Kyrmina Giancola, a 10th grader from Westerville City Schools, was kind enough to share her journal entries from our recent tour of France and Spain. We have divided them into three parts, so keep an eye out for the others to post. You can catch up on Part I here. Enjoy!
July 5, 2022 The Appreciation of the French!
This day was overall easy, and yet it ended with another truly special experience that would create memories to last a lifetime. We packed up our suitcases, and headed to the bus for a nice drive to Cavillon, France. We will be staying there for the next couple of days. It was about a 5 hour drive, with stops for bathroom and lunch breaks. Though 5 hours was fairly long, it was nothing to us. Nothing compared to the overnight flight we went on to get from Atlanta to Spain. When we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and took a short break. We then went out to have dinner, and finished up our day. It was at dinner, where something amazing happened. A little background first. As our massive tour bus rolled into a town near Cavillon, we could not help but notice the subtle looks of surprise from citizens in the area. We were told they had never seen a tour bus like that. When we exited the bus, they were met by a second site they had never seen before. Feeling the polite, yet curious and inquisitive looks from bystanders, we went into a restaurant for dinner. Dinner was good, and the atmosphere was relaxing and rewarding after the pace we had set the previous days. Somehow, the idea was raised to thank the restaurant staff by standing up and performing a song for them! Imagine this, we are at dinner, in normal clothes, looking like any random group of American high school kids. People outside had forgotten about us, with some people dining outside paying little attention. But then, we stood up and sang “Walk Together Children” in not nearly perfect pitch nor harmony by Jeanne’s standards, yet quite effectively! Suddenly, people dining outside were glued to the window to catch a glimpse and hear more of us! When we finished, the kitchen staff came out and clapped . When we went outside, those people clapped! The people in this region of France were turning out to have a completely different level of choral music appreciation! It was a light and easy day and I could tell that we really enjoyed it. What a perfect way to end a restful catch up day!
July 6, 2022: Why we sing.
After another early start, Anita escorted us onto the bus, and taught us a little history about the Romans, which complemented what many of us had learned in school. She said that the Romans traveled to a lot of places in Europe, and were very advanced for their time. They were known for building many amazing and wondrous things which people still go and see today. One of the most well known things that they liked to build were arenas and amphitheaters, where they put on plays and skits. We were going to go and see one of the best preserved Amphitheaters in a town called Nimes. When we got to Nimes, we went outside and walked around for a while. As we walked, we saw a carousel, which drew the attention of a lot of us. We couldn’t keep our heads looking forward, because we were all so focused on the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. There was also this big fountain with many statues on it. If you went near it, you would be sprayed by the mist of the water that flowed down from the top. As we approached the amphitheater, our eyes became filled with excitement and anticipation. For in front of us was a huge building made of stone, that we knew was made centuries ago, yet it still stood in front of us that day. We walked inside, and waited for Anita to let us go and explore. When she gave us the “go ahead”, we immediately went and toured the area. As we walked, we saw an opening which would lead us to the sitting area and a modern day stage??? What? Yes! So well preserved and functional was this amphitheater that is still used today. We walked there excitedly, and were greeted with the sun almost blinding our eyes, and a gentle breeze from the wind hitting our faces. The view was absolutely stunning and too wide to fit into any single photograph from our phones! There were many rows of added wooden seats, on top of concrete from the Romans, each row higher than the other. At the bottom, there was a stage with speakers that were spread on it. We turned around, and climbed to the very top. At the end of the climb, our legs were tired, but it was well worth it because of the view that we were greeted with. We could see the entire arena, and if we turned around, we could see the beautiful scenery of Nimes. The breeze hit our faces, and the sun brightened our smiles. We loved it. When it was time to go, we climbed down and we went to the bus. Not before trying out our vocals within the acoustic hallways. Later on, we would perform our first concert in Pertuis, France, and we strived to make a good impression.
When it was getting close to performance time, we got changed, and sat down in the audience chairs. It turns out, there was another choir who was going to perform before us. It also turns out, churches in Europe do not have air conditioning! We sat down, and listened to the other choir sing, and found ourselves silently jamming along with them, sweating though. They sang some pretty fun songs, and their talent was pretty good as well. When the audience cheered for them, we lined up, for it was now our turn to perform. Fortunately, there were a lot less nervous faces among us this time.
