with a chipper, “enjoy the show,” and we’re off. The audience is with us right off the bat and the show just gets stronger as it goes on. It’s funny and intense and heartbreaking – everything it should be and the audience is loving every minute. After hearty applause, we do a Q&A and get some fabulous questions. Everything from asking what words of advice we would give to young performers to what was the hardest part of the show to how do we handle stage fright. After thanking everyone for coming, we bid our audience adieu.


No rest for the weary, in this case, literally. We now have to break down the set, and load out. Thank goodness there are 7 of us; this would be too much without lots of hands to help. We accomplish the task fairly painlessly and we manage to get back to the hotel before 10:15. Everyone is off to their nightly rituals – we’ve got a seriously early morning tomorrow before heading back to Denver.

As I bid everyone goodnight, I’m struck once again, by how amazing this career is and how lucky I am to get to do something that I love, with people who are just as passionate. I know for a fact that there were people in our audience tonight who had never seen an opera before. What a privilege that we were the ones who got to introduce them to it.

So readers, that’s it for now – as I said, just a little teaser of what’s to come when we hit the road for real in May. I hope you’ll join us on the journey. It’s certain to be an interesting ride!

As you follow us on tour, I’m going to ask something of you too. Readers… “Like” us, “Share” us, “Tweet” or “Comment” – whatever it is that you do in cyber-world. We want people to know what we’re up to and how we’re sharing the wonderful world of opera with everyone we can.  

‘Till May,


Cherity

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 Greater Colorado Tour – day 8



Good morning readers. Well, it’s arrived; the last day of tour and thus, the final blog (at least for this trip). Today is a little different. I have some meetings to attend, so I’ll be joining the Young Artists in Loveland this afternoon. The CBS4 crew will be there to film everything from set up to the Q&A after the performance. Exciting! We’ll be sure to post the air date on our Facebook page and on Opera Colorado’s website.

After meetings, I hop in my car and make the drive to Loveland. Being in the car by myself seems strange… I find myself musing about goats, horned squirrels and blue ribbons (I have yet to let that one go completely). It’s cloudy today and we’re supposed to get rain later. Seems like we lucked out with the weather again; we could have been up in the mountains and they’re supposed to get a good amount of snow. It starts to drizzle just as I pull in to the parking lot at Centennial Elementary. I see the Yukon, so that’s a good sign that I’m in the right place (also a good sign because it means that the thing started). I find the Young Artists busy getting things set up and the crew from CBS4 is there, already filming.  

I’m greeted by a smiling Joshua with treats in hand; he’s made lemon bars. Yes, that’s right, our Joshua is a man of the world; philosopher, debate champion, linguist and class-A baker. (Don’t forget tenor.) Providing them with goodies seems to take the edge off of setting up in front of a camera and soon everything is done. I talk with the TV crew and come up with a game plan. Steven arrives, the Young Artists get into costumes as makeup and I am greeted by the principal. She’s delighted that we’re here – we’re delighted to be here. Things are good… until. You know that saying “Go big or go home?” Jared is a believer. Just a few minutes before the performance, he has a wardrobe malfunction, splitting his pants from front seam to back. Although the bright green boxers would get a laugh, it’s not exactly in keeping with the feel of the show. I teach Morgan the finer points of using a needle threader and she quickly sets about making the necessary repairs. Blue thread on black pants isn’t the look we would have opted for – but it’s what we have so it’ll have to do. Alex’s jacket has also experienced a malfunction. It looks like I’ll be taking some costume home with me. Thank goodness my mom can sew!

