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May 25, 2004 > Chamber Chorale Spring Tour: A Memorable Experience

Chamber Chorale Spring Tour: A Memorable Experience

by Praveena Raman

Recently I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of talented singers from three different high schools on their spring tour of Southern California. The tour was organized by Fremont residents Lee and Roy Glover. Lee teaches music and directs the Choir, Chamber Chorale and Thor Throats at Mission San Jose and Irvington High Schools while Roy teaches music and directs the Orchestra, Choir and Notables at San Leandro High School. I would like to share this wonderful experience with TCV readers.

It all started a year back when my daughter Mekala, a freshman, came home and excitedly said "Mom, I have made it into the Chamber Chorale for next year. I am so excited. We are going to Disneyland in the spring." Even though music and singing has been her passion since she was 5 years old, looking at her I wondered if the excitement of being in Chamber Chorale was for singing or going to Disneyland (which she had last visited when she was 7 years old). When I probed her (being the truly inquisitive mom) about it, back came her reply with a broad grin, "Both. I can have the cake and eat it too." Her excitement was so contagious that I too started getting excited about it and wondered if I could go on this trip, never ever having had such an experience before. As March came and again the talk of the spring tour surfaced, I decided to ask Lee Glover if she needed a chaperone. Lee was delighted to hear my request and warmly said "I would love to have you as a chaperone. You will really enjoy the trip." A few weeks before the trip Mekala came bouncing in and with typical teenage cheekiness said, "I just found out that Mrs.Guterman is also going to be a chaperone. So you will have a friend and I can have access to your credit cards."

In the next few days we received the itinerary and a list of rules for the tour. Scanning the itinerary I suddenly realized that the group would not be performing at Disneyland. "That's right," confirmed Lee, "Disneyland is at the end of the trip as a reward for the students for all their hard work. We spend two days visiting different high schools in the Santa Barbara area and perform for them. We also have an exchange performance during the tour. The schools host us and we sleep in their gyms." We were leaving on a Wednesday and returning on that Sunday morning. I found that preparing for the trip was quite challenging. We had to pack lightly and include semi formal and casual clothes, sleeping bags, pillows, sheets, blankets, air mattresses (to cushion us from the hard gym floors) and snacks.

By Wednesday morning I was quite proud to find that I could pack everything in two bags (and a sleeping bag). When we arrived at Irvington High School at noon there was a big crowd of students with what seemed like a mountain of luggage waiting to be checked in. After seeing the list of seventy-six students and nine chaperones that were traveling together in two coaches I could see why we were limited to two to three pieces of luggage. As I gathered my luggage and started towards the check in area to help the other chaperones I heard a voice ask Mekala "Is your mom coming too?" I turned to see Mekala answer in the affirmative to Tisha Kacchapati. It warmed me to hear Tisha's response "Oh that's great. It will be so much fun." As I helped the chaperones check and tag the baggage I could not help but admire the way the students had successfully limited themselves to three pieces of luggage even the girls! When all of a sudden I heard a voice say, "Please could you check in my seven pieces of luggage?" I looked up to see Will Chen standing in front of me with bags draped all around him. "Seven!" I could not help exclaiming with a smile. "I have small bags and I could not fit everything." He said apologetically.

Finally everyone was checked in and the luggage and students were loaded in the coaches. As I entered coach "B" and took my seat in the front (chaperones did not have to share seats), a man with glasses handed me a list of names and the rules sheet and asked me "Are you going to be in charge of this coach?" That took me by surprise. "Well," I stammered. "If you can tell me what needs to be done...." He suddenly realized he was talking to a rookie chaperone. Smilingly, he reassured me. "Don't worry. I have done this before. You can follow along and you will know what to do. We will start by counting off." A practice we did numerous times during the trip with a lot of variations and fun. That's how I met fellow chaperone Jim Weuhler, a parent from San Leandro high school.

With everyone accounted for we started exactly on time according to the itinerary. During the three-hour drive to Old Arroyo Grande, I learned that it was Jim's third time as a chaperone for the spring tour. "I enjoy coming on these tours. I am with my children and I enjoy the students and their enthusiasm. It is also amazing to see how they grow and get better in their performance throughout the tour. It is a great learning experience and they learn a lot of discipline." It was something that I would see throughout the trip. We also talked about the 21 written rules for the tour and the fact that each rule had a story behind it. I mentally made note to ask Roy Glover about the stories.