As we were singing, the audience were gazing upon us with happiness written on their faces. It seemed like they were hearing the most beautiful sound in the world, and their hearts were touched with pure joy. When we finished our performance, we were given a standing ovation. They clapped, and they kept clapping. When we asked them if they wanted an encore. They happily agreed, and sat down, excitingly waiting for us to sing. We sang the song, “Why We Sing” as our encore, and they gave us ANOTHER standing ovation, and applauded. They kept applauding for us, as we exited, and headed onto the bus. Looking out the window, there were people who were standing outside of their houses and they were cheering for us as well. Some of us were exclaiming that they had tears in their eyes as they sang, which was not surprising at all. Jeanne looked at us, and told us that this concert was the best concert she has conducted with our group. That made us even more proud of ourselves. Our hearts had been touched, and our smiles were big and wide. We had completely forgotten about the heat. We love it when we make others happy, and when we can spread our joy around that comes from singing to those who listen. This is why we do what we do. This is why we sing.
July 7, 2022 These are NOT spectators
This morning, we checked out of the hotel, moving from Cavaillon to Provence so that we would be near the site of the competition. Once we arrived in Provence, we checked into the hotel and prepared to attend the opening ceremony of the competition. Once we got to the ceremony, we were welcomed in with a nice dinner. We ate and conversed, and overall it was a satisfying meal. After the meal, we took our seats in a packed audience of over 700 people and waited for the ceremony to start. The entire audience was competitors from other choirs! Spectators could only be seen crowding the fence surrounding the seating area. They opened the ceremony with the song, “Uptown Funk” which we all jammed and sang too. Looking around us, there were many different choirs that were from different countries. It was easy to tell where they were from, because of the many flags they were holding. Later on in the ceremony, the judges of the competition were being introduced. There was a slight gasp throughout the crowd, and there were many nervous faces and ominous sounding music was played during the intros. When they finished introducing the judges, they informed us that they would now be calling all of the choral directors up onto the stage. We all looked at each other and started planning, for we knew that Jeanne would eventually be called. As each director went up, we got into position. Finally, they called her name, and we jumped up, cheered and clapped and screamed to the top of our lungs. We may not have had a flag like everyone else, but we made sure we stood out and gave Jeanne all of the love we could. Jeanne is someone that we look up to, and is someone that we love. So we gave it our all. We had a lot of fun during that emotionally outpouring moment! At the end of the ceremony, they once again played the song, “Uptown Funk.” All of the other choirs were leaving, but our choir decided to be polite and leave last to reduce crowding. We sang our hearts out to that song, from beginning to end. We even got a couple of high fives from some people who watched us. It was overall a great day, even with all of the nervousness from the ceremony. But, that jam to “Uptown Funk” at the end, was the cherry on top of the sundae.
July 8, 2022: A boat ride through Calanques.
After going through our normal morning routine, Anita escorted us onto the bus. While riding, Anita explained that we would be treated to an hour boat ride throughout Calanques. When we got to our destination, to our surprise, we got to take a small train to get to the dock. As the train arrived, the overall mood of the group was pretty pleasant, for a nice small ride was a much better alternative than walking. When the train took us to the dock, we got off and slowly boarded the boat. We all took our seats, and off we went. As the water splashed the boat, we could smell the sea breeze as it hit our face. As the boat ride went on, we did not stop anywhere. But we did slow down in certain areas to sightsee. There was this one beach that we rode by. There were kids playing, people swimming, and the tide moving things back and forth. What made the beach stand out was the clearness of the water. You could see right to the bottom, including schools of colorful fish. We saw several people dive off of nearby cliffs into the clear blue water below. Before we knew it, an hour had gone by and the boat took us back to the dock. We left, and again went on the train. Some of us hit our heads while walking in, which was a painful but hilarious experience, but overall the train ride was nice. Once we got off the train, we were escorted back onto the bus and we headed back to the hotel. Later that day, we would be performing another concert.
When it came around the time to perform, we ate dinner and put on our uniforms and lined up. We ended up having to sit in the audience first again, for another choir was going to perform before us. When they performed, they actually sounded amazing. The echoes of the church made them sound even better. They deservedly got a standing ovation from the audience. When it was our turn to perform, we got up and lined up, putting a confident look on our faces. We got up on the risers, and we performed our songs, and the audience loved our performance. We got a standing ovation, and we even got to sing our encore. It was overall an amazing concert.
When we left and went on the bus, we laughed and conversed about the concert. Jeanne went to the speaker on the bus and told us that she was proud of us, which made us smile. But, then told us something that made reality smack us in the face. She told us that the choir that went before us was competing in the same competition, but in a different age group. They already went and competed, but got second place. They were disappointed in themselves, but of course were good sports about it. When we heard them, they sounded amazing, but yet when competing they still got second place. We all knew that Jeanne would not personally be upset with us if we didn’t get first place. In fact, she would be proud of us no matter what because she knew that we worked hard. But when all is said and all is done, our group, along with Jeanne, are very competitive. Competition was going to take place the next day, and we yearned to win first place.
Stay tuned for Part III!
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