Temporary repairs are completed and the students are take their seats. We’re performing in the gym and it’s packed. The principal talks to the students first and has them wave to the camera. They are so excited! Then I go out. I’m wearing a microphone so the CBS4 crew can pick me up on tape. I try not to focus on the camera as I talk with the students about what they’re going to see. With a big shout of “bravo” our performance of The Barber of Seville begins. This is the first time we’ve ever been at this school. You never quite know what to expect from a new audience; opera is so different from what they’re used to hearing. But this is such a great show for opera newbies. We reach the first bit that should get a laugh and… it does. The show progresses with more and more laughter. It’s one of the most responsive audiences we’ve ever had. You can even hear the teachers laughing and the guys from CBS4 (I really hope the tape picks that up). At one point in the show, Jared say’s “He’s crazy,” commenting on the antics of Joshua. We all hear a lone little voice say “No he’s not!” with complete conviction (and volume). It’s one of those moments I won’t soon forget. Every aria gets “bravos,” and the laughs abound throughout the show. The kisses get the standard “ewww” response and we move on to bows. Everyone gets big applause and cheering, but Joshua… the entire gym practically comes apart. They LOVE him. Aw… Joshua has tiny groupies.

We move on to the Q&A and tons of hands go up. They want to know how we made the set look so real, how we sing like that and how long we had to practice. And, yes, were the kisses real.  My favorite today actually isn’t a question, it’s a comment I overhear. Two little girls are talking and one says to the other, “That was the best thing I have ever seen… in my whole life!” (She’s all of 5, maybe 6) Well kiddo, we hope that opera is a part of your life for a really long time. That’s why this never gets old. We’re opening people’s eyes to the magic of opera. Yes, we get tired and yes, being on the road repeatedly setting up and tearing down; it can seem endless. But we know that, at every single show we perform, there is someone watching who’s about to experience something that will inspire them to make opera a part of their lives. They may be our future patrons, set builders, arts administrators or even Young Artists themselves. It’s a huge job, but it’s so worth the effort. I shall now step down from my soapbox.
 
After the Q&A, we snap some pictures with the students. Mr. Quacksworth got some of the biggest laughs of the show so they are excited to meet him. I think tour has been good for us; the duck and I have grown closer and I think we understand each other now… With the students back in their classrooms, we tackle the set. The CBS4 gents say goodbye and let us know that they’ll be in touch about the air date. As we begin to load the Yukon, it starts to rain. We need the moisture, and it’s not a downpour, so it’s looked at as “refreshing.” When Joshua is putting the set poles into the rooftop storage box, a piece of it pops out. It looks like it’s a support bracket or something. Oh well, that can’t be too important so Joshua sets it on the roof. Cassidy suggests that he put it inside the car before we leave; Joshua agrees.

By now, we’re starving. None of us have eaten lunch so we turn to our food aficionado for suggestions. Pretty much everywhere we go Alex has the uncanny ability to hone in on a good place to eat. I think it’s in his DNA.  Alex says we’re going to Freddy’s. Freddy, who’s that, Joshua asks. Not who, but what. Apparently, it’s Freddy Steakburgers and Frozen Custard. We all head for our cars. Jared is practically skipping; he’s finally going to get his hotdog. Alex is in the lead, using his radar-like senses to guide the rest of us. (Not really, he passed it on the way to the school this morning) Cassidy is following the Yukon and I’m following Cassidy. We get about 5 blocks before I heard a huge pop and then a clattering sound. Now, I know you’re thinking that this can’t possibly happen again on tour. Our luck can’t be that bad. Well it’s the Yukon alright, but not directly. Let me explain. I see Cassidy pull her car over to the side of the road and the Yukon doesn’t stop. I thought it was a blown tire, so I’m confused. I stop (so does Steven) and get out to see what’s wrong. Cassidy, armed with a coat hanger, is trying to get something out from under her car. A local stops to help and literally has to get under her car before he can grab… whatever it is. Cassidy is fuming. Morgan just shakes her head makes disapproving noises. Cassidy shows me what was under her car. Oh, boy. It’s the piece from the rooftop box. Joshua left it on top of the Yukon. Thankfully her car is OK, but I’m not so sure about how Joshua will fair when she sees him.

