The permission forms were handed in, the chaperones prepped for their duties, the buses hired, the hotel booked, the music practiced up to a high shine. Everything was ready for Seton's biannual out-of-town music festival trip – and then, for the day prior to departure for Charleston, SC, the weather forecast promised snow: not a little, but a lot.
Would we be able to get out of town at all? How would all 160 or so participants be kept updated about the status of the trip? Thanks to Sr. Ellen Marie's bottomless capacity for organization, the school website posted updates as we followed the progress of the storm, worked with the bus company, and determined that we WOULD get out of town on Thursday morning as scheduled. As a fail-safe, Sr. Dorothy was on phone duty at the office to handle last-minute calls from nervous parents.
Our three full coach buses pulled out later than originally planned, but three full-length movie DVDs and two meal stops later, we arrived at our hotel in Charleston. The competitive part of the trip was to take place on Saturday, so we had Friday for sightseeing.
Our fist destination was Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The boat trip to the island was the first of the day, and Seton students were among the volunteers who had the honor of helping to raise the American flag over the fort before touring the grounds and visiting the museum. Our next stop was for lunch followed by time to explore the Charleston Central Market: several blocks of covered stalls selling a variety of handcrafted items (they may have run out of earrings after Seton's enthusiastic visit).
We headed back to our hotel to change for dinner and our evening's entertainment: a professional touring production of the Broadway show "Beautiful," based on the life story and music of Carole King. Although the students are a couple of generations away from the time when King's songs were familiar, the unanimous verdict was that the show was wonderful.
Choir rehearsal took place in one of the hotel conference rooms at 8:30am – twenty minutes per choir with a very well prepared local accompanist whom we'd met for the first time – at 8:30 am on Saturday morning. As part of the preparation for the trip, Dr. Vadala searched for Catholic high schools in the Charleston area, and got an accompanist recommendation by the choir director of Bishop England Catholic High School.
Our six ensembles performed well for the three adjudicators, who provided written comments and also in-person suggestions for future consideration. We scrambled out of concert attire and into casual clothes for our next stops: Saturday evening mass, and then the Festival dinner on a riverboat. With time to spare before our riverboat cruise, our bus drivers found a beautiful state park where we had time to stretch our legs and enjoy the warm weather.
The riverboat cruise was a wonderful conclusion to our Charleston experience: the views of sunset on the water were breathtaking, the dinner was delicious, and the DJ on the lower deck provided plenty of entertainment. Another school that participated in the festival learned some new dance moves from our Seton girls! The stars had come out when we left the riverboat for our overnight bus journey home. A good time was had by all!