On reaching Old Arroyo Grande the students were told that they had an hour and a half for dinner and had to be near the coaches at a particular time. The chaperones were invited to have dinner together at a selected restaurant - a practice, repeated during the next three days. As the chaperones introduced themselves it was interesting to find a variety of ages and experience represented in this trip. As our dinner was served, I casually asked Roy how long they had been doing these tours and how they got connected to the different schools. "We started doing these tours 28 years back." He smiled, enjoying my astonishment. "And I just do cold calls and contact the schools to see if they are interested. We have been visiting many of the schools for over twenty years. Some of them drop off after some time and we add new ones. Like tomorrow, we will be visiting Paulding Middle School for the first time." After dinner we walked to the coaches to see all the students already there waiting for us. From there we went to Arroyo Grande High School where we spent the first night.

After unloading the luggage and setting them at the correct side of the gym, one side boys and the other girls with the chaperones in the middle, the students gathered in the band room for their only rehearsal during the tour. All 76 of them arranged themselves and from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. sang and practiced the different songs they would be performing. Even though they were tired they showed the dedication and devotion they had for this performing art and the pure enjoyment that filled them. After that, they filed back into the gym and had half an hour before "sides" was called out (boys had to be on their sides and girls on theirs). Many managed to have hot showers before turning in.

Chaperone Autumn Lindsay helped many of us by pumping up the air mattresses and getting us ready for bed in a short time. Another half hour later, lights were out and they had to be quiet. Surprisingly I slept very well. The next morning everyone had to be up by 6:00 a.m. (woken up by Roy), dressed in formal clothes, baggage packed and ready to be loaded and the gym cleaned by 7:30 a.m., a routine that they religiously followed on all three days at the various host locations. It was wonderful to see how responsibly all the students behaved and made sure they were always on time, knowing the tight schedule that they had to follow. They were never the cause of any delay. That indeed was discipline.

After breakfast, the performances started at Paulding Middle School, a short distance from Arroyo Grande High School. The performance included lively and moving pieces from classical, gospel and popular music and also had songs in French, German and Latin. The arrangement included - "Honor and Glory" by Bach (a Fugue from "Magnificant"); Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria"; Rene Clausen's "Jubilant Song"; Gabriel Fauré's "Cantique de Jean Racine"; "Shenandoah", a gospel "Great is the Lord", Hal Hackady's "Don't Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be", The Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" among others. At the end of their hour and a half performance they received a standing ovation from their young audience. After this they returned by coach to perform for their hosts at Arroyo Grande High School. The performance ended with the song "Thank you very much", thanking them for their hospitality.

After a short stop for lunch at Santa Maria, the tour continued on to Righetti High School. This was a special treat where there was a Choral exchange with the Righetti Varsity Choir and the Righetti Madrigals. Sophomore Meena Neti was very impressed with the Righetti Choir. "They were so good, it was unbelievable." She continued, "The whole experience has been extremely exciting. Besides seeing new places and schools, I am also making many new friends." That was so true. It was wonderful to see the seniors recognizing Righetti students from their previous year's trip and talking to them. From Righetti we got into the coaches and were driven across the road to St. Joseph High School where we experienced the height of hospitality.

St. Joseph's ASB students not only welcomed us, but also unloaded our luggage for us, put them in the gym and also had snacks and juice ready. Their hospitality did not stop there as we found out the next morning. After refreshments, changing into nice casual clothes and dinner the tour went out for an evening performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Santa Maria. There the students were not only treated to a performance by professionals but had the pleasure of seeing one of their friends, a Mission San Jose High School alumna, Kristin Stokes, as part of the cast. The performers in return had a very enthusiastic audience. The next morning we donned our tour T-shirts and were treated to a breakfast cooked by St. Joseph's students. After which the entire student body gathered in the gym to hear a wonderful performance to a very appreciative audience.

