Monday, March 23, 2009

Goodbye Chicago, we're taking the sun with us!

Sometime during the night, a strange wind came out of the north and shed tears of sorrow on the land. It must have known that LIGHT was leaving and taking the sun back to Arizona. By the time we left the hotel, the rain had stopped, but the wind was a-blowing cold. We had a few hours before we needed to be at the airport, so downtown we went and Tim let everyone go shopping (in small groups of course). There was the Hershey Store, Bloomingdale's, The Nike Town, the Water Tower Mall, H&M, Disney, Saks and a host of other interesting sites and places to shop. A lot of downtown has buildings that are nearly 100 years old. On the way to the airport, we filmed another session for the music video that we had started back in Nauvoo. And after everyone had checked their bags, they went outside to the sidewalk and we filmed a little more. Yeah, we had an audience with the usual look of "What are these crazy kids doing?" We almost made it through security without a hitch, but Sis. Thurber got pulled out for carrying an 'unknown substance'. The Feds went quickly to work to try and find the powder's origin and thwart another evil plan to blow up . . . something. After a detailed analysis, it was determined that the powder in question was hot cocoa mix -- the non-explosive variety. They released her with a stern warning to always carry marshmallows when traveling with hot cocoa. We finally boarded and found our seats and then waited for two volunteers to leave the plane because of an overbooked flight. So we sat there awhile until finally we had our two and then we were on our way. In Phoenix, we were met by a host of family members with signs, placards and hurrahs for LIGHT. It really is good to be back home where every other meal is NOT pizza and having a coat on standby is a silly notion.

There is much fear in this world over the economic situation.  Many people have given way to cynicism, believing that the world and our country is now doomed because of corruption in the highest levels of government.  There are those who preach doom and gloom because it sells newspaper or it furthers an unrighteous agenda.  I have spent the last 7 days with a group of people who represent everything that is good about this day and about this great country.  It is this writer's opinion that the future of our world and our country should not be in question.  Oh there will be hard times ahead, that I am sure of.  But we will survive because we will have placed the mantle of leadership upon the shoulders of our fair sons and daughters.   Look into their eyes and you will see the future - bright, hopeful and secure in their role to usher in the the second coming of Christ.  This group of young people is simply wonderful. To rub shoulders with them for a week in close quarters was a most pleasurable and uplifting experience. I love them. I love them all. They are my friends.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

EOI - Chicago Style

At last, a day of rest! We actually didn't have to be anywhere until 12:00 noon. However, when we arived at the church, they had already started 30 min. earlier. So we gathered all 60+ of us in the RS Room and started song rehearsal for the Evening of Inspiration later on. At 12:40, we had to leave because it was needed for class. Subsequently, we moved to the chapel and rehearsed there until it was time for the next sacrament meeting to start. We stayed on for the Buffalo Grove 3rd Branch (YSA). We more than doubled their attendance and we were asked to sing the intermediate hymn. The kids sang "I Believe in Christ" I think they just about blew them away. After the meeting, we stayed behind and had a 2 hour testimony meeting. We could have gone longer, but we had to stick with the schedule at least once today. Many good testimonies were shared and the spirit was wonderful. We had heard earlier that you can't fix stupid, but we learned today that LIGHT can fix stupid.
We ended at 5:00 and had a tasty lunch that the LIGHT Mommas had prepared (BBQ pork sandwiches, salad and nachos). Dean, our driver, rushed the kids back to the hotel and they changed into their fireside clothes and then rushed back. There were many from the stake that had come; some from far away. They put on a beautiful performance and we heard great talks from Larissa, Parker and Erica. The spirit was very strong there and it affected many of the kids while they were singing. It was very touching to see the spirit working on the congregation. Before we left, we were culturally enlightened with a presentation of the "Skirt Dance" by some of the beautiful LIGHT ladies (see video below). Afterwards, we drove by the Chicago temple and oohed and aahed. It looks almost like a stake center. It was locked up for security reasons and so we didn't get to walk around. Later on, there was a special screening in the Allred's home theater of LIGHT's show from yesterday's competition and a bonus feature of yesterday's rehearsal in the pool. I didn't know that our hotel room could accomodate 40+ people. It's a good thing they all love each other!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"I'm Just a Singer in an Underwater Band" and other aquatic phenomenon

