June 21, 2006
Today in St. Louis it was hot and sticky, as usual, but the weather
was crowned by glorious blue skies. In the early morning hours, some
of the early arrivals toured the campus.
There are dozens of modern bronze statues and statue groups scattered
about the campus. Many are of young adults in naturalistic poses. A
few statue groups are depicted reading classic books, like The Secret
Garden. Some show children at play, practicing on instruments or releasing
Fountains almost outnumber the statues – the splashing of water
can be heard throughout the area. One fountain cascades down a series
of shallow steps. Naturally, the kids “discovered” it after
dinner and splashed on in. Another fountain rings the brick clock tower
and shoots jets of water into the air. Yet another spouts water through
the mouths of a school of leaping porpoises.
Every few steps, a visitor will find a pocket park, a quiet reading
spot, tucked away between mounds of flowers and hostas, and gently shaded
by a nearby tree.
The campus is a mix of Victorian brownstone “robber baron”
mansions with incredibly detailed roofs, columns and archways, blended
with late 2nd millennium student villas – nice one room apartments
We’re staying in De Mattias Hall aka “De Mat” –
a dorm that houses all the campus fraternities and sororities. Though
outdated at about 35 years of age, it’s still in good condition.
down to work
Chaperones began arriving last night and through the morning. Most made
it to the chaperone orientation session at 11:30 a.m.
The section in the cafeteria that had been set aside for UUCC was very
lonely last night, but by lunchtime it was beginning to look like old
home week. There were several chaperones from UUCC ’03 in Boston
who re-upped for this GA. They were busy comparing notes and updates.
The choristers straggled in by twos and threes through the afternoon.
As they checked in, they looked around the amazing rehearsal space on
the second floor of De Mattias Dorm on the University of St. Louis campus.
Because of the configuration of the ceiling and the shaped of the room,
the space, a former chapel, has an incredible sound.
Some kids have never used a key before, nor slept in a dorm room. So,
“moving in” was quite an experience. More than one child
managed to get locked out of their room. By Sunday, they’ll all
remember to wear their key and nametag at all times!
Shortly after their arrival, the kids were introduced to each other
via an icebreaker session. Turns out 7/8 play or have played an instrument.
A fair number were not born within US borders. A handful have unusual
pets and another handful have written and performed their own songs.
Their first rehearsal this evening was uplifting. The kids studied and
practiced hard before they got here – and it shows.
That session was followed in quick order by a thoughtful worship service,
led off by singing Tibetan bowls.
By 9:30 p.m., most of the kids were in bed with the lights out –
and the rest were there shortly after!
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Most of the family groups now have names organized around letters of
the alphabet. The B-52s, F-Troop (that’ll date ya!), G-Whizzes,
J-Birds and so on.
The hour-and-a-half rehearsal this morning was “goose bump”
time, according toSandra Snow, the Choir Director.
Afterwards, kids either went into more intensive practice with their
section – Alto, Soprano I or Soprano II – or they had fun
in an activity class learning about bell-ringing or the basics of drama.
The drama kids learned a little about “improv,” “freeze
switch,” and timing. Plus they’re learned it’s okay
to be a little silly.
After lunch, it was quiet time for 30 minutes. There were a few complaints,
but it did get quiet shortly.
In the afternoon, they headed back for another 90 minutes of rehearsal.
The kids who practiced in their section in the morning, then got to
go off to drama or bell-ringing.
Snow is an Associate Professor in the School of Music at Michigan
State University with appointments in conducting and music education.
Her high level of energy, enthusiasm, has brought joy, spirit, and a
positive energy to the challenging and sometimes long rehearsals. Chaperones
have commented that Sandra is "a magician", working wonders
with the children.