2016 Greater Colorado Tour – The Prelude Day 3

Good morning you good people. It snowed again last night! We woke up to a beautiful mountain vista covered in white. We’re going to have a bit of a later start today so everyone can get a little more rest and so the snow has a chance to melt off of the roads a bit. With just enough time to pack, Emily arrives at my door to help get my bags downstairs. She’s a very thoughtful lady our Emily. We don’t have an ice scraper in the rental, so I use a broom that I find in the lobby to get the snow off the car. I get 50% on the ground and 50% on me. Oh well, the rental has heated seats.

We are not quite a chipper group of 7 this morning. Danielle is not feeling any better and Ben woke up feeling achy and not his best. We’re looking more and more like the walking wounded and I’m getting really concerned. Though I don’t want to go there, one thing keeps going through my head. Flu. I hope my instinct is wrong. Alaina, Emily, Charles and Will and I are doing our best to chip in, take some slack off of Danielle and Ben and stay positive. We decide to head to Alamosa and find a walk-in clinic there so Danielle can see a doctor. We make a quick coffee run and hit the road. Our hope is that CO 114 is open because it cuts 2-hours off our travel time today. We head that direction and we’re in luck; no “road closed” sign. We take the turn. The scenery gets more and more beautiful as we progress. We drive through canyons and through wide valleys surrounded by snow covered peaks. Ben is in the passenger seat snapping pictures like a mad man. I think he got some really nice shots. As he is occupying that particular seat, he’s also in charge of the music. The selection for today’s drive consists of Beatles hits and Billy Joel. Emily and Alaina keep commenting about how gorgeous the scenery is – well done Colorado. Danielle is resting quietly in the back. Will and Charles are following in the Denali.  They are debating if they should begin a podcast to supplement the blog. You know, something unique and from their vantage point as they follow behind the rental. Well… if they two of them are involved, I can guarantee it will be unique. Will is toying with the title, “Chasing Cherity.” That has not been approved by the management.

CO 114 canyon
Colorado 114 Canyon

So far, the roads have been wet and a little slushy here and there, but not too bad. That starts to change as we get further into the mountain pass. The roads become snow covered and icy. We take it slow and I check my mirror every few minutes to make sure Will and Charles are OK. As we get through the pass, we enter a valley and the road begins to clear again. We make it safely to our first pit stop of this drive. Want to see 7 people pile out of cars in a hurry? Give them coffee and tea and then drive for a few hours. That’ll do the trick every time. Charles is so excited about the drive and how beautiful it is up here he’s literally jumping. I told you, the man likes to jump. While waiting in the queue for the facilities, Emily and I chat about the selection of snacks. She says Cheetos are a cure-all; especially the puffy kind. Hmmm… maybe we should load up. We fill up the Denali, grab some snacks (Cheetos do not make the cut) and Gatorade and get back on the road. Now we’re driving through the high plains and we’re in farm and ranch country. It’s really windy again but we’re on track to get to Alamosa on schedule. Apparently potatoes are a really big deal in this area. We pass farm after farm advertising that they are selling “the best locally grown potatoes.” We even pass the official Potato Commissioner’s Office. I’m thinking of contacting them to see if they can give me the official consensus on whose potatoes are actually the best… We pull into Alamosa and stop for lunch.  Emily has developed a headache. She takes some meds and after a bit feels better which is a big relief.

CO 114
The View from Colorado 114.

After lunch we head over to Adams State University and meet up with the music faculty. We’re shown to the recital hall where the master class will be tomorrow. As we enter, there are students standing there to welcome us and they have a goodie basket and a case of water. Yep – these people know singers! We are completely surprised. What a wonderful welcome and a much needed pick-me-up for the entire group. After getting our bearings, we head over to the theater where we’ re performing Hansel and Gretel tonight and Carmen tomorrow night. It’s at this point when I begin to formulate plans in my head in case I need to make some changes to the performance schedule. My instinct is telling me that I’m going to need to get creative. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

Will and Charles drive the Denali over to the theater and I follow with everyone else in the rental. I drop off Emily, Alaina, and Ben and while they begin the process of unloading and setting up for Hansel and Gretel, I load up Danielle and head to a walk-in clinic so she can see a doctor. It’s busy, so I drop her off and park around back. When I meet her inside she’s getting her paperwork filled out and it’s then I find out two things: the office staff is making her jump through hoops because she has out of network coverage and she’s from out of the state AND there’s a three hour wait, at the minimum. I stand quietly by, trying to lend Danielle my support. It takes more than 20-minutes just to get her checked in and I come close to losing my patience. I just want to get her seen and then get her back to the hotel so she can rest. There are few things worse than being sick while you’re away from home. Through all of this she hasn’t complained. Not once. Finally she’s seated in the waiting area and we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of… the plague. Every person is coughing and clearly feels terrible. There are entire families here that all need to be seen. I load up on hand sanitizer and just try and make sure Danielle is comfortable. While we wait, I check in with Charles to see how load in is going. He replies that they’re pretty much done. After making sure Danielle will be OK by herself for a while, I now head over to grab the others so I can get them checked into the hotel.

Emily strikes a pose
Emily Strikes a Pose.

