Guelph Tour Day 3: The U, The GYMC, The Hill, The Snow!

Just in case readers at home have been watching the weather reports for Guelph, and are worried about us and the impending snow/ sleet storm heading this way… let me ASSURE you that we have singer safety as our #1 priority. We are supposed to be meeting tomorrow morning and heading to Toronto, to go up the CN Tower, then on to see Wizard of Oz. If the bus won’t drive in the morning because of road conditions, we are prepared to delay our departure, and even skip the CN Tower if we have to. Right now, roads are clear but its around zero, so slush is coming down. Truly, we would have been disappointed if we didn’t get to experience a bit of a “real Canadian Winter” while we are here!

Anyway, I’m sure you want to hear about our adventures TODAY! It was certainly another action packed day, but so full of gut-busting laughter and authentically joyous faces on the singers.

We started off meeting at the University of Guelph. The University is known for its outstanding Veterinary College so a number of our singers were thrilled about that. It’s a stunning campus full of grand stone buildings and green spaces that were quite white with snow today. Both of our tour guides sing in the women’s choir at the university under the direction of Dr. Marta McCarthy. I had the thrill of hearing them perform in Ottawa last year- unbelievable shimmering tone, precision and artistry. Our guides took us all over the main campus, showing us huge lecture halls- we got to see some teaching in action- and the residence where first year students are guaranteed a place to live, and the adjacent cafeteria that was first rate. I think it’s actually an award-winning cafeteria for university residence food. Imagine walking through a fun “all inclusive” type tropical resort buffet, where all dietary needs can be met. Kinda like that. A FAR cry from my University res days and the gross version of “mulligatawny”  soup and fries that seemed to be served at every meal.

We also got to see the gyms and pool, the skating rink, the coffee shops and science atrium, and The Cannon. I’ll let your singer fill you in on that piece of university lore. Our tour was 2 hours of walking and seeing the campus highlights, so we learned a lot about what it will be like to go to post secondary education.

From there, we walked a block or so to “One Stone Road”, which is a dramatic piece of architecture that is a 5 story provincial office building that features balconies that all over look a central atrium. We performed a full concert set there with a few of our GYS friends. This was the first time that we wore our new “winter casual” uniforms of fleece ponchos. I’ve started calling them “togas” because we’ve taken to wearing them over one shoulder for ease of movement. I must say, they are warm and serve that purpose of keeping us cozy… and with time singers will stop fussing with them on stage! With our winter boots it was kind of a funky look… but as I say, we were trying it all out for the first time. We were really respectfully and warmly received! It was SO nice that people who are busy in the offices there, took time out to watch our set from the balconies. I am told that the sound carried straight up the 5 story atrium to the top balconies. Singers I don’t think, realized how many people were watching from all around, up so high!

From there, we ate a bit, and we shuttled (those awesomely generous hosts again) a couple of km to the Guelph Youth Music Centre where we had a TERRIFIC acting workshop for almost 3 hours. Zoe and Jake took us through a number of improv warm ups and had us all in stitches for most of the time. I was amazed at the courage of ALL of the singers. Some of them are somewhat shy, but Jake and Zoe immediately created this environment of play, of “YES”, of acceptance, of support for one another, of patience… so that ALL singers had opportunities to be solo actors and improvisors throughout the afternoon. Brilliant on the part of the instructors and on the part of those kids who stepped WAY out of their comfort zones in front of their peers. I’m in awe of them. I’m not sure that I have their same courage. Honestly. I kept looking at their faces- just totally gleaming and beaming with joy and total engagement with each other. So totally lost in the moment. So cool to be there as a witness. We also got Jake to help us with our staging of La Villanella. I can’t wait for you to see it now that he’s helped us “be strong characters” and “commit to our actions fully”.

From THERE we loaded up on a bus with snow gear and borrowed sleds of all shapes and sizes, and headed over to Centennial Hill, where we zoomed and shrieked our way down this crazy bump of fast snow. Don’t worry- there were no trees or obstacles anywhere dangerous- not like Burnaby Mountain at all! It was really really windy- so lots of hysteric laughter as the wind whipped the crazy carpets away like discarded tissues, with us chasing and slipping our way crazily after them. Did I mention the wind? Sure was good to get out and let loose a bit. And I must mention, some of the singers that you might think of as timid on stage? totally NOT timid on the sledding hill! Not at all! Fear of speed is not a factor to those ski kids in the choir. 😀  Thoughtfully, one of our hosts who lived close by, opened her home for those who wanted to sip hot drinks instead of sledding.

Back on the bus shuttle, back to Guelph Youth Music Centre. I have to tell you about this gem of a community space: The centre was built on the site of an old mill, so parts of the heritage building remain. Over the years, volunteer labour made this inspiring space that includes a 180 seat recital hall, reclaimed wood floors, huge glass walls that overlook the stone wall remains of the old mill…there are rehearsal studios, kitchenettes, practice and lesson rooms, a dance/ drama studio… I am in love with this place already. It has a warmth about it that I can’t adequately describe in words. 

Our parent hosts from Guelph made a potluck dinner for all of us. Unlimited amounts of shepherd’s pie and lasagnas… perfect noshing for after our ‘sledding in the wind’ adventure! It feels like our singers are starting to make some more connections with GYS singers- lots more chatting and mingling and laughter together tonight. We know they are getting to know one another and be more comfortable because the NOISE level is increasing when they are together now!

Good times. Happy kids. They are already appearing to be more confident in the way they carry themselves, and this is only Day 3. Happy director.

ew. I just looked outside. The snow is blowing sideways. Your job at home is to THINK THOUGHTS OF CLEAR, SAFE ROADS for the morning commute in Guelph. Okay? Thanks!