We get back in our cars and I lead, following the GPS on my phone. I go where it leads until I notice that its listing the destination as 17 miles away. Smartphone my foot! The convoy follows me as I take a detour through a grocery store parking lot (Steven asked if this was where the Freddy’s was). I will now trust my sense of direction and my memory. Here goes nothin’… Looking like a beacon shining through the night, I see the Freddy’s sign in the distance and Alex standing next to it, waving us in. He gets a tad impatient when hungry. We pull in the parking lot and Cassidy calls to Joshua. She asks him if he forgot anything. He pats his pockets and thinks, no, nothing seems to be missing. Cassidy and Morgan then relay the events as they happened, sounding like they’re playing a live game of Clue. We reach the reveal; it was Joshua, in the Yukon, with the plastic thing-a-ma-jig! Joshua holds the object of offense, looking properly contrite. Alex is calling us to “come on” and Jared is already inside, the lure of hot dogs too much to bear. So, the rest of us head into the restaurant.

Alex’s food is ready first; we narrowly averted the grunting phase, and then Jared’s. His hamburger bun makes a valiant attempt at escape and has to be replaced, but he’s happy – he’s got a hot dog too. The rest of us get our orders and we sit, chatting about the wonder that is Freddy’s fry sauce and the past 8 days on tour. I’m once again thankful for the guys, I’ve ordered way too much food and I can always count on them to clean my plate. Jared manages to make it through the meal without crying (from happiness) and we go over what the next few days hold. Even though tour is over, we’re not done, not by a longshot. The Young Artists are here until May 24th and we’ll be plenty busy, sharing opera with as many people as we can.

Since it is our last day of tour, we decide to go for broke and have frozen custard too. The meal ends with a commentary on how sick we’re going to be later. We head outside and I take one more picture; something to commemorate the end of our travels. We all load back in our vehicles and head back to Denver. And readers, that’s it. Our 2013 Greater Colorado Tour is complete. I want to thank you for joining us, for commenting, following Mr. Quacksworth on Twitter and sharing these blogs with people. I gave you a job and you did it. But, like I said, our mission of taking opera to people isn’t done… neither is your job. We want you to join us; to be a part of our team. Be a voice for Opera Colorado. How do you do that? Buy tickets to Don Giovanni, make a donation, join our campaign. Your support will help us keep going on tour, performing for Colorado’s community and educating them about opera in the process. Your support means that we can continue to work with talented Young Artists, like this year’s group, and provide them with invaluable training and experience. Your support will ensure that we can keep fabulous productions on stage at the Ellie.

I hope you’ve had fun reading these blogs.  I hope that you’ll continue to be a part of Opera Colorado.

Until next year; goodnight readers.

Cherity

Friday, March 22, 2013

2013 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 7



Rise and shine readers, it’s day seven of our 2013 tour. Well, we have risen, but there isn’t a whole lot of shining going on. Some people slept great, some of us didn’t. Morgan and I are in the latter group. I need to learn how to turn my brain off at night… The ladies are ready on time and we’re just waiting on the guys. We decide to head down to the cars and wait there. That’s when we see something we never thought we’d see… the guys, all 4 of them, are already there and waiting for us. I think the fresh air has revitalized them. It’s either that or they’re hungry and cold. It is very chilly here this morning so we all don our Opera Colorado jackets, (They’re not only stylish, they’re warm – check them out when you go see Don Giovanni) and head off to meet our sponsors for breakfast.

The ride is pretty quiet. In these blogs, it sounds like we’re having a lot of fun, and we are, but tour is also a whole lot of work. Long days, late nights, moving from place to place – being on the road sounds a lot more glamorous than it actually is. Still, no one is complaining; we know how lucky we are to be able to do this. We go over the schedule for the day; we have a performance at 1:00 and we have to make it back to Denver before the garage closes so we can pick up the Yukon. Today’s timeline is going to be just as close as yesterday’s. We arrive at the restaurant and the place is packed again. One of our sponsors greets us at the door and we’re soon sitting around the table, getting to know a bit more about each other. It’s so interesting to me how and when opera finds people. Some people are born loving it; some people come to love it later in life. Then there are others that don’t really love it but they have a great appreciation for the art form and what it brings to our society. Still others who don’t even know what it is. One of our servers is a good example. She sees our jackets and asks about them. We tell her who we are and why we’re here. She’s never heard of Opera Colorado; it’s great that we can be the ones to introduce her.

