Saturday, April 26, 2008

Imagine . . .

That's right.  Imagine, if you will, that LIGHT is still putting on their competition show  2 weeks AFTER their Branson tour.  Here's a chance of a life time.  For those of you who had to settle for reading about the competition through this blog, you now have the opportunity to see it, AND more, right here at the Mesa Arts Center (MAC) this coming Friday and Saturday (May 2-3).  In Association with Dreamstown Productions, LIGHT and some featured soloists are putting on a 2-hour show that is one-of-a kind.  It's called . . . you guessed it, Imagine.  
To see this show, go to the MAC website (see link to the right) and buy tickets for either the Friday or Saturday show.  I guarantee,  you will love what you see, hear and feel at this concert.  

Monday, April 14, 2008

Homeward Bound

Sunday morning, a day to sleep in . . . well, maybe for a minute.  We were scheduled to attend the Branson 1st Ward at 9:00 am and were on the program to sing for their ward conference.  As we exited the bus, we saw several people trying to  catch itty bitty snowflakes with their tongues.  Yes, it was cold.  The bishop  had saved  the front rows for the LIGHT entourage while the kids sat in the choir chairs.  What an awesome sight to see these marvelous youth, dressed so smartly and so colorful (think jelly beans or maybe Good and Plenty).  After the bishop got up to welcome everyone, in came the Spanish Fork kids who sat in the back.  I think between our bus and their two buses, we more than doubled the normal congregation.  Before the last speaker (stake president) addressed us, LIGHT sang "This is the Christ/I Believe in Christ" medley.  That chapel was overflowing with such a heavenly sound.  It really invited the spirit in preparation for the stake president's talk which, by the way, was so good and so helpful to anyone who had ever had hardships in life.  His theme was "Life is more than fair" because of the atonement of Jesus Christ who compensates us in ways that, perhaps, we are undeserving of.  Immediately after sacrament meeting, the bishop got up and announced that they had a problem.  The building was not big enough to accommodate all the people.  We advised him that both tours would be leaving.  So he thanked us for coming, and leaving.  It was kinda funny.

Back in our rooms we finished packing and loaded all of our gear and headed for Independence to see the visitors center there.
The sister missionaries there took us through and then we sang for them.  Across the street we saw an interesting building.  It was a temple with a tower that perhaps Salvador Dali (think melting clocks, and very unusual imagery) may have engineered.  Apparently, they (The Community of Christ . . . formerly RLDS) believe that Christ will make His appearance at this spiral looking building.

We boarded the bus and then drove to Liberty and visited
the center there which is built over the the same spot as the original Liberty Jail that Joseph Smith and others were imprisoned. The church had replicated the jail, some of which, was made from the original stone.  When the tour was over, we sang "This is the Christ" in the viewing chamber there.  We then went to a room in the basement and held a testimony meeting where we enjoyed a few tears and a bit of laughter as several people shared with us their  feelings and testimonies.  It was a sweet time for all of us to finish our tour in this way.

While we were there, Dean, our driver, drove home and picked up his grandson Zack and brought him along for our ride to the airport.  As we made that last leg of our bus trip, Dean wanted to express his feelings to us before he dropped us off.  He did fine for about 10 seconds, and then he became too emotional to continue.  He thrust the mic back to Tim who accurately answered for us all, "We get it".  The spirit can convey what the mouth cannot say.  This is not the first time that Dean has driven for LIGHT.  He loves to do so because he loves the spirit that is on-board when LIGHT is traveling.  Who wouldn't?  

We were running behind and so we had to hurry quite a bit to get everything unloaded, and everyone through ticketing and security.  It looked like a Chinese fire drill times ten.  
Of course, no airport experience is complete without a guitar and some singing.  LIGHT truly is an entertainment company.  Our flight home  seemed like but a dream as time escaped cognitive measurement and we arrived in Phoenix with eagerness to be reunited with family and loved ones (and I might add, our own beds).  All in all, this has been an enLIGHTening trip for us all as we discovered there was more to give than what we had previously thought.  Not just in performance, but in testimony and in truth and light.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

