Pacific Northwest Tour 2006
From May 22nd until June 6th—two weeks in the spring of 2006—the folk choir traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest in both the U.S. and Canada, making stops in the four major cities of Portland, Victoria, Seattle, and Anchorage. The following is a day-by-day synopsis of our various events and travels as a choir. Please see our tours page for our itinerary.
The choir answered an early wake-up call on the Monday morning of May 22nd as we gathered at the Coleman-Morse lounge, loaded up, and departed the Notre Dame campus for O'Hare International Airport in Chicago with a blessing from Fr. Rocca all before eight o'clock. From Chicago we took a noontime flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport south of Seattle, and a 150-mile bus trip down I-5 to Portland ensued. The choir arrived that evening at the University of Portland and received an enthusiastic greeting from the Holy Cross staff, whose generous kitchen team had dinner prepared for all fifty-three weary travelers we were.
The morning of May 23rd was reserved for some sleeping in order to recover from a journey three time zones westward. By noon, the choir was not too tired, however, to help celebrate daily Mass in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher on campus. Following Mass that afternoon, we bussed to Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland off I-84, and despite the rain the folkheads successfully trekked up to the top of the falls. Some time in the lounge area and a quick fast-food stop on the trip back to campus provided some time to dry off and warm up. Upon return to the university, the choir gathered again at the chapel and participated in a music ministers' evening retreat.
After two nights spent on campus in Corrado Hall, the choir packed up to conclude its stay at the university the next morning on May 24th. The first of the day's events was a workshop with the music students at LaSalle High School in Milwaukie, highlighted by a combined chorus of "I Have Been Anointed." After lunch and a tour of the facilities at the school, the choir held a concert for the entire student body. The afternoon remained open for the choir as we took advantage of some free time in downtown Portland—whether it was a walk to Powell's Bookstore, a self-tour of the city's public artwork, or a stop at a corner coffeehouse, the time was well spent. The high school provided yet another meal for the choir that evening, and following dinner we held a concert next door at Christ the King Church. A bus ride to Holy Redeemer Church ended the night as we met of our first set of host families.
May 25th started early with a morning performance for the students at Holy Redeemer, but our choir also had the privilege to witness a small performance by the school's own choir and orchestra in return. Lunch in the grade school cafeteria with the students followed a thorough tour of the facilities, which included a new "green building," eco-friendly literally from floor to ceiling. From here we were off to a choir member's farm east of Portland, where sheep outside combined with ample food inside were more than enough to keep all of us joyfully occupied for the afternoon. A concert for the parish at Holy Redeemer and a small reception concluded the day's activities that night.
An even earlier morning greeted the folkheads on May 26th as we gathered around seven o'clock at Holy Redeemer to depart Portland for Port Angeles, Washington, in order to catch the ferry to Victoria that afternoon.
Following a 185-mile bus ride through the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles from Portland along with a ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the choir finally made it out of the U.S. and arrived in Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in Canada. Brown-bag lunches held us over through the journey, and upon arrival we had about an hour to explore the inner harbor area of the city. We drove to Holy Cross Church later that afternoon, set up our equipment, and then enjoyed a potluck prepared by our host families who affectionately offered to "billet" all of us for the next four nights. We concluded the evening with a Vespers service at Holy Cross.
May 27th was our free day in Victoria as we divided up into various groups in the morning and afternoon to see the city. From the yacht race near Beacon Hill Park, scooter rides, and Hatley Castle to the Butchart Gardens, the Royal British Columbia Museum, and all the little shops downtown, the choir seemed to hit most of the tourist spots in the greater Victoria area. We gathered in Old Chinatown for lunch to regroup before heading out again and later met up at a beachfront park for a cookout at dinnertime before returning to our billets for the night.
The following day being Sunday, the choir celebrated Mass with the parishioners at Holy Cross on May 28th for the Feast of the Ascension. Afterwards, a few members of the local Knights of Columbus group prepared a pancake breakfast for the parish. That afternoon, the choir facilitated a two-hour music and liturgy workshop for music ministers throughout the greater Victoria community—here we had representatives from nearly twenty different groups. The folkheads spent the later part of the afternoon with our host families for dinner before meeting back that evening for a concert downtown. Our third night in Victoria was another success as we sang at St. Andrew's Cathedral and attended a small social gathering organized by the parish.
Our last full day in Victoria on May 29th began first at Holy Cross where we met to drive to Sacred Heart Church for junior high and high school concerts. That morning we sang for a group of students from St. Andrew's Regional High School, and after lunch we sang for a group of sixth and seventh graders from three of the local Catholic grade schools. Later that afternoon we bussed to the University of Victoria and took the option of either relaxing outside the interfaith chapel or touring the campus with one of our student hosts. Following the conclusion of the tour, we bussed to St. Aidan's United Church for dinner prepared by their ministry team and afterwards received a warm greeting by one of our most spirited audiences as we held an ecumenical concert for the community at St. Aidan's.
The next morning on May 30th, we gathered one final time at Holy Cross to pack up and say good-byes to our gracious host families. Upon loading the bus, we drove north to Sidney in order to meet the ferry that would return us to the States at the port of Anacortes, Washington.
The ferry ride weaving through the San Juan Islands provided both for some good scenery and a time to relax before the events that night. After passing customs in Anacortes, we bussed the remaining sixty miles to Seattle where we received a warm welcome at St. Joseph Church in the Capital Hill neighborhood from a group of campus ministry students at Seattle University. With a few Notre Dame alumni in the audience that evening, we provided a concert for the Seattle community to conclude the night before meeting our third set of host families.
