Featured Destination: Pendleton Heights Choir Trip to FranceChris Forsythe
In the heart of France, majestic Paris exudes beauty and vitality! As a center for art, fashion, and culture, its 19th-century cityscape features the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, world-class museums (The Louvre, The Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay l’Orangerie, Musee Rodin), trendy boutiques and cafes along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and more! Paris is energized by music, including opera, symphonic, musical theater, jazz, shake and historical Bal-musette. Venues include the Paris Opera, the Orchestre de Paris, and the Paris Conservatory, the first of its kind in Europe. The Cité de la Musique at La Villette is the new home of Paris’ Symphony Hall, the Conservatory, a museum of musical instruments, and Le Zenith, known for famous music. Many Parisian churches have noteworthy organs and regularly host concerts. With dozens of performance opportunities, France is an ideal destination for choirs. The Pendleton Heights Choir Trip to France, its ‘trip of a lifetime,’ was carefully crafted by Music Travel Consultants. The choir was definitely ready for the challenge of performing abroad. Tour highlights included Normandy’s Omaha Beach, Paris and Disneyland-Paris. Don your beret and join us on the Pendleton Heights Choir Trip to France!
Hailing from Indiana, the Pendleton Heights High School Performing Arts Department is dedicated to teaching the arts to students and the community through classes and performances. Under the direction of Mrs. Erin Sprouse, the choral department has these groups: Pendletones, Emerald Suites, New Edition, Added Attraction, Accents, and Vocal Fusion. The choirs present three concerts each year, supported by the PHS Choral Association.
The travel group loaded two charter busses outside the east side of the high school just after noon on a warm Saturday in June. Many hugs, plenty of weighing of bags and several tearful goodbyes led up to the time for departure. A little more than three hours later, the group arrived at O’Hare in Chicago. Unloading and getting luggage and passports checked can be challenging. The group was under the watchful eye of superstar Tour Director, Sue Guindon.
With check-in complete and some time to spare, students and parent chaperones found a cup of coffee, snack or a place for a quick nap. Shortly thereafter, the plane was wheels up and on the way to France.
“I chose Paris because it was a good opportunity for the students to perform abroad and be immersed in a different culture,” said Erin Sprouse, director of choirs at Pendleton Heights High School Pendleton, Ind. Traveling with over 55 student performers, parents and chaperones to foreign soil presents many challenges but returns many rewards.”
Once arrived, the group collected luggage and made their way through customs. On the other side, they patiently waited in a very warm Paris for their tour bus to arrive.
The bus was a double-decker with stairs in both the center and front of the lower deck. Suitcases were loaded by the men while everyone loaded the coach ready to set out on their first adventure. The group traveled a few hours toward Normandy, France, stopping once for a quick lunch in what appeared to be an American gas station. What they found was a very nice deli complete with freshly made sandwiches and delightful home-made desserts. Back on the bus, they made way toward the city of Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry Museum.
The Bayeux Tapestry tells the epic story, in wool thread embroidered on linen cloth, of William, Duke of Normandy who became King of England in 1066 after the Battle of Hastings. The Tapestry tells the story of the events surrounding the conquest of England in 1066 by the Duke of Normandy. Crossing the sea in long ships, long cavalcades on horseback, shields and coats of mail, fantastic creatures and battlefields: all the details of a great medieval adventure. Using listening devices, the story was told individually to the tourists as they made their way through the darkened halls.
After a quick snack, the group left for housing in Caen. Caen is a commune in northwestern France. A smaller hotel, the group took up the majority of the rooms and found tight staircases a bit of a challenge for large suitcases. The lone 2-person elevator did the heavy lifting. With a five-hour time change in the mix, the group ate a light dinner and headed off to bed.
Breakfast was early the next morning as the group had some sightseeing planned along with their first performance. Fresh meats and cheeses, a poached egg station and fruits got them ready to go. Rick Hoogenboom joined as the main local tour guide for the remainder of the trip.
The bus trip into Normandy and the beaches was full of attractions. Winding around narrow passages, the bus driver was a pro at keeping to his side while allowing the guide time to point out many sights. They visited Longues-sur-Mer battery, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Utah Beach and finally Sainte Mere Eglise for a tour of the churches and lunch.
During the Normandy invasion, 30 paratroopers landed in the town of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, including 20 on the church square. German soldiers hurled into the attack and a battle raged on for two days. US forces’ resistance was put to the test. The Allies were forced to defend many places simultaneously, including the bridges of la Fière and Chef-du-Pont. Several parachutes adorn the church as do figures to show what it might have looked like that day in June. After lunch, it was time to travel to the American Cemetery for a performance.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of more than 9,380 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
The sky was overcast with a mist in the air. Sprouse took the group to a small overhang for a quick vocal warm-up. They needed some time to prepare with a local accompanist and get their performance pieces back in mind.
A wreath was placed at the foot of the bronze statue, Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, by senior choir member Cameron Earl.
The sky cleared and allowed the group to perform, without MTC rain ponchos, for a larger group. Several ensemble numbers and few solos were presented with the statue as the backdrop and the cemetery headstones as the student’s audience.