The tour then continued on to Solvang for a two and a half hour lunch and shopping stop. True to our routine the chaperones had lunch together. As we waited for our hot Danish lunches, I remarked on how quiet the students on our bus had been and it was impressive how they were adhering to the rule "No talking or whispering on the bus until Saturday morning." Roy smilingly said, "There is a story behind every one of those 21 rules," and he proceeded to tell us the story behind this rule. It happened twenty-seven years back on their very first tour to the different high schools. It was a small group of about thirty students that were on that trip. During the bus ride down to their first stop everybody was excitedly talking away. As the noise increased the students had to raise their voices even more to be heard. By the time they arrived at their first destination, the Glovers found that the students were having a hard time singing. "It was embarrassing." Roy said with a sigh. However when their host invited them for a pizza later, the Glovers made a pact with their students: they could go and enjoy themselves but they had to stay silent in the bus for the rest of the trip. The students agreed knowing the reason for this deal and the rest of the trip went off without a hitch. "Lee, we have to write a new rule," continued Roy. "It is all because of technology. The students were text messaging across the gym until 2:00 a.m. this morning instead of sleeping."

As we were leaving the restaurant after lunch we saw a few of the students also lunching there. Talking to them we found another instance of local hospitality. The restaurant management were charging the students only $5 for their lunch and drinks. As Leslie Guterman and I strolled around and visited different shops we came across groups of chorale students driving/pedaling a buggy and singing away. As we entered a craft shop the lady behind the corner asked us if we were with the groups of students who were in town. Since we were wearing the Tour T-Shirt we could not really disown them but neither did we readily want to acknowledge them. Cautiously Leslie said, "It depends on what you have to say about them." The lady laughingly responded, "I just wanted to let you know that they were singing so beautifully and that they were also well behaved." At that we heaved a sigh of relief and proudly acknowledged that they sang like angels.

And they did sing like angels at our next stop - Mission Santa Barbara. Gathered in the sanctuary the seventy-six chorale students directed by both Lee and Roy Glover proceeded to sing a cappella with all their feelings pouring into the pieces. The climax of their performance was the Antiphonal (the main choir singing at one end of the sanctuary with a smaller choir group at the other end singing in answer) piece "Ave Maria". Mission Santa Barbara's sanctuary was the perfect setting for the antiphonal with its lovely echo and wonderful acoustics. That piece was the emotional undoing for many. Seniors were in tears knowing that this would be the last time they would sing here as part of the chorale. For the audience the beautiful angelic voices with their pure tones and emotions were very moving. As Gina Walter, a senior who was on the trip for the first time, says, "Singing at the Mission was the high point of my trip. I really felt the music there and I found it unusually moving. I wouldn't trade it for anything." These sentiments were echoed by chaperone Richard Simmons "You hear them together in the Mission and the sound you hear is hard to describe. It is pure enjoyment. This is the reason I come."

After the emotionally moving experience at the Mission the students and chaperones had dinner and then spent the evening at the movies. From there we went to Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California for a good night's rest. During dinner we met Jack Huber who used to be the choir director at Dos Pueblos. Though retired he still arranges the tour's stay at the high school as a result of twenty years of friendship. Talking to Jack, we found that when he was the choir director the school not only hosted the chorale tour group but also had a potluck dinner together. After which the two groups sang for each other and then together. "It was a mixed rainbow of kids and there was lots of energy in their singing," reminisced Jack. "I am glad I can still arrange for all of you to stay here." This is a fine example of the strong friendship and relationships the Glovers have formed with their colleagues across the state.

After a good night's rest the excited students and chaperones packed into the tour buses on Saturday morning for their three hour drive from Goleta to Disneyland. Most of the drive was actually quiet with most students sound asleep. Chaperone Jim decided to play two movies to keep the few awake entertained. Once at Disneyland, Roy instructed the students exactly where to meet at midnight and to be in the park at all times. The students then took their tickets and excitedly dispersed in groups and the chaperones stuck together. Here, once again, the generosity of Lee and Roy Glover to the chaperones was shown. Through the influence of Richard Simmons, the Glovers treated the chaperones to dinner at an exclusive club at Disneyland called Club 33. A well-kept secret, few know of its existence in New Orleans Square. As we were dining at this elegant restaurant, we reflected on the wonderful trip. "This is a culturally diverse group of students who accompany us on this tour." says Lee with a smile. "It is really worth all the effort to see them all together singing away as though there are no differences." It was a seamless group. The students are just the Glovers' Chorale students not students of Mission, Irvington and San Leandro High Schools.

As we tiredly walked back to our tour buses for the night ride back home, Irvington parent Sarah Gruchow remarked, "This was so well organized. It was a lot of fun." Autumn Lindsay added, "It is so great that the Glovers pool their resources and bring such an amazing opportunity to different kids, across schools and towns. Their influence is far reaching."

Lee and Roy Glover are very special teachers who give a very valuable gift to their students, a gift of music and friendship.

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