To the Editor:
It was one year ago when a volcano in Iceland disrupted air travel throughout much of Europe and around the globe and turned the Minnesingers’ long-awaited European performance tour into ashes.
The tour, two years in the preparation, would have taken the singers and dancers to Prague in the Czech Republic to perform for the European audiences. Instead, the trip had to be canceled. Work began immediately to reschedule for the following year and the process also began to create a new show.
And, here we are, one year later. The Minnesingers and their support group have just returned from an incredible journey and the trip of a lifetime for these young entertainers. They sang their hearts out to the citizens of Prague and Paris. They performed in their schools and in their churches, cathedrals, and synagogues. They sang in their iconic city squares, on their famous bridges, in their restaurants, in the Metro (subway), and on the river Seine in Paris and on the Vitava (Moldau) river in Prague. They sang on at the gates of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. These ambassadors delivered a message of peace, harmony, and love. And when they performed, the audiences smiled and applauded with appreciation, or shed a tear of joy.
The tour was a well planned and orchestrated balance, on the one hand between the hard but enjoyable work of rehearsals, sound and stage preparation, and traveling to venues, and on the other hand, the opportunity to soak in the culture, interact with citizens from other countries, and go shopping. They sang traditional choral arrangements and performed numbers from American Broadway musicals. They traveled with formal dress and dance costumes and hauled their own sound systems and technical equipment. It all came together because they melded into a team of mutual support and camaraderie.
Their support group, the chaperones, acting as dutiful shepherds watching over their precious flock, melded into a team of their own and brought their individual talents to bear — handling finances, taking care of any medical issues, accompanying on the piano, directing the choreography, dealing with costuming, handling the sound and technical requirements, conducting and directing the productions, and managing an incredibly full schedule.
But most of all, the Minnesingers brought their music and talent. What they left behind were the memories and experiences shared with their many audiences, a real look at America as delivered by our traveling troubadours and a shared appreciation for music, the common ground that transcends cultures. And all the while, they were courteous, respectful as guests, and great fun to be with. As ambassadors, they represented our high school, our beloved and special Island, and America with a character and behavior of which our Island community can be very proud.
Now, after returning from their 7,000 mile journey, the group is back to rehearsing, polishing and perfecting their show to present to their favorite audience of all, their Island families, friends, and neighbors. Two performances are scheduled in the MVRHS Performing Arts Center: Saturday, May 6, at 8 pm and Sunday, May 7, at 3. And so they sing and dance. See you there.
John Wightman is the husband of Jan Wightman,director of the Minnesingers.