Since the day the first railroad tracks were laid, trains have played an important role in American history. They made it possible to reach places that were unreachable and transport goods and people all over the country. I respect that. I do… I just have a hard time being historically respectful at 4:00 in the morning when I am woken by a conductor gleefully blowing his whistle. It woke me up out of a dead sleep. I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom, literally. After popping my shoulder back in place, I figured out what the noise was and went back to bed. 3 hours and 3 trains later, I finally gave in and got up. Good morning.
It’s Day Two of our fall tour. My outlook on the day gets much better when I look out the window. It’s a beautiful day; the fall colors looking amazing against the blue sky. Fall in Colorado – does it get much better than that? Today we’re headed up to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Everyone is on their own for breakfast this morning but soon we all meet up in the lobby, get checked out of our hotel and head to the cars. There are still 7 of us and we’re still going to be gone the same number of days. How is it possible that we seem to have more luggage than when we left? Since it worked so well the last time, I step back and allow the guys to pack again. Steven, Alex and Joshua look like they’re playing a game of Tetris, but they manage to get it all loaded. We pile into the cars and off we go. Thanks Ft. Collins and CSU! We’ve had a great time and can’t wait to come back!
Everyone is a little quiet this morning and I suspect one of two things. It’s either that we’re moving into performance mode, focused on getting ready for the event we have this afternoon, or I wasn’t the only one who got a wake-up call from Mr. choo-choo. Turns out its performance mode and soon light singing can be heard from the backseat courtesy of Morgan and Joshua. We see buffalo on the way to Cheyenne and talk about which map apps are the best. Steven sells Cassidy on one he likes and she excitedly loads it onto her phone. She’s chosen a pink bug icon to represent her. I’m not sure why that’s important, but she was so excited about it, I figured it was blog-worthy. We’re now listening to my GPS and her phone give two sets of audible directions, but we make it to our destination, The Plains Hotel in downtown Cheyenne. We’re going to be staying here for the night, but also performing here. We’ll be doing a preview for the 2013 season as well as an Arias & Ensembles concert. We’re soon settled into our rooms and have just enough time to grab a quick lunch before we start to get ready for the event.
In no time at all, we’re in the performance space. We’re singing on the 2nd floor and overlooking the lobby via a balcony. It feels like being back in Victorian times. Our party goes back to 8 as Meghan arrives and we get set for the performance. As guests begin to arrive, we take our places in our makeshift green room. The first half of the program features pieces from our 2013 season; Romeo and Juliet, Don Giovanni and The Scarlet Letter. The audience is very receptive and it’s going well. We take a quick break before launching into the second half of the program, Arias & Ensembles. Everyone sounds great again, but this is a unique space to perform in. Jared gets the award today for keeping calm under pressure. As he’s beginning his aria, he gets heckled from the lobby and then accidentally backs into a woman who has mistakenly gotten off of the elevator on the wrong floor. He handles it with a smile and sings his aria beautifully, making us all very proud. Live performance… it takes guts.
The performance ends with lots of applause and it’s time for us to mingle with our audience. Among our guests is a 6 ½ year old boy (I promised him I would include the ½; it’s very important) who wants to be an opera singer. I watch as, one by one, all five of the Young Artists gather around him. They ask him questions and talk with him about what they do. As they encourage him to go for his dreams, I see his eyes light up. It was a priceless moment. Thank goodness for Meghan. As I stand there misty-eyed, she is quick to react, talking to his parents about his school. We’re going to do our best to get there.
Things begin to wind down, so we head back to our rooms to change and catch our breath. We agree to meet in the lobby later and head to dinner. We’re planning on hitting a local steakhouse. Alex has been prepping for it all day. In the hallway, on the way back to my room, I meet one of the housekeepers who works at the hotel. She tells me that she listened to the singing and loved it. Her mother used to sing opera to her when she was little. She then tells me that her mother passed away a few months ago and it’s been hard. But today, she felt like her mother was there, listening with her. Two priceless moments in one day all because of this wonderful art form. Opera rocks.
With a little more bounce in my step, I head back downstairs to meet up with the group for dinner. The first one I see is Alex, looking like a happy puppy. The restaurant is just around the corner so we’re walking. Well, 7 of us are; Alex is literally skipping. As we get closer, something begins to nag at me. There are no cars in the parking lot. I keep it to myself as long as I can, but finally have to say something; I don’t think they are open. Alex staggers and Jared advises me to back away slowly. “The Alex” in this state is apparently unpredictable. He bounds across the street and confirms our fears – closed on Sunday. Steven and I jump into action, pulling out our phones to locate another steakhouse. I call one – closed. Steven finds another one – closed. We’re not giving up. A steak dinner was promised and a steak dinner it shall be. Joshua has moved off to the side and is observing “the Alex” from a distance. I take a picture to capture the moment. Cassidy, Morgan and Jared are consoling Alex who has reverted back to general grunting. Just when I think things are hopeless, Steven comes through. He finds another steakhouse and makes a reservation.
Now a party of 8, it’s a comedy of errors getting all of us into one vehicle. We look like one of those cars the clowns pile out of at the circus. We arrive at the restaurant and get Alex inside, hoping the smell of steak will prevent a total shutdown. As we wait for our table, Joshua strikes up a conversation with the restaurant’s baker. Why you ask? Just to be polite? Perhaps. Joshua is a polite guy. But this conversation went deeper than that. This was Joshua, the Frenchman, talking about a vital part of his culture. Bread. We’re all chatting and enjoying some downtime when we hear it. “Mr. Quacksworth, party of 8.” First Jared, now Steven. It’s spreading. I knew I hadn’t heard the last of that duck.
The evening plays out with conversation, laughter and way too much food. “The Alex,” having been fed, is now fully functioning again and Joshua watches in fascination. He’s almost got enough material for part one of his documentary. I make the discovery that just the sound of Morgan’s laugh makes me laugh and Meghan discovers that one must be assertive when asking for water in a packed restaurant. Dinner over, we pack ourselves back into the car. On the way to the hotel, Steven, Meghan and I are treated to an impromptu performance of a piece from The Tales of Hoffmann. How was it? Well… I still like that opera, so that’s good. That performance somehow morphs into Jared doing an impression of me introducing myself to a group of students, in French. It was actually quite a good impression… of Julia Child.
We’re soon back at the hotel. Alex gets locked in the car and I can’t find my car keys. Steven comes to the rescue for the second time that evening. Alex is fine, but he’s laughing so hard that he can’t walk. Unable to top that, we call it a night. We have a busy day tomorrow and it starts early. We’re performing The Barber of Seville at two different high schools here in Cheyenne. It will be our first performance for school-age students and we’re excited. We need to get a good night’s sleep. The ladies head up in the elevator together and Cassidy looks nervous. She’s been asking all day if the hotel is haunted. People have said things. There are stories. She and Morgan decide to have a slumber party. Meghan and I say goodnight and head to our own rooms. They know where we are if they need us for anything.
I enjoy some alone time and plan for tomorrow. Just as I get ready to get into bed, I hear an eerie sound. It’s coming from somewhere near the windows on the other side of the room. I pluck up my courage and slowly cross the room. There’s the sound again. Hand shaking, I reach out and pull back the curtains. It can’t be… but to my horror it is. Trains. Right outside my window. I blame the duck.
‘Till tomorrow readers,
Cherity Koepke, Director of Education & Community Programs