2nd Runner Up

After making the semi-finals from the day before (5th place out of 8), Tim wanted the kids to see the no. 1 & 2 groups, just to see what can be learned from their acts. So, right after breakfast, we were off to the Tri-Lakes Center to catch the early shows. We watched with some curiosity and were wondering what they had that we didn’t. Nada! As in not a thing (IMHO). We left the auditorium and found a space away from the public and rehearsed a few things and made some small tweaks to the show (adding harmonies, etc.).
We made ready for our warm up and headed for the warm up room. As the kids gathered there, they began to form a circle and then sang “I am a Child of God”. The spirit in that room was so thick, you could cut it with a knife and it belied the fact that this was a filthy, crummy looking place. There was a power there that was not of this world. A few event helpers came into the room and saw what was happening. They quietly left, not wanting to disturb the spirit there. For all you parents, this was yet another example of how great your children are.
At last it was show time and the kids went out and performed even better than the day before. I was in awe at well they did, thinking that after being up so late the night before, I expected some let-down in energy. Not LIGHT. It just got better and stronger. Some of the parents went out and brought us some BBQ pork sandwiches, baked beans and salad. It was mighty fine eatin’. These kids were really hungry (well . . . so were the adults).
After the eighth show was over, the judges announced the results. Chad, our guest choreographer for LIGHT, was the MC. He drew the three finalists from a hat to see who would go first. The first choir called was from Mesa, Arizona (see video below). The kids were delirious with happiness (and so were a few parents). The other two finalists were Plainsville and Spanish Fork. Since we were drawn first, we were scheduled to perform first, starting at 4:00 pm. The kids wasted no time getting their costumes back on and fixing the hair and makeup, and they still had an hour to go.
Again, we met in the back room for a tune up and some last minute instruction and then we took the stage. Have you noticed that I use the word “we” a lot in my descriptions? Yes, it’s the kids that are performing, but it’s the highly involved parents who are willing themselves to stay in their seats and not jump up and join them and so we feel like they are an extension of us. We would sing and dance next to them if we could, but must content ourselves to watch from the sidelines and cheer them on. To continue my story, “we” took the stage and gave the audience a show that was even better than the last one.
When it was over, we took our seats to watch the others perform. It was obvious that the top three were accurately chosen and we were glad to be in it.
After Spanish Fork finished, we waited for the final results with muted anticipation. Chad came out and started it off with the participation awards. Guess what? Our own Nick was awarded “Best Male Vocalist” and Mitch was awarded “Best Male Stage Presence” and lastly, LIGHT was awarded “Best Diction” (something near and dear to Tim). Then came the results we were waiting for. The 2nd runner up was announced: “LIGHT Entertainment Company”. We jumped for joy and yes, there were a few tears shed. After the kids had put so much into it, it was a bit of a let-down, but like all good performers, they were also good sports and cheered mightily when Spanish Fork was declared the Grand Champions. We congratulated them and were happy for them as many of their cast are dear friends of LIGHT.
After the hoopla was over, we loaded up our stuff and headed back to our rooms to quickly change and get back on the bus with the Branson Belle as our destination. The Branson Belle is a river boat (think Huckleberry Finn) that tours the lake and serves up a dinner and a show. We had a hearty dinner and then were entertained by a group called the “Show Stoppers”. They sang and danced to a variety of themes. There was a couple from Russia who did some aerial stunts to the theme of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Then there was Todd Oliver and his talking dogs. They were pretty funny. After the show, we headed back to our rooms. The kids, however, were not through. At 11:15 pm, they wanted to have a dance, and so they commandeered an outside pavilion and brought their iPods and danced. (ed. note, if only they could have the same energy when we ask them to do chores) It’s been an awesome day. Your kids really are the best.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Curtain Calls

With a 7:30 bus call and breakfast starting at 7:00, it was hurry and eat right now for the boys who had to catch the bus early to help unload the equipment while the girls got a reprieve and caught the bus at 8:00. Lucky! The weather was rather nippy due to a snappy little wind that kept us grabbing our sweaters a little tighter. The sun was out, but it seemed to have little effect. The boys sang all the way to the auditorium. Think Girls Camp, only in baritone.
After the girls arrived, things started hopping. They dressed up in their fireside clothes and about 9:45, they came out for the Concert Choir competition and sang. Wow is all I can say. All the songs were about Jesus Christ and His mission here. Of course they sang "Born to Testify". That song had a profound effect on several listeners, and left many in tears. One person said, "That was a 2-Kleenex song". It even got a standing ovation from part of the crowd. Afterwards, the kids were starting to feel pumped up, and so we took them to a leather goods store and let them shop and try on some very interesting outfits. The owners were very friendly and gave us discounts. Before we left, we sang "My Heavenly Father Loves Me".
We returned to the auditorium and FAME had a lunch of salad and pizza waiting for us. Yum! Then we went in to watch our sister choir from Spanish Fork, Utah put on their show. As expected, they were great and we cheered them on more than any other. Afterwards, we turned our attention to waiting for our turn to perform in the show choir competition. It was spent well sleeping on the floor, studying and swapping funny entries for this blog.
At last it was time to dress and warm up for our turn. We were led down a long hall to a warm up room behind the stage. It felt like a meat locker. It was probably a good idea that would help the kids not to overheat. We had a good warm up and then Tim gave them a good pep talk and offered a prayer in their behalf.
We took the stage and set up the risers, the band instruments and the special lights that Steve Kroll had made and then the signal was given. It was time to start. The music began and the kids came alive. Those of us backstage who were helping with props, saw a wonderful show like we've never seen. Standing in the wings, we could feel the energy come rushing past us in torrents that didn't let up until the last chord was sung. The applause was substantial and after everything was put away, we walked through a congratulatory gauntlet formed by Spanish Fork out in the foyer. Most everyone was pretty well doggone pleased with how it went.
We eventually gathered our things and made our way to the bus and then headed to the Golden Corral for a buffet dinner. With so many hungry kids who had just finished burning enough BTUs to light a city, I think the Golden Corral may have lost money tonight on our group. Our harried waitress was kept rather busy supplying us with clean plates for our many return visits to the buffet.
We boarded the bus and started back to our rooms. On the way, Tim told us that our band had scored 100% and that our show choir had made the semi-finals. We freshened up in our rooms and then we were off to see the Haygood Show. This is (again) a family affair with 5 brothers and 1 sister who entertained us with lots of dancin', fiddlin', guitar playin' and singin'. It was fun to watch as they employed some rather innovative techniques. Just ask about the beach balls. With the show over, we headed for the bus but before we could leave, one of the cast members came on board and visited with the kids for a few minutes. A real nice touch, I'd say. The bus dropped us off. We were a bit weary but nonetheless happy for the outcome of the days events. Tomorrow is a new day and new possibilities and we're hoping for a curtain call at the end.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We're on a roll