The next morning, May 31st, we met at St. Joseph before bussing downtown where we would have the entire day free to ourselves. The folkheads divided up to explore Seattle firsthand, hitting most major stops from Pike Place Market, Ivar's Restaurant, and the original Starbucks along the waterfront, the Seattle Public Library and St. James Cathedral heading east, the Seattle Center featuring the Space Needle and Experience Music Project a bit north, and everywhere in between. We regrouped around six o'clock at our drop-off location in order to drive up to Seattle University. That evening we held a Vespers service and a short retreat with the university choir members at the Chapel of St. Ignatius to help all of us reflect on our vocation as music ministers. Finally, we bussed back to St. Joseph to return home with our host families for a second night.
We met back again around eight o'clock with our luggage at St. Joseph the next morning on June 1st for one more day as tourists in Seattle. We bussed downtown and then took a ferry across a section of Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island where we had the opportunity to go kayaking with the folks at Back of Beyond at the city dock. We avoided the heavy rain that morning and only two folkheads capsized their kayaks, so the choir managed a successful adventure on the water. The choir split up and took the ferry back to Seattle at different times, but we all met up that evening near one of the piers in order to make our south to the SeaTac airport for a flight that night around 9:15 to Anchorage.
We landed in Anchorage some time around 11:30 local time, which here was now four time zones behind Notre Dame, but despite the hour and our own sleepiness, we flew through a bright Alaska sky and touched down as the sun was setting in the Last Frontier. Tired though we were, we made our way to a bus that was waiting for us and drove to Lumen Christi High School where we spent the night in sleeping bags on the floors of the library and adjacent classrooms.
Overlooking our long journey north and short night's rest, we awoke early the next morning on June 2nd to embark on a 120-mile drive southbound on the Seward Highway to the port city of Seward, Alaska. From here we boarded a small cruise ship and took a six-hour tour of Kenai Fjords National Park through and out of Resurrection Bay to witness the Alaskan landscape and wildlife, from mountains, rock formations, water inlets, and glaciers to their native sea lions, orcas, puffins, humpback whales, and otters. Lunch was provided for us on the ship, but on our return trip back to Anchorage, we stopped at in Moose Pass, Alaska, for dinner. Back in the city, half the choir met host families at St. Patrick Church while the rest headed to St. Andrew Church in nearby Eagle River to join their families for the night.
The entirety of June 3rd was spent at St. Andrew in Eagle River, but luckily we took a later start today and did not meet as a group until noon at the church. At one o'clock that afternoon the choir hosted a music and liturgy workshop for parish ministers throughout the local diocese, and the staff at the church followed our workshop with a potluck dinner early that evening. A thing not often done as a choir, we were able to sit amidst the congregation at the Saturday evening vigil Mass that night at St. Andrew and hear their own choir ensemble in place of our tour repertoire. After Mass, we held a Vespers service and concluded our day at the parish with a concert for the St. Andrew community.
Sunday, June 4th marked the Feast of Pentecost, so the choir had the great privilege of celebrating the day with the parishioners at St. Patrick back in Anchorage. We provided the music for one of the morning liturgies at which the local high school graduates were honored, and afterwards were able to spend some time downtown souvenir shopping, grabbing lunch, and taking in a perfect Alaskan spring afternoon. That evening, St. Patrick hosted a dinner for the choir and we capped the night by assisting with music again for the seven o'clock Mass and holding a concert for the parish. A bittersweet moment for many folkheads, this night was our last Mass singing together for the academic year and also our last concert of the tour—the composition of the choir would never again be the same.
The following morning on June 5th our host families dropped us off one last time at St. Patrick bagged lunches in hand as we loaded up our luggage and then bussed to the Alaska Native Heritage Center for the morning. After getting a flavor for the native culture from music and dance to art and sports, we drove to a local park and spent our final afternoon hanging out, playing kickball, and making up games being the creative folks we are. The freshmen entertained for a stint with their initiation skit complete with narration and music, original lyrics and all. We went back to St. Patrick for dinner and then celebrated a closing Mass outside behind the church. After a few photos with the choir and a visit from the Archbishop Emeritus of Anchorage, we took our bus back to the airport for a late-night flight that would return us to the Lower 48 by morning.
The flight out of Anchorage was slightly behind schedule, but we arrived at the Denver airport to catch our connecting flight with no problem the next morning on June 6th despite weary eyes and tired minds. We said good-bye to a few in Anchorage the previous night, but we left more folkheads in Denver as they took differing flights home. Still, most of us took our last flight to Chicago and were within sight of our final destination by noon. Chicago was the last stop for many, but the remaining crowd braved one final bus trip back to Notre Dame with all the choir equipment. Battered banana boxes carrying our blue binders made their way back to the third floor of the Coleman-Morse building, and at last we could give an official end to the spring tour as we felt at home once more in our small space in northern Indiana where the terrain is flat, the time zone is Eastern, the sun both rises and sets all year long, and a sure chance of rain is not a daily occurrence.
Whether looking down upon greater Victoria atop Mount Tolmie, gazing at the massive Aialik Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula from the Alaskan cruise ship, hiking up to the top of Multnomah Falls and glancing out across the Columbia River in Oregon, seeing bald eagles and snowcapped mountains along the Turnagain Arm traveling to Seward, bussing north up U.S. 101 in western Washington, or peering off the back observation deck of any one of the numerous ferries we took in the Pacific Northwest, the folk choir had an amazing two weeks on the West Coast. Welcomed by generous host families, resourceful university students, and excited Notre Dame alumni, it certainly stands as a region to which we would not mind at all making another pilgrimage again.
"O LORD, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens! When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—what are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet: all sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!" (Psalm 8:2, 4-10)
For pictures from our spring tour to the Pacific Northwest, please visit our online photo album.