Sprouse said, “The day we spent at the Normandy Beaches was humbling. The students were able to perform at and walk around to see the magnitude of the cemetery. For the students, this was solemn ground they were not familiar with and had only seen in pictures. I felt like they were able to truly soak in the events from WWII and learn more about what took place.”
Once their reflection time was complete, they returned to Bayeux for dinner at L’Assiette Normande then back to the hotel for much-needed rest. Paris was their next stop.
The travel group loaded the coach early and was off for the city of Paris. Winding through larger streets, you could feel the anticipation of the students as they strained to get their first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The group separated and found lunch at any local cafes. From pizza to pasta and even some escargot, the group was immersed in the City of Light.
A detailed bus tour allowed the group to gain history and see some sights of the city including the Arc de Triomphe, Napoleon’s Tomb, the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees and much more! After several photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, the group walked to Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame de Paris (French for “Our Lady of Paris”, meaning the church in Paris dedicated to the Virgin Mary), often known simply as Notre Dame, is a Gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in Paris, France, with its main entrance to the west. While a major tourist destination, it is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral (archbishop of Paris). Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Fortunately, the group was able to spend an afternoon enjoying the site prior to the destructive fire a few months later.
They walked to RIM Café where they enjoyed dinner. A small, quaint space on the corner of a brick street, the outdoor acoustics of the corner were perfect for a brief, impromptu concert. Residents hung out of their balcony windows while others stopped to listen. It was a wonderfully simple moment to bring the joy of music to those in the area. After a walk back to the bus, the party transferred to the hotel that would be their home for the remainder of the trip. Many could see the twinkling light of the Eiffel Tower from their hotel windows.
The next morning started with breakfast at the hotel than a quick trip to the Louvre. Few art galleries are as prized or daunting as the Musée du Louvre, Paris’ pièce de résistance no first-time visitor to the city can resist. This is, after all, one of the world’s largest and most diverse museums. Showcasing 35,000works of art – from Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities to masterpieces by artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt.
A quick adjustment to the schedule took the group to the Eiffel Tower as lines were shorter during that time of day. The Eiffel Tower is an iron tower built on the Champ de Mars beside the River Seine in Paris. It is the tallest structure in Paris and among the most recognized symbols in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, and erected as the gateway to the World’s Fair of 1889, it is a premier tourist destination. Trips to the very top were suspended because of higher winds but most made their way to the highest point possible. Hundreds of photos and an amazing view of the city were highlights. The group dined at Restaurant L’Oskian and then returned to the hotel for some free time.
An early morning breakfast at the hotel, the performers packed their character shoes and costumes and set out to Disneyland Paris. They were quickly taken to the backstage area and to the performance venue for a brief rehearsal before their second performance of the trip. Using an animal theme, the group performed Eye of the Tiger, Bare Necessities, Cheetah Girls and Roar on the Videopolis stage in Discoveryland.
“I think the students enjoyed the performance at Disneyland the most. It was a different environment than what we are used to in the US. The students loved performing especially for a group of people who know little about Show Choir”
After changing clothes, they were allowed to spend the remainder of the day in the park. A French version of Frozen splashed across Cinderella’s Castle just before the group slowly made their way to the coach after a very long day.
Another early morning breakfast got the group prepared for a trip to the Palace of Versailles. Amid magnificently landscaped formal gardens, this splendid and enormous palace was built in the mid-17th century during the reign of Louis XIV – the Sun King – to project the absolute power of the French monarchy, which was then at the height of its glory.
Most found lunch prior to leaving the Palace. They immediately transferred to the Seine River for a Cruise through Paris. This was another chance for the travel party to rest while seeing the sights of the city from a different view. Again, hundreds of photos were taken of the many pieces of art Paris has to offer.
“The Pendleton Heights H.S. band program has used MTC for every trip for the past 10 years, and they make the entire process so easy! From planning a trip (big or small), to the director and parent communication, to the great care they take while on the trip – every single person involved in the process is wonderful to work with, responds quickly, and tries to make group travel as easy as possible. We consider many members of the MTC team as friends and look forward to our future trips!”
Finally, the group made their way to Montmartre for some free time, shopping and dinner. Montmartre, first a sacred hill (roman temples and then the abbey), also the political hillside from Henri IV to the Commune, has preserved its cultural and artistic identity by welcoming the greatest painting movements of the 19th and 20th century: Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, Surrealism. The view from the top of the hill is amazing with the city at the base of the hill.
A farewell dinner was at La Bonne Franquette and started with [French] Onion Soup. The tour was coming to an end and the group needed to pack up and get some rest for their trip back to the states. After an early morning breakfast, they made their way back to the airport, checked in and boarded the flight back home.
Landing in Chicago, they passed through customs quickly, boarded the coaches and returned to Pendleton early that evening after a very rewarding performance trip to France.
“Performing overseas is always an incredible experience and something that I am sure they will remember for a lifetime.”
Is your choir ready for an International Destination like France ? Please contact a Music Travel Consultants Travel Designer today and explore the possibilities!