They’ve done a good job setting up and just a few things need tweaking. Once that’s done – to the hotel we go. Everyone is really wanting some time to rest before the performance. I go inside to check us in while the others unpack the rental. Hold up. It appears we can’t check in yet because the rooms aren’t ready. We have to wait for another 30-minutes. Ben is looking flushed, Emily has started to cough, Charles and Will look really tired and I feel a migraine coming on. Yep – walking wounded. I take a deep breath and regroup. Charles, Alaina, Will and Ben will camp out in the lobby and Emily and I will make a run to Walgreens and then we’ll go wait with Danielle. Charles will handle getting us checked in if I’m not back by the time the rooms are ready.  At Walgreens, Emily and I stock up on Emergen-C, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Ricola. Beware bug of pestilence – we are armed for battle! We head over and find Danielle exactly where I left her. She still hasn’t been seen. Emily tries to cheer  Danielle up by offering to get her a smoothie, but before that can happen, they finally call her name. Emily and I both give a sigh of relief. I make a couple of phone calls while we wait and check on the others. Charles has everyone checked in and they are resting. Danielle appears about 45-minutes later. While we wait, yes wait again, for her to be checked out, Emily tries to entertain me with her best and most beautiful yoga poses. She’s quite gifted.  We’re reunited with Danielle and my blasted intuition proves right. She has the flu. Apparently this is a powerful strain and it could take up to 12 days for her to fully get past it. It also spreads like wildfire. That likely means Ben is feeling the first effects of the flu as well. The rest of us have also been exposed, but we’re hoping  the flu shot some of us got combined with taking some extra precautions will be enough to keep it from taking us all down.

Danielle’s prescription in hand, we get back to the hotel.  I have just enough time to get settled in my room and breathe deeply a few times before we have to head for dinner. Ben and Charles decide to stay behind and meet us at the theater later so the rest head off. It’s just like ladies night, Alaina, Danielle, Emily, me and… Will. He does have a sensitive side but I’m not sure the term “lady” will ever be apropos.  It’s nice to sit and recharge for a bit; it been a heck of a day and we somehow have to get through the performance tonight. I have a plan and I think it will work. Danielle can speak her part; just act it and Ben can do the same for most of his. We’ll cut his dance bits and we’ll make a couple of cuts to get through the musically tricky sections. Emily will be the one who has to shoulder most of this and sing a lot of the Hansel/Gretel duet parts as just Gretel arias. But we can do it and here’s what most important. Not that the show will go on – that the show will go on and our artists won’t be harmed in the process. Their health is my top priority. I won’t sacrifice that. This plan will allow us to bring opera to this community – just with a few adjustments. It won’t be easy. I know that. I know I’m asking everyone to change things on the spot, but we’re going to try.

before the show
The YA before Hansel and Gretel.

At the theater, I go over the plan and everyone’s up for it. They’re pros and, as Tim Gunn would say, they’re going to make it work. While they get into costumes and makeup, I talk with our contact, Shellie, and tell her my plan for tomorrow. Carmen isn’t going to happen. I can’t ask this of them two days in a row, especially with the leads being the ones who are sick. We can’t speak our way through that show. What we can do is to substitute an Arias & Ensembles performance that will feature Emily, Charles and Will. She is completely understanding and supportive and tells me that they just want opera and will be happy with whatever we can offer. Ok – plan in place. It’s time to start this show. Attendance is great. The entire balcony is full of kids and the main floor is full of adults and some families. I look at Danielle and Ben backstage and send whatever positive vibes I can their way, then I go out to start the performance. I welcome everyone and say how excited are to be here. I tell them about the changes in tonight’s show due to a couple of our singers being sick and – here we go. What happens next makes me do a double take. Danielle is not speaking her part. She’s decided to sing. She lasts through the first scene and then begins to take it easier. Emily is fabulous; shouldering her added responsibilities with gusto. Charles and Will both make the necessary changes on the spot and the audience is with them every step, responding with laughter and applause. Now it’s time for Ben’s entrance. The role of The Witch is incredibly difficult vocally and dramatically. He sings some lines and speaks others and indeed, makes it work. Alaina is with them for every note, catching them musically when they need it. The audience loves it. They reach the finale and take their bows and the audience is on their feet. The plan worked. Was it perfect? No. But I am so proud of what they did on that stage tonight.

I go out and start the Q&A and we get another round of applause after we introduce ourselves. Questions range from wanting to know about Ben’s wig to asking about healing from a vocal injury. I take on most of the answers so everyone else can begin resting their voices. After the Q&A, I talk to Shellie again and she tells me that what happened tonight was one of the best experiences she could have asked for. Why? For her students. To see how we handled this, how vocal health was made a priority by a professional company, taught them something they wouldn’t have seen if we’d done another “normal” performance. That makes you stop and think about things a little differently, doesn’t it? I thank her for telling me and I will make sure to share it with everyone else. Now we get to the task of loading out. Danielle and Ben are wiped out, so I limit what I allow them to do and eventually just pop them in the rental while the rest of us pack the Denali. Some of the students and Shellie even stay to help us carry things out. This really is a special place. We give them our thanks, tell them we will see them tomorrow and head back to the hotel. I have a quick meeting with Emily, Charles, Will and Alaina and go over the plan tomorrow. As expected, they’re all on board. I tell everyone thank you for their work today and I get an unexpected thank you from Alaina in return – a thank you for rallying them together.

So readers, today wasn’t a funny story day, or a day full of misadventures. It was a day in the life of opera singers; about as real as it gets. Through it all we feel incredibly lucky that we get to be here. We’re grateful and we get to do what we love and share it with people, even when it’s hard.

Tomorrow will be another chapter – there may be m  ore changes and more altered plans. I don’t know. One thing I do know is that we’ll figure it out and that there will be opera here for the people in Alamosa.

Have a good night,


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