Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Which Day of the Week is it?"

The daily routine while traveling on tour is almost invariably: wake up, get on the bus, check into a new hotel, board the bus again, perform a concert, sleep (repeat 20 times). "Which day of the week is it?" is a fairly common question among our ranks during tour. We strive every night to give a heartfelt, memorable performance, but the fast pace and repetitive nature of tour can make the days run together and blur.

Then, suddenly, we'll encounter something or someone that encourages us to stop, clear our heads and take careful notice of our surroundings. Today was full of opportunities to focus on something other than the daily grind! For example, a small group of Sea Chanters drove ahead of the bus from Bethel, Maine, to Keene, N.H. Our drive through the White Mountains took us past what remains of "The Old Man of the Mountain." The "Old Man" was a natural rock formation on Cannon Mountain that formed the shape of a man's face - a profile that is immortalized on New Hampshire's state quarter. The formation collapsed in 2003, and all that remains is a bit of the "Man's" forehead. What struck me while passing the "Old Man" is that many of our current Sea Chanters were lucky enough to see the "Man" in all his former glory just two Northeast tours ago!

When we arrived in Swanzey, N.H., we headed straight for Monadnock Regional High School and spent some time with director Mark Polifrone and his choir students. Their great talent was augmented by their infectious enthusiasm! Our group of Sea Chanters performed a few numbers for the students, and then we were invited to perform with them! Singing amongst these students gave me another reason to pause and think: it wasn't so very long ago that I was in high school choir and dreamed of singing in choir professionally. I didn't know such opportunities existed, and I feel extremely fortunate that I ended up with the Sea Chanters doing what I love every day!

After our concert at MRHS later that evening, we met some of the patrons and had a chance to get to know them a bit. Typically, there are several veterans in our audience. They greet us and share some of their sea stories, and I find it fascinating to consider the individual contributions each veteran made during their career. Last night we met one of the first women ever to be stationed aboard a Navy ship! How brave she must be to have gone where so few women had gone before her! We spoke with a retired Navy chaplain who told us that he had served not one, but two tours in Vietnam. What an important service he provided for our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines and their families during that difficult time in our nation's history.

When I think of the special opportunities this job provides me, the interesting people I meet in each town we visit, the myriad of ways our veterans served, and the amazing, first-hand glimpses of every part of America, I feel especially proud that I get to serve my country doing what I love most: making music! We are grateful to our sponsors for last night's concert and look forward to performing on the rest of our tour!

Musician 1st Class Casey Elliot is the associate musical director of the Sea Chanters.

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