We left Steamboat Springs at 9:00 AM with the aim of getting to Denver around 12:00 PM. However, it was still snowing and the roads were icy, meaning that our coach bus had to put on snow chains for a brief period. Although the drive was about an hour and a half longer than we anticipated, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, thanks to our annual viewing of Mean Girls. That movie is wonderfully entertaining, and I’m always impressed by how the writers managed to create a comedy out of a sociology study. I also continued to read Absalom, Absalom, which was getting more comprehensible now that I had gotten past the first 40 pages.
Once we got to Denver, our bus driver regaled us with stories of his childhood. Apparently, there was once a blizzard so big that the streetlights were covered, and the National Guard had to stand around the cupola of the Capitol building to protect the gold which gilded the outside. We arrived at St. Paul’s, which was the concert venue for that night, and dropped off our luggage. St. Paul’s is an interesting church, in that it has a Lutheran and Roman Catholic congregation which often operate separately, but which will come together for Holy Week and other holidays. The sanctuary itself has a lovely, reverberant acoustic, and seemed closer to the churches in the Southeast in tone than the Camelback Bible Church. Both churches were good performance spaces, but in different ways.
I would be remiss to ignore our lunch, mainly because many of us were ravenous by the time 2:00 PM rolled around. A group of us, about 15, decided to go to a Vietnamese restaurant called “Pho-natic,” and I ordered a large bowl of beef pho to satisfy my hunger. On my way back from lunch, I talked to Ellen for a little bit, as it had been six months since we started dating. Anyway, after lunch we had our final sound check, where we started a couple of our pieces and ran through the “Messe Cum Jubilo,” which still intimidated me a bit. It’s such a long piece, and the little variations Durufle adds ensure that singers have to be focused for the entire duration of the piece.
The church served us a dinner of tacos and enchiladas before the concert, which was actually quite tasty. For some reason, all church kitchens have the same slightly humid, sweet smell, and I had flashbacks to all the church lunches I had eaten. This was our last concert of tour, and I was a little tired and lacking in motivation as I got into my tails again. As we lined up to go on stage, our conductor thanked us for our great performances over the course of the tour, and some of the seniors also mentioned how glad they were to have to opportunity to sing with the Glee Club, and how much they were going to miss it. As we walked into the sanctuary and got into our standing formation, I tried to focus on the music that we would be singing.
The first half of the concert was a bit perfunctory; the audience was a bit sparse, which didn’t help. The first couple of songs flew by, but when we got to the “Messe Cum Jubilo,” I started to see the work not as a collection of movements, but as an integrated piece of music. For some reason, it was much easier to sing the piece in Denver, at 5280 ft, than it was in Arizona, and by the time we got to the final phrase of the final movement, “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God), I actually got chills. This made me feel much better about the second half of the concert.
The other thing that made me excited for the second half was the tour prank. It’s tradition for the Glee Club to pull a tour prank on the conductor during the last concert of tour, and this year we replaced one of the songs in our set with another song we had learned, but never performed. The new song was definitely a step down in terms of musicality; it’s a transcription of an African song reduced to a repetitive melody and semi-call-and-response that goes on far too long. It had become something of a joke over the course of tour, so it was an appropriate song to choose as a prank. When we started the song, our conductor was momentarily shocked, but managed to pick it up quickly. In this way, we pulled a prank on our conductor, but also allowed him to be part of the prank on the audience.
As we closed the concert with the football songs, a good number of HGC alums came up to sing with us; one even brought his infant up and held her in his arms as he sang. And we also got our first standing ovation of tour, which was nice. When we all got off stage, we thanked our tour manager in the traditional manner of the Harvard Glee Club, and met our hosts for the night. About half of the Glee Club was staying in a hotel, but I had a homestay with a couple about 20 minutes outside of the city. When we got back to their house, we got to know each other over snacks and drinks. After our hosts went to bed, I retreated downstairs to write on the blog, and then watched a cappella videos with the other guys who were staying with these hosts. And that was the end of the performance part of our tour.