Soon, it’s time for us to head back to our cabins. We make sure to show our appreciation for breakfast and say our goodbyes. A few of the sponsors will be attending the performance later at the elementary school. That’s great to hear. As we go to get into the car, we get to meet another new face. Her name is Gertie and she’s a chocolate lab. She’s adorable. We take a few minutes to meet her owner. He also asks about our jackets, so it’s a chance for us to introduce Opera Colorado one more time. He wishes us good luck with our performance; we give Gertie one more pat and then head back to our lodging. (As I write this, it strikes me as funny that I can remember the dog’s name, but not her owner’s.) The drive back is even quieter than before. We set a time to leave and everyone goes about their business. Alex has his spa appointment, Steven is going to work on some emails, Cassidy wants to take a walk and Morgan just wants to try and get some sleep. Joshua and Jared have a jammed packed schedule. They are going to work out, then shower, then go to the hot springs, then shower, then take dip in the pool and then shower. Hmmm… seems like overkill to me, but whatever. I need to get some work done, so to the cabin I go.

I work for a while as Morgan slumbers upstairs. Cassidy comes back from her walk and I join her on the front porch. We’re enjoying the peaceful surrounding; the sounds of nature. You can hear the nearby stream bubbling, birds are calling, men are singing… Wait, what? Cassidy and I stop and listen intently. Did we just hear singing coming from the relaxation pool at the hot springs? It’s very faint, but yes, that is singing. That’s opera singing. It sounds familiar. The sound grows louder. That’s Jared… and Joshua and they’re singing The Pearl Fishers duet and not being quiet about it any longer. One of the attendants at the spa comes outside, looking perplexed. Steven calms her, telling her that it’s OK, they’re opera singers. Relieved that the serenade is coming from trained professionals, she goes back inside, but she’s got a huge smile on her face. Jared and Joshua are ramping up for the big finale of the duet. It rings through the hillside – they sound great. The image of the two of them sitting in the pool, singing their hearts out, keeps Cassidy and I laughing for a good 5 minutes.

After the concert is over, the two songsters make a mad dash to their cabin to get ready to go. Alex shows up looking mighty relaxed; must have been a good appointment. Morgan managed to grab a little more sleep and is feeling refreshed. The gang’s all here so we load up and head into Buena Vista and Avery Parsons Elementary School. We’re excited that the local paper is sending a reporter and photographer. Every little bit of exposure helps! We get checked in and scramble to set up before the kids come in. We make it with about 15 minutes to spare – we must have been flying. The kids come in and take their seats and the principal gets them settled. It’s a big group! I go out to welcome everyone and talk about the performance (you may have noticed I do that a lot). This is something that, over the years, I’ve found really helps. It prepares the kids for what they’re about to see and gives them an idea of how to appropriately respond to an opera. This is so new for most of the students we perform for, they literally don’t know you can applaud or even laugh if something is funny. I introduce Steven and get the performance started with a big “bravo.”

Right away, I know this is going to be a great show. The Young Artists are tired but the energy coming from these kids is amazing. They are laughing like crazy – I mean really cracking up. It is the best feeling and soon the cast is hamming it up. As Joshua enters in his soldier disguise, I hear a little boy whisper to his teacher, “I think he’s being tricky.” He’s got it. When Alex has Jared blow in his eye, I hear someone whisper, “This is ha-lair-e-us.” (Not that’s not a typo, its phonetic spelling for hilarious to help you readers know what it sounded like). There are bravos galore when the cast go out for their bows. Now it’s time for the Q&A. My favorite question today is one we get quite a lot for this show. “Was the kissing real?” Yes, it was (cue the “ewwws” from the kids). It’s all part of the job. The teachers, parents and sponsors that watched the performance are thrilled. Steven and I answer some questions for the local paper while the Young Artists talk with the other guests and Mr. Quacksworth takes some photos with the students. That duck really loves the spotlight. A teacher comes up to me to thank us for coming. He tells me that this has been a wonderful experience for his students and one they’d never have unless groups like us travel to them. We’re so glad that we have the opportunity to tour Colorado and share opera with communities all over the state. We say a final thank you to our sponsors for their incredible hospitality while we’ve been here. They really have rolled out the red carpet for us and we truly appreciate it. Thank you CCPAC and Buena Vista. We hope we meet again very soon!