Before I go into today's entry, many people have asked if anyone is reading this blog. So far, I have had only two people send responses. The kids need to know if you are reading this. If you are, then send a short response. I'll pass it on to them. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

The kids have worked so hard for so long and have been drilled for some very long hours. Coming to the end of a long week, Tim realized that the kids needed to have some real fun and "lighten" up a bit. So . . . this morning's rehearsal was held in the hotel swimming pool. Talk about fun. If you know the competition set at all, you realize that some moves are at the floor level (think Singer in a rock and roll band where the girls in front are lying down and the guys are using their legs as a microphone). When it was time for those moves, all you could see were bubbles and a leg sticking out of the water. Yeah, it was a major source of great laughter and fun for all. Unfortunately, the camera man (me) was backing up for a cool shot and stepped into the spa. Fortunately, only up to the knee and only one leg. The pool is enclosed in glass and one can see in from the outside. Needless to say, we attracted quite an audience, including a few directors of other show choirs. All they could do was shake their heads. I'm sure their kids will give them grief over not letting them use the pool before a competition. Later, at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, the first competition category was unisex (all girl). I must pause here and describe the theater. It was built in 1928 and is in the old style of the day with heavy ornamentation, and gold leaf everywhere. It is gorgeous. Now back to the show. LIGHT was third in the rotation after the all-girl sets and did very, very well. There were eight mixed choirs and out of those eight, six were selected for the finals. We were not picked. There were a few long faces and even a tear or two. We enjoyed a great buffet put on by FAME and then took our seats for the finals. We watched until the end and then they had the awards ceremony. We received a bronze statue of a lion (kinda greenish). We're still looking for a name for it. On the ride back to the hotel, Tim told us what really happened with the judging. The judge who is one of the best choreographers of his kind in the nation gave us 9's. The judge who is not a choreographer gave us 7's. Doesn't make sense does it? We were only one point away from 4th place and lost out by 2/10's of a point. There were other judging inconsistencies that we had no control over, but the kids were awesome and should be very proud of how well they did.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sing, dance and elevate ourselves to new heights

After another great breakfast (omelets made to order), we packed up the kids and drove to the stake center and rehearsed for awhile and then headed over to Northwestern University. The Competition Choirs were to sing in the Alice Millar chapel there on campus. This chapel was full of the most incredible stained glass you have ever seen. Our competition was very, very good and our kids sang so very well also. In the end, we won 3rd place to some very well rehearsed choirs. After it was all over, they wanted to sing in the chapel just for fun (the acoustics there were phenomenal). They sang the first part of Kyrie (just to hear the echo) and "I Believe In Christ". The adjudicator came down and posed with the kids. They gave him a pass-along card. You never know who will be touched by what these kids sing. FAME Events hosted a dance party at a club (Excaliber) in downtown Chicago for all the show choir participants. The room was VERY crowded with lots of dancers. When it was over, LIGHT scrambled out fast and boarded the bus and we next visited the SEARS Tower. The elevators travel at 18 mph and took us to the 99th floor where there was an observation deck. There we could see all of Chicago in four directions. What an incredible view. This was at 7:30 pm and the lights of the streets and buildings were all aglow. They kicked us out at 8:00 and loaded up once for the trip back to the hotel. On the way back, we were entertained by a lecture from Obama, Tim's finger puppet. Obama indicated a 'change' was necessary and that it included a stop for some food. An unsuspecting McDonalds was descended upon for 50 ice cream cones. They actually ran out and had to start a new batch. Outside, before the last leg of our trip, there was a Chubby Buddy eating contest. With everyone in a circle, each was given a Mexican marshmallow (you know, the ones that are as big as a baseball) and they had to eat it as quick as they could. The results were . . . umm . . . interesting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's called windy for a reason

