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Lutes sing their way through the Southwest on Choir of the West tour

Posted by: Date: March 13, 2017 In: ,
Kiana Norman-Slack '17 stands in front of the Choir of the West tour bus during the Southwest tour in January. (Photo courtesy of Norman-Slack)

Kiana Norman-Slack ’17 stands in front of the Choir of the West tour bus during the Southwest tour in January. (Photo courtesy of Norman-Slack)

By Kiana Norman-Slack '17
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (March 13, 2017)- Hop on my pink tour bus and let me tell you about the craziest days I experienced this past January — or the days we called the Choir of the West Southwest Tour (for hashtag purposes, #COWthwesternTour).

Over 11 days, we traveled to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We all joked about how it wasn’t technically the Southwest, but we were all really excited to get out of the cold for a little bit. I had never been to Phoenix before this trip, so I was most excited to see what Arizona was all about.

We had a very full schedule for this tour: 18 high school and college exchanges as well as six concerts for a grand total of 24 performances. A choral exchange is exactly what it sounds like: at each high school or college we attended, we met the choir, sang a few songs from our program for them, and listened to them sing something for us. After this was Sascha Julian’s cue. Julian is a former member of COW, a recent graduate of PLU and now an admission counselor for the university.

Julian got to hang out with us on tour and at each exchange. She quickly set up admission tables (or her “pom-pom” tables, as she dubbed them) near the door of each location and briefly talked to the students about PLU and what their options are if they are interested in pursuing music here. At the end of each exchange, we would all sing a song together, have a little Q&A and depart for the next activity (which was usually another exchange).

The Choir of the West

PLU Christmas featuring Angela Meade with the Choir of the West, the University Chorale and the University Orchestra Richard Nance conducting at PLU on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
Learn more about COW

Come Day Five, we were all starting to feel it. We had this difficult repertoire, all of which were very big sings, and doing them over and over again with the same energy as the last time began to get a little exhausting. So much so that, well, guess who lost her voice?

I know. How ridiculous, right? I go on a choir tour, and I almost immediately lose my voice. You can obviously understand my frustration and extreme sadness. Not being able to fully support my fellow choristers crushed me, and with barely any time to rest, I had to take advantage of all those long bus rides and sleep to conserve what was left of my voice. From this whole ordeal, though, I learned the wonders of what a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar can do in a steaming 8 oz. cup of Throat Coat.

Choir of the West on tour
Choir of the West at one of their exchanges during the Southwest tour in January. (Photo courtesty of Kiana Norman-Slack '17)

The tour wasn’t all work and no play. We had a few free afternoons and evenings, and with some pretty fun stuff planned. When we stopped in Vegas, we went to Treasure Island and caught the Cirque du Soleil show, “Mystère.” It was definitely a show to remember — vibrant and strange and beautiful all at the same time. My favorite part included a funny male trapeze artist dancing in a fluorescent speedo.

Our next free day was our second day in Vegas, and a big group of us decided to go hang out along the Strip. We also had the option to hang back at our hotel and take advantage of the amenities there: a TGI Friday’s, a cute cocktail bar, slots, you name it. In hindsight, I probably should have stayed back at the hotel to rest my voice, but it’s Vegas. I mean, can you blame me?

Our favorite free day took place in California at — you guessed it — Disneyland. After our time in Vegas ended, we embarked on the five-hour drive to Anaheim, where we literally dropped our things at the hotel and headed straight for the park. Once we arrived around 2 p.m., we had until the parks closed to run around and do whatever we wanted.

"Overall, this trip kept us up very late and singing a lot. We were extremely exhausted and ready to go home by time it was done, but it was probably the most fulfilling trip I’ve ever taken."- Kiana Norman-Slack '17

A number of us were determined to hit every single ride, while others just floated around and people-watched. I vowed to do two things and succeeded: get on my all-time favorite ride, Indiana Jones, and finally try a Dole Whip Float. I left the park that night feeling very content…and hoarse.

We stayed in some pretty nice hotels for most of the trip, but homestays were an important part of our tour. I had never done a homestay before coming to PLU. Luckily now, after completing my first one in 2015 during a University Chorale tour, staying in a stranger’s home didn’t seem as scary.

Homestays are important because they allow us to get to know the community, and vice versa. My homestay partner and I enjoyed staying up a bit after the concert and just talking with our homestay family. We exchanged pictures of our animals, talked about our common likes and dislikes, and discussed the most important part of life — breakfast.

The last night of the tour, we were privileged to stay with some of PLU’s donors in their beautiful homes, experiences we all raved about during our ride to the airport.

Overall, this trip kept us up very late and singing a lot. We were extremely exhausted and ready to go home by time it was done, but it was probably the most fulfilling trip I’ve ever taken. I couldn’t have asked to share it with a better group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been as close with a group of people than I am with this choir — including our fearless leader and director, Richard Nance. This trip was the perfect way to ring in my final semester at PLU.

See a snapshot of the choir’s tour below.

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