It’s time to break down the set and load out. We’re headed back to Denver and that’s a bit of a drive. The weather is changing too. It’s getting cold and cloudy and the mountains (which are close because we’re near them, right Cassidy?) are already getting snow. Our quartet of masculinity once again flexes their packing muscles; the ladies have learned to stay out of the way, so we busy ourselves with other tasks. Steven moves on to pack another car, well actually re-pack what Morgan has already done. Let’s just say things went back to where Morgan had them. Soon, everything is loaded and we’re on the road. We decide to stop for dinner in Bailey Colorado, home of the famous Coney Island hot dog stand. Want to know the way to get 5 Young artists and one accompanist really excited? Mention hot dogs and you’re golden. I break out the snack bag to settle my carload down. Soon, we’re listening to Callas again and watching the clouds roll in.

Off to the side of the road, we see a large group of antelope. Joshua asks if they are indigenous. Jared asks if they are the "horned" species. Answer #1, Yes, I believe they are found all over the west where they apparently play with deer. Answer #2, Yes, they are horned antelope, a distant relative of the elusive horned squirrel that we encountered earlier on tour. How lucky we are to have seen both of them. (It’s just easier this way, trust me.) Steven must really want a hot dog because he’s driving like Mario Andretti again (for those of you blog newbies, this is not a new occurrence). Cassidy, Morgan and Jared discover the joys of strawberry filled Twizzler bites and we come up with classifications for Cassidy’s various laughs. The anticipation is growing as we near Bailey. With each turn, they wonder if we’re close. Three more miles, then two, then one. We’ve arrived. We pull into the parking lot and… Oh, no. Not again. This happened last year! They’re closed. I decide the best way to tell them is to do it quickly, like pulling off a Band-Aid. I brace myself as disappointment turns to grief. I knew Jared would take it the hardest; he’s practically in tears. But, Jared does cry easily. I mean, I brought him to tears at breakfast when I talked about southern cooking. He’s a mystery, our Jared.

With hot dogs off of the menu, we push on. Jared grudgingly eats Twizzlers, mumbling to himself now and then. All I catch is “No, no, no” and “hot dogs.”  I think he’ll be OK, with time. Alex on the other hand, well, we all know how he reverts when he hasn’t eaten in a while. None of us wants to visit that special place again, so we stop in Conifer to grab some dinner. I take this time to teach everyone the finer points of popping a straw (One of the many valuable things I learned in college. My parents are so proud.) We’re back on the road again; next stop – the garage to pick up the Yukon.

As the drive continues, we muse on all of the conversations we’ve had over the past 7 days. We’ve discussed everything from scientific theories to geography, from Morgan’s famous meatloaf recipe to Jared’s love of ketchup. From Steven’s knowledge of hot sauces, to Joshua’s ability to rock a fur hat; Cassidy’s aversion to spiders to Alex’s specialized drink order at Sonic (that even he refers to as diabetes in a cup), we’ve talked about it all. The conversation in the car as we near Denver? Animals. Cassidy has a friend who has a dog. She shows us a picture. I share the picture I have of my dog. We talk about dogs. Pictures of animals are viewed on the internet. Cassidy finds what she believes is a picture of a horned squirrel. She shows it to Morgan who’s not so sure. Jared, the resident expert says no, that’s not a horned squirrel, that’s a groundhog.  This is a picture… of a squirrel… in a tree… (*sigh*) There are no words.

We make it to the garage and, yeah, the Yukon is fixed! Again! As I’m handling the bill, the mechanic starts asking about what we do. Joshua and I tell him. He’s intrigued. I go a step further and invite him to come see Don Giovanni. I give him information on how to buy tickets. He says he’s always wanted to see an opera and he’ll give us a call. Great! Things look even brighter when the Yukon starts. We’re in business. We head back to the house to unload everything from the cars and load it back into the Yukon. Boy, this is getting monotonous. We finish that up, run over tomorrow’s schedule and then bid each other goodnight.

