During the first two weeks of June, 2008, the St. Andrew’s Academy choir sang its way through the South East, starting in Baltimore and ending up in Orlando. They performed concerts and led evensongs in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida. Most of the students had never visited those states, so the trip was not only a concert tour, but a tour of the country. Many days were spent in the car, racing across the country to get to the next place on time, like the mad dash across Tennessee to get from Highlands, North Carolina to Jonesboro, Arkansas before five o’clock for a concert at St. Timothy’s. “We often didn’t have time to stop anywhere other than gas stations to fuel up, but you’d be surprised how much you can learn about a place from the gas stations,” said Serena Howe, a 2008 graduate. “One in Star, Mississippi sold fried gizzards; the man at the counter said that Faith Hill had grown up a few blocks away.”
For the five graduates, this was their last time traveling and singing with the school, and it was a wonderful, memorable trip. They slept on parish-hall floors and in a four-story mansion (in Virginia), ate food from a gas station deli for lunch and catered banquets for dinner. They met the man who ran against Clinton for governor of Arkansas and the former tax preparer for John Lennon and Paul Simon. “We had such a wonderful time singing in beautiful churches and enjoying food and fellowship with all these really interesting people. I never realized what a variety of people and cultures we have right here in the U.S,” Serena Howe continued.
Visiting with the host families topped the lists for more than a few students when asked what they enjoyed most. Elena Salvatore said that her most memorable part was “hanging out at all the different peoples’ houses,” while Rebekah Waterman listed “meeting the host families and being able to talk with them” as her favorite part. Josiah Bartel added, “I enjoyed visiting with the people at my table at the Synod banquet.” Also memorable for students (and faculty!) was being rained off the beach in Florida by a sudden mid-morning thunderstorm, complete with bolts of lightning. (Even those faculty members who may have been trying to avoid the water ended up as wet as anyone!) Later in the day, however, the group went to another beach and had a good swim (well-sunscreened–thanks, Fr. Zwingert!), in the 90 degree, very salty Atlantic. Also mentioned were “seeing the Mississippi,” “walking in Annapolis in the rain,” “Highlands, NC,” and “Woody’s buckwheat pancakes.”
Everywhere the choir went, they were shown very generous hospitality. One family from the cathedral in Oviedo was brave (crazy?) enough to take the entire choir one night, and everyone got to go swimming (thank-you, Sibleys!). Many churches cooked both dinner and breakfast for the choir; the group was also able to go out for lunch with Fr. King. Thanks to all of the families and the parishes who gave of themselves so freely.
And what about least favorite parts? Rebekah Waterman’s tops the charts for excitement-factor. What was the memory? “The alligator singing under my window all night.”
The tour was a huge success, enjoyed not only by those who attended the concerts, but equally as well by those who sang. The choir sold CDs and received donations from many of those who attended the concerts and services. When all was said and done, the choir paid for the cost of the trip, which was about $12,000. Thank you to all the supporters and concert-goers, and especially to all those who provided hospitality on the trip–everyone returned a little rounder!
This article was published in the September 2008 edition of The Standard.