In the summer of 2011, I went on tour with the Amherst College Choral Society to Greece. This musical tour fell during the height of the country’s economic crisis, making our trip more memorable than any of us could’ve guessed. However, that was only one of many unexpected occurrences we encountered in our 10 days of travel.
Our adventure began at 7PM on May 23rd, 2011, when we boarded our red-eye flight bound for London’s Heathrow Airport from JFK in New York. I was more nervous than I can express in words, as this was my first flight – yes, ever. I was stuck between hoping the plane would never leave the ground and wanting to take off immediately just so I could stop very anxiously awaiting the plane’s movement. After a half hour of waiting on the tarmac at JFK, we were informed by the pilot that a volcano in Iceland had just erupted and we were being held until it was confirmed we could safely fly near that area on our way to London. So we sat, waiting for further news, and every half hour like clockwork the pilot would tell us “just another 30 minutes and we’ll be taking off” until many bitten-down nails, impromptu renditions of our choir repertoire, phone calls from my mother, and the entirety of Black Swan later when we were finally cleared for take-off.
Naturally, upon arriving in London, we learned we had missed our connecting flight to Athens and needed to re-book flights for the 68 people in our group. As our director and tour manager hurried off to get in the re-booking line, my choir was the confused mass of college students that could be seen yawning and staring aimlessly off into the vastness of Heathrow Airport. Luckily, a friendly security officer politely corralled us to the side of the large atrium and inquired as to what type of group we were – why we were all traveling together. When he found out we were an American college choir, he got instantaneously giddy and asked us to sing something for him. While we were apprehensive at first, his encouraging words and jubilant grin effectively did their job and we gathered and started singing a song from our repertoire. As we sang, other Heathrow staff, along with scattered travelers began to stop and listen. We received such warm applause after our first song that the excited security officer begged us to sing more. This pattern continued until we had sung through nearly our entire year’s repertoire to a wide variety of enthusiastically engrossed passers-by. Whether they were UK natives, fellow Americans, or people who had no knowledge of the English language whatsoever, the music seemed to speak to them all on a similarly meaningful level. This “event” became tangible proof that music, as they say, is indeed the universal language.
Hours later, I, along with a small group of my fellow singers, boarded a flight to Munich (where we would later reprise the choral part of the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony while locked into a German airport shuttle waiting area), leaving behind scattered groups of our peers scheduled to take various flights eventually leading to Athens, and looking ahead to a multitude of other adventures to come.
The post Expecting the Unexpected in Overseas Performance Travel (Part 1) appeared first on Backstage at Encore Tours.