We’re all looking forward to tomorrow – it’s a big day. We’re performing at Centennial Elementary School in Loveland and Opera Colorado has never been there before. That’s big. We’re also going to be recorded. CBS4 is coming out to film us. That’s big too!

Tomorrow will be the last blog of our 2013 tour.  Wow – the time has gone by so quickly. 7 days down and successful at that. One more to go. We hope you’ll join us.

Nighty-night readers,

Cherity

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013 Greater Colorado Tour – Day 6



Good morning readers and welcome to tour day 6! Here’s a question for you. Have you ever had déjà vu? You know the feeling that you’re experiencing something that you’ve experienced before? That was how today began, and not in a good way. It’s the Yukon – again. I was in the office when Joshua called to tell me that it wouldn’t start, again. You have to be kidding! It’s been less than a week since we had it fixed! The plans I had laid out for my schedule today quickly get thrown out the window and I head over to the house to figure out a plan. The Young Artists are supposed to be in Fairplay at 1:00 to set up for the Barber of Seville performance at South Park Middle School. We have several trains of thought, but only one of them seems to work. We’ll load up alternate vehicles (and by that I mean our own cars) and head off with as much as we can carry. It might sound like a fairly simple task. Trust me, it’s not. Not only do we have the set, props and costumes for an entire show, we also have the frame the set fits on, road bags, sand bags, costume rack, prop table, music, luggage, food and people. Multiply the more personal items x seven and you’ve got a truckload of stuff. Luckily we’re able to get everything loaded; most of the set is in Alex’s car.

While the loading is happening, Joshua and I are on the phone, trying to figure out where to take the Yukon here in Denver. This is exactly what it was doing last week so I want that warranty honored! We find a place that’s just a few miles away. Joshua manages to get it started, so we hope for green lights and try to get it there. We make it but the thing sounds like it’s going to die any minute. Even though we called ahead, they tell us they can’t even look at it until later today. Waiting isn’t an option, so once more, we drop it off, make doubly sure they know what’s going on and leave our contact numbers. Now an hour behind schedule, we have to get on the road. As the caravan makes its way west, I call the school to let them know we’re going to be late. They can’t move the start time any later because of the dismissal time. We’ll have to do the fastest set up on record. Luckily the roads are OK; they got some snow over the past couple of days though. On the drive, I get a glimpse of what life in the Humboldt house is like as Joshua, Cassidy and Morgan act out scenes of domesticity. This basically involves Cassidy and Morgan telling Joshua the rules by which he has to abide, while he, the lone male, asserts his authority. The matter at hand? Joshua is not allowed to eat stinky food in the car.  Boiled eggs are the main offender. The windows are rolled down to diminish the eau de egg. Now Joshua is cold. Cassidy tells him to eat the egg quickly and he’ll warm up. Morgan agrees.

I take this opportunity to share with Joshua a lesson that I hope will serve him well for the rest of him life. Women do not have to make sense. Now, I say that as I woman myself. How does it go? I know what I know when I know it – that may not make sense to the opposite sex, but that’s the way it is. (Secretly, the lesson was my way of putting an end to the episode of reality TV playing out in the backseat.) Joshua quietly contemplates this as Cassidy eases the tension by playing JT’s newest release. Now, I like all kinds of music; I consider myself quite eclectic. But, working in a field where you listen to the human voice all the time does something to you. I think it alters you at a genetic level. I have become a music snob. I take one for the team though and listen to the CD. A few tracks were pretty good….  Cassidy then selects another CD, this one is homemade. Oh, boy. It turns out to be a documentary of Maria Callas. It’s really interesting. When she was at the top of her career – Wow. There’s a recording of her singing I Puritani that literally give us goose-bumps – now that’s my kind of music! We’ve come into a valley now; the view is gorgeous. As we’re remarking about said view, Cassidy makes an astounding discovery. Did you know that the mountains, well specifically the mountain tops, are not as high and look closer when you are nearer to them? Well, shockingly, it’s true. Our Cassidy… mistress of observation.

