Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 5: Mr. Priddy's Texas Boys Choir Argentina Tour Travelogue

Day 5 - May 22, 2012

Today, now yesterday, we had a very full and busy day.  One of the things we try to incorporate into every tour is a visit to local schools.  This morning we departed around 8:30 am and traveled to a Northern Hills, a private school located amidst a forest of tall trees.  The school has a pre-K, K, primary and secondary section, so students may start around the age of 2 and continue through graduation from high school.  We had the boys dress up a bit for this performance because the school requires uniforms.  There was no real auditorium, per say, but we ended up performing in a large meeting space of the high school wing.  Very cramped space.  When I first saw it, I did not know whether we would be able to fit all of the boys into the room.  The students of the school were excited we were there.  The school is bilingual, so I was able to talk about some of the pieces we shared.  But before we sang, their school choir performed two selections.  One was a native piece with various rhythms and harmonies and the second was the spiritual We Shall Overcome.  The we brought the boys into the performing area.  They had a small electronic keyboard for Ms. Lin to use.  It had a foot pedal that kept creeping forward.  During the middle of the Old West Medley, I had to get down on the floor and reposition it for Ms. Lin so that she could continue playing.  But, we were enthusiastically received by everyone.  After our final song, one of the teachers asked for questions from the students.  This was a rather odd time because the students did not really have any questions for the boys.  Eventually they asked about our school day and how much the boys rehearsed, etc. 

We left the performing area and went to a small room where they had set up some refreshments for us.  It was also a time for some of the older students to get to know our guys.  The administrator of the school than invited us to tour their campus.  We proceeded to the youngest student buildings first.  Class sizes here were around 16 per level.  All of the students seemed to be engaged in learning.  We found out that at this school, the teachers, not the students, change classes.  This is a different model than most United States schools, but it works well for this school.

As the tour progressed, you could tell that there was interest between the girls and some of our boys.  Mrs. Blevins finally stepped in and told them to introduce themselves and break the ice.  They did well introducing each other, but then things got quiet again.  Awkward moment...  Eventually, we had to say good bye and load the bus to return to the hotel.   We would see their choir again, because they were to sing on the evening concert with us.

Back at the hotel, we changed into more relaxing attire, divided into color groups, and took to the streets to see Mar del Plato in all of its glory.  First stop.....the Atlantic Ocean.  The hotel was a block from the ocean.  Once we crossed the street and approached the ocean, we could see that there was a market place full of vendors.  Shopping ensued.  The boys were looking for deals.   One pair of red Ray Ban sunglasses purchased, but that was about it for our group.  On to the beach.

The beach is well maintained.  The place we entered had a concrete pier that extended out into the waves.  The waves crashed into the end of the pier and threw spray 10 to 15 feet into the air.  The boys took turns standing near the end of the pier, waiting for a big wave to crash.  Once it did, then someone else took a photo.  The idea was to capture the crash behind the person so that it looks like they are not effected by the power of the wave. It was a beautiful site to wave after wave crash against the pier.  Time was limited, so we proceeded to find a place to eat lunch.  After walking for about another 30 minutes we realized that our choices were quite limited.  Many eating places do not even open until the evening hours.  Of those that are open, few take credit cards, which is what we needed to use today to purchase lunch.  We finally hooked up with Mrs. Blevins group and found a pizza place that would cut us a deal.  We ordered what I thought were pizzas with ham and cheese.  It ended up being chicken fried steak with tomato sauce and melted cheese.  That s a weird sensation when you bite into something thinking it is a pizza and it actually turns out to be a breaded flank steak with sauce and cheese.

We left lunch to return to the hotel to observe a siesta until 5 pm.  We have an extremely early wake up time today (3 am) in order to transport 5 hours back to Buenos Aires to catch our new flight to the Iguazu festival.  We were told two days ago that our original flight had been cancelled and that we were now booked on an earlier flight...hence the early wake up time.  I pretty much decided I would use this time to give you an update.  We will have all morning for the boys to catch up on sleep on the bus.  Plus when we get to Iguazu, we will have time just to lounge around the pool or catch up on sleep in the hotel rooms.  The important thing is to make sure the boys are fully rested before launching into the festival rehearsal and performance schedule on the following day.

Speaking of the boys interacting with other students, the middle and high school boys are very anxious about meeting members of the opposite sex.  One of them asked me tonight if I could predict if they would meet any hot chicks. In fact this apparently has been a topic of conversation amongst the boys for some time, even to the point that they had talked with the Spanish teacher prior to our departure about effective pick up lines with women while traveling in South America.  For your reading pleasure, I have listed the more sedate ones.  Keep in mind these are from the creative minds of mostly high school boys.  Apparently one of these lines has already worked, so I will list it as the most effective.  Here are the top three lines:
3.  I want  your body.
2.  I'm sexy and I know it.
1.  Kiss me, you goddess of love.  (Supposedly worked, but no way to verify.)

Concert that evening:
We performed at the Colon Theatre.  It was very dry acoustically, but had good bones in terms of structure and site lines.  We were provided an electronic keyboard that had some major issues, not the least of which was a sustain pedal that did not work.  Ms. Lin did the best she could, but it was frustrating now having a decent instrument to accompany the boys.  What made it doubly frustrating was that there was an Imperial Boesendorfer Concert Grand backstage that we did not have permission to use.  In case you do not know, this model piano is considered one of the very finest concert grands made in the world today.  Alas....but the boys performed very well.  Following the concert, we were presented with a plaque from the Northern Hills school to commemorate our time with them.

Of course, after the concert we still had not eaten dinner, so we walked from the performing theatre to an Italian restaurant for a 10 pm reservation.  Even for me, this is late eating.  The boys took this in stride.  I kind of felt sorry for the other patrons in the restaurant.  Apparently they thought they were going to partake of a quiet dinner when in walks 40 boys with their chaperones, as well as the production crew with the tour company.  At first is almost seems as if they panic, thinking we are some juvenile delinquent center gone astray.  But then the boys come in and stand behind their chairs, waiting for everyone to find a place.  In unison they sit down.  Yes, they talk at teenage sound levels, but their manners are light years better than most peer groups.  The patrons quickly realize we are not your average group of students and they settle back into their meal rituals.  In talking with our tour host tonight about after concert logistics she related to me that she has done these trips for many years.  Also, that one of the production crew people is a musician that has heard many choirs as well.  The verdict in her opinion is that the boys are one of the finest choral groups she has ever heard in Argentina.  Even for us, the boys are singing at an extremely high artistic level on this trip.  Having audiences that are so enthusiastic has been a great help, but it seems we are evolving to that next level of artistry.  This is good.  I also received a copy of a news article written about the boys today.  It is in Spanish, so I am not sure what was written, but I will share parts of the translation as I am able.

Due to our early departure time this morning, we will eat breakfast en route back to Buenos Aires.  The boys were told to pack before going to bed this tonight so that all they have to do in a few minutes is simply get dressed, drag their duffel bags to the bus, and load.

O.K., it is now five minutes till 3 a.m., which is time for our wake up.  I'm off to call my charges to wake them up and send them down to load the bus.  This has been a very short night and I look forward to the comfy seat on the bus.

For those of you that worry, everything is still good.  The boys are having a wonderful time.  We have experienced so much of the Argentine culture, and we are now ready to relocate in Iguazu to experience the rain forest atmosphere and meet those people from around the world who will become our new friends. 

Bryan Priddy 
Artistic Director 
Texas Boys Choir 

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