Can you believe it? Everyone was on the bus and ready to go at 8:00 am. That must be a record somewhere. We rode our 4+ hours to the Chicago area and stopped for lunch near O'Hare. To get there, however, we had a to stop along the way and play just a little bit. One of the rest stops had an actual playground with swings, teeter totter and a few other odds and ends. We ran into heavy traffic and resolved to use the time rehearsing songs. After a goat rope of a time trying to find the stake center, we finally arrived and quickly set up to run through the show. Steve was there as well as Liz to round out the complement of instructors/band members. The weather was 36 degrees outside. The breeze made it even colder. Suddenly, we packed it all on the stage and Dean took us downtown to a pizza buffet called Giordano's. Wow. It was good Chicago style and deep dish. We were running late as it was, and so we had only 30 minutes to eat because we had to be at our next destination before 8:00. The local police on the street held up traffic for us so we could board quickly and head on over to see The Blue Man Group. Three guys with blue faces and hands wearing black jump suits (they are percussionists) drum to anything and after seeing this show, you will never look at jello or twinkies quite the same anymore. The same goes for restroom paper towels, marshmallows and Cap'n Crunch. If you wear a hearing aid, leave it at the door. You won't need it. My head is still pounding. I guess the question of the night is: Was that vanilla pudding squirting out of their suits? After some photo ops with the blue guys, we loaded up and found our hotel around 11:30 pm. The temperature was 29 degrees. Brrr.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carthage and then a Rendezvous

After breakfsat, we boarded the bus and drove to Carthage to visit the jail and visitors center there. While we waited for the tour, the gathering room was filled with wonderful music as your LIGHT kids sang the songs of Zion. We first saw a video about the martyrdom and then were taken to the jail and learned about the living conditions that existed in 1844. We visited two jail cells, one for small crimes and a heavy duty one upstairs for more serious offences. We learned that because of the heat of the day, the jailor had let Joseph and company stay in his bedroom upstairs so they could be more comfortable. While the jailor was away, the mob gathered and began to shoot. We saw the bullet hole in the door and pock marks where bullets had landed. It was a very sombering scene as we contemplated what really happened there almost 165 years ago. We walked the floor where Hyrum fell dead from a single shot to his face and peered from the window to the ground below where Joseph had fallen after receiving mortal wounds. After leaving the jail, we lingered outside, took pictures and then ran next door for some lunch.
As we boarded the bus for the return trip, Dean, our personal LIGHT bus driver, let people know not to walk in front of the bus while boarding. A well-timed hand on the air horn for unsuspecting people provided quite a few laughs. When we returned to Nauvoo, Tim ran a well-needed rehearsal and the kids added some new notes to the songs that had here-to-fore been missing.
At 5:00 we gathered at the Hotel Nauvoo where we engaged a challenging buffet. I'm not sure who won, but the food was good and plentiful. You'd be in heaven if you loved ribs. At 7:00, we went to the Nauvoo Cultural Hall and watched a presentation called "Rendezvous". It was put on by the senior missionaries and was full of drama and song as we heard about the life of several people as they lived in and ultimately were obliged to leave Nauvoo (willingly, of course, because they had to). It was a very funny show and most enjoyable. If you come to Nauvoo, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

To the temple and then a show

The day started out with a wonderful breakfast buffet. With tummys satisfied, the girls (and a few boys) were bused over to the visitors center where we watched a video on the founding of Nauvoo. We were also able to see several displays about life in Nauvoo in the mid 1800's. On display is the monument to women depicting the many beautiful and God-given attributes of women. At 11:00, the girls were in the temple doing baptisms in the largest baptismal font in the church - a replica of the one that the prophet Joseph prescribed for the original temple. It is 16 ft X 9 ft. At 1:00, the boys came for baptisms. Some of the adults did initiatory or an endowment session. When we weren't in the temple, we were sight-seeing and sampling some of the food in the area. At 3:30 we headed for the stake center and prepped for the show. At 5:30, a load of pizza arrived and LIGHT had another fun time with food. We had some very good flavors - taco, bacon cheese burger, BBQ beef, etc.. At 7:00, the show started to a room of over 100 people that had gathered from the community. Many of them were couple missionaries assigned to Nauvoo. After the show, Celeste explained the meaning of the F word (hint: focus).