After laughing, we go back to the documentary. It makes the miles pass quickly and soon we’re in Fairplay, or is it South Park, or is it both? I go to check us in at the school and get instructions on where we can unload the set, etc. After a quick glance at the clock, the entire group kicks it into high gear. Readers, we made it, but not by much and it’s only because everyone was helping. Costumes are on with just a minute or two to spare. The students begin to take their seats as Steven finishes warming up on the piano. Today’s performance is being sponsored, in part, by the Breckenridge Music Festival: Music in the Schools program. (If you folks are reading this, thank you again for making it possible for us to perform for the students here!) I go out to welcome everyone and talk to the students a bit about what they’re going to see. With a round of applause, we begin the performance. We’re at about 10,000 feet here; the highest elevation yet. The Young Artists are feeling it, but at this point, with the way the day started, we’re just happy to be here and have the chance to perform an opera for these kids.

Things are going well, until it happens. Cassidy has just begun her aria and we hear a huge, booming noise come from the area of the piano. We all freeze, not sure what we just heard. Was that the piano lid slamming down? Did someone just break a window? Cassidy isn’t singing that high… No, a string just snapped in the piano. What next?! (As a co-worker of mine recently told me that can be a dangerous question to ask) Kudos to Steven, he doesn’t miss a beat; just keeps on playing. Being the pro that she is, Cassidy never lets on either. You can hear the string rattling around, the vibration is so strong you can almost feel it, but we can’t stop the show – it must go on! The faster, fighting scene really takes a toll today. Everyone is out of breath, but no one is complaining. The students are laughing and that’s what we want to hear; what we love to hear. Finale complete, bows are taken and then water is quickly ingested. I go out to begin the Q&A.

We get questions about the set, how we learned the opera, singing in another language and why that paper is under the settee (it was a prop mishap). The best one though was when one of the students asked about the noise during the show – they heard it too. How could they not? Steven reaches into the piano and pulls out the broken string – we’re sorry! No problem – the student who asked tells us that he broke the other one (apparently there were two). Everyone laughs and I say a final thank you and end the Q&A. Steven and I talk to the teachers and some parents who are there while Jared grabs a few pics with Mr. Quacksworth and the students. The duck has been strangely quiet today; I wonder what he’s up to… After that, it’s time to break things down and see if by some miracle, we can get it all into the cars again.  

Here’s another question for you readers. Have you ever had one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong? It’s like karma didn’t like what you made it for dinner last night and today is payback. For me, that day is today. It’s a comedy of errors. As I’m helping load out, I smack myself in the face with the ladder and then manage to fall down the stairs (I’m OK – the blogs will continue). It was a graceful fall, at least by my estimation. Load out continues and with quite a bit of effort, we do manage to get it all back into the vehicles. In the process, the ladies and I did learn a valuable lesson ourselves. Like women do not have to make sense – Men view packing a car as a test of virility. There they were, all 4 of them, working on packing one vehicle. Yes fellas, your skills are impressive, now let’s get moving.

The car I’m in has been mostly reserved for bodies and we’re trading Joshua for Jared. I can’t handle being a family counselor anymore… Jared is enjoying the Maria Callas CD too, in fact at one point he sang along and called himself Maria. I think Morgan’s still got him on the high notes, but it’s a toss-up for dramatic flair. We head down the road to our next stop, Buena Vista. Well, Nathrop actually. We’re being housed and treated to dinner and breakfast by the Central Colorado Performing Arts Council AND they’re sponsoring our performance tomorrow at Avery Parsons Elementary School in Buena Vista. It’s incredible how passionate people are about exposing kids to the arts – first the Breckenridge Music in the Schools program and now CCPAC. Opera Colorado shares that passion and we are so glad that we’re able to partner with you!

