(Thursday a.m., Tolose, Spain)
(Correction) I think I misspelled Renaissance yesterday. If I did and you caught it, you win a prize. We crossed the boarder between France and Spain about 5.15 pm this afternoon (Wednesday). Tonite (Wed), I am writing without an internet connection here in Tolose, so by the time you read this it will be tomorrow so…think of it as an late Wednesday, early Thursday edition. Quite frankly, I have no idea what day it is. So if I write Thursday’s in the evening when I usually write these things, you can have it for reading around your dinner hour. Confused? Join the crowd. I changed my desk-top picture to feature a statue of St. Denis outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It shows him flanked by two angels while he is holding his head in his hands. You know how the story goes I imagine. Well he had his head chopped off, he picked his head up and carried it 3 miles before he died. Looks like the angels are thinking “What the….?” The angel on the left seems to be leading the way. Interesting to say the least. Inspirational in these trying times? You bet. So even if you lose your head, you can still make it to Peet’s coffee for a quick espresso.
Where was I, oh yeah, Bordeaux and the Mercure Hotel…great breakfast this morning. The shower was a challenge. My shower head was facing the wall and since I was still half asleep, I turned it on and showered the ceiling. My before-coffee state registered that it was raining in the bathroom. Odd I thought, but it is France after all and who am I to question?
Our morning’s agenda was to record a couple of tunes at a magnificent old church down the street. The Eglise Ste. Croix is an 11th century abbey church that is a wonder. It is a combination of Gothic with a Romanesque façade. Gabe set up his magical equipment trying to get the best capture in this vaulted venue (my alliteration for the day, thank you). After warming up and waiting every once in a while for tourists to exit, they began to sing. You will hear the result on the CD, but I have to say now as a former member of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, they were not only good, they were very good. No, they were superb! I was getting all misty in my chair in the back of the church. Clear, beautiful and singing as one. Stunning.
Brought down to earth too soon, we were off to points south at 11.30 and a visit to the Pilat dunes dunes 40 km outside of Bordeaux. Everyone, including Jorge, our bus driver climbed the stairs to the top of the biggest dune. I, alas, chose not too. I am a party pooper. That’s where we had lunch and laughed about stupid stuff. It was a beautiful place in the woods not far from the sea. Alas, as travelers we were on the move again for our final leg of the day to Tolosa, in the Pyrenees in Spain. The kids slept most of the way from the dunes to the Spanish border. Being the mean person that I am, I got on the bus P.A. and announced to the folks that we were about to cross the border. I also gave them a brief back story to the Pyrenees and intro to Ignatian country.
We arrived in Tolosa just as a soft rain began to fall and checked into our hotel. Tolosa is in a valley surrounded by steep hills and is Basque. All the signs are in two languages, Spanish and Basque. Ok, enough history. After the kids got settled we all got together for our almost-mid-trip “check-in” circle discussion. We did this the first trip two years ago and it seemed to pull people together. This group, however, has a different dynamic, a calmer more introspective dynamic. This is all good. Groups of teens are different and no two are exactly the same. We went around the room and each had a chance to tell the others how they felt before the tour and how they felt now. As an observer and also a participant, I was moved by their depth and commitment not only to the music they were singing, but to each other. It was truly moving. We then dived into a beautiful steak dinner provided by the hotel. I am honored and proud to have been asked to shlep along with them. Much of the credit for the spirit of the group needs to be given to Chad, the director. I can see his influence clearly.
After so many days one would think that the music would get old and one would hear the exhausted singers trying their best. Not so. With each venue, whether in a church or under the Eiffel Tower, they just keep getting better and better.
Tomorrow brings a day of recording here in Tolosa in the medieval church then off to Azpeitia and the birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola.
Oh, did I tell you I got lost in Tolosa wandering around for about a hour and a half? Another story for another time…More later.
and so we sing…