We arrive at our housing location and holy moly – there are natural hot springs here. I get us checked in as the Young Artists try not to literally jump in excitement. We dash over and drop our luggage in our rooms (cabins actually). The ladies have been housed in one cabin and the gents in the other. As Cassidy and Morgan and I are looking around, we see that there are deer just outside (which is good because we’d probably freak if they were inside). We take a minute to appreciate nature, and a little quiet, before we call over to the guys. It’s time to load up again, this time bodies only, and head to dinner. On the drive, we see a whole heard of deer off the side of the road. It’s my turn to play “Hey cow” (only it’s “Hey deer” in this instance) so I seize the opportunity. Most of them turned to look. My seatbelt has locked in place and I can’t move anymore, but I am now in the lead so, all in all, it was a successful venture. Through all the hubbub, Joshua remains uninvolved, choosing instead to sing though the score of La Bohème. He does quite a nice Mimi. Alex and Jared then treat us to a rousing song featuring the herb Cilantro. Morgan has heard it on the subway in New York before so it’s already sweeping the nation.

It’s been a long day with more than its share of drama; emotions are running pretty close to the surface. Joshua and Jared are the first to crack; they break into a fight in the back seat and poor Morgan is caught in the middle. It’s a tickle fight. I’m not sure who won, but I snapped a picture just to prove that it happened. At the restaurant, we’re greeted at the door by two members of our sponsoring group. The place is packed! We enjoy a wonderful meal and great conversation. The Young Artists talk about themselves and what the past 5 months have been like and I talk about Opera Colorado and where we’re heading. People here have read about the reorganization and I get quite a few questions which is good, that’s part of the reason I’m here. This is a good time for me to bring our “Stories that Sing” campaign into the blog. If you haven’t heard about it, you can learn more here. We’re working hard to move Opera Colorado forward in a stable, sustainable way. This tour is a great example of how the arts can reach out to people. We want to continue doing that for years to come, but we need your help. Take a minute; read about what we’re doing. We hope you’ll join the campaign and show your support. We’re so grateful to all of you who have already made a donation and/or bought tickets and we say an advance thank you to those of you who will in the days ahead.

At the end of dinner, we get yet another surprise (this time a good one). One of our sponsors from CCPAC has prepared two baskets of fresh fruit for us to take back to the cabins. We’re really getting the red carpet treatment, not something we take for granted I assure you! Jared is so excited; he reverts back to a two-year old, refusing to share. No, no, no Jared. Steven carries the basket. We say thank you, many times and head back to our lodging. It’s dark now, so playing “Hey cow” would be an exercise in futility, so the Young Artists amuse themselves with show tunes, sitcom character impersonations and family stories (the family of the Humboldt house has returned to a state of bliss). The lure of the hot springs is too much to resist and I catch blurs as the Young Artists and Steven race to don swimsuits and grab towels as soon as we arrive. I tuck myself away in the cabin and get some work done.

A bit later the ladies are back and looking like they enjoyed their soak. I finally begin working on today’s blog as Cassidy watches, trying to get a sneak peek. Not so fast. Like the readers, she’s going to have to wait until it’s posted. Morgan and Cassidy curl up on the couch to read by the fire. Our phone rings and its Alex calling to check on the plans for breakfast. He has a spa appointment in the morning and he’s trying to decide between food and massage. Not an easy choice for our Alex. Morgan tells me that she’s sure the guys are going to try to scare us tonight. Joshua told them a story at the hot springs… now they’re on edge. She goes upstairs and I hear a bang. I jump and whack my elbow on the table. (Why do they call it the funny bone? It really isn’t amusing, but at least its par for the course today.) Thinking it’s the guys, we all tense up. No, it was Morgan closing her glasses case. I feel like I’m at camp again…

It’s getting late and we have an early morning tomorrow. I think we’re all hoping that it’s drama free (although it does make for good blog material). At breakfast, I’ll have the chance to talk to some of our sponsors again, so that’s already good news. After that, it’s another Barber of Seville before heading back to Denver. So readers, that’s all for tonight.

“Til tomorrow,

Cherity