We were awakened (several times) by severe thunder through the night. It's been a long time for many of us since we've heard thunder so close and so loud. The morning was met with torrents of water running down the hills (it had rained all night) and we danced around the puddles to get to our breakfast. We boarded the bus and headed over to the church for another choir and dance rehearsal. Tim put the kids through a timed drill to help them learn to get their costumes on in 2 minutes flat. That was kinda fun to watch. If something was missing or not complete, it became very obvious. However, they improved greatly after each drill.

After loading up our gear, we headed over to the College of the Ozarks where they have a very nice sanctuary that is very much like a cathedral you might find in Europe with Gothic arches and stained glass. Real cool. Steve set up the recording gear and the kids sang and recorded all the songs they do for a fireside. The acoustics of the chapel were wonderful.

Afterwards, we headed for Lambert's Cafe in Springfield. This place is a one-of-a-kind restaurant with some rather unique ways to deliver your food. Every 5 minutes or so, someone comes out with a tray of hot rolls, fresh from the oven. Call out, "Roll", and soon one will be headed your way and if you don't catch it first, it will hit you in the head. Another technique they have is to walk the aisles with side dish food (black eyed peas, fried potatoes, molasses for your roll, deep fat fried okra and macaroni and cheese with tomatoes) and refresh your plate while you're eating. The portions are, once again, HUGE. We had to be 'roll-ed' out we were so full.
Tonight was the grand opening of the FAME Cup. We (and all the competition) met together in a large auditorium and were very well entertained. We saw a show choir perform from Ball State University. They were pretty flashy, but in this writer's humble opinion, couldn't hold a candle to LIGHT. There was a brilliant spot from their choir though, and that was their lead guitarist who came out front and sang Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (the entire thing by himself)! That really warmed up the crowd (especially the 45+ generation). Then we got to hear a repeat performance of Six. The LIGHT crowd really got into it and they all wore their Six badges from the night before.
Well, now the fluff is over and the real work begins as we gear up for our first competition tomorrow morning. Stay tuned, 'cause we're on a roll!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Musics . . . what can I say more?

Somehow we managed to get by on a meager portion of sleep (refer to Tim's theorum of nocturnal relativity) and amazingly, everyone was ready to go at 10:30. Our first stop was for brunch at Mel's Hard Luck Diner. This place is incredible. When you first walk in, you are hearing some pretty good vocals being sung in the background. As with most places, it is canned music for ambiance. However, as you are being seated, you realize that the wonderful music is canned but the vocals are live. Not only are they live, they are being sung by the waiters and waitresses who take turns about every 5 minutes (they were very good and one of them had actually been a finalist on American Idol). This made for some real entertainment. They even let Aaron sing to the diners "Save The Last Dance For Me". Throw in the HUGE portions we were served and we had the makings of first class meal. Afterwards, we shopped the mall area for a bit and then headed to the local LDS chapel and had a much needed rehearsal.

After a bin check, we headed back to the cabins to freshen up and then rode over to the Hughes American Family Theatre and enjoyed a meal (kinda like a dinner theater) before the main crowd of showgoers arrived. The kids scrambled to the stage with their bins and prepped for the show opener for the musical group "Six". They came out with the energy you'd expect from LIGHT and put on a spirited 20 minute show for a large audience of mature citizens (retirees and the like). Unfortunately, the lighting system wasn't working so all we had was a single spot to showcase our kids. The audience loved them anyway. Then Six came out and started their show. They are all brothers (6 out of 10) whose roots are from the Mesa area (Knudsen's). They're an a cappella group and do their own sounds and vocal backgrounds. They were sensational. They did a musical tour of music styles across the country, did some 50's numbers and many other styles and themes. I might add, they were very funny as well. A must see if you ever come to Branson. During the show, I kept hearing the shrieks and screams of what sounded like a very rabid fan. As I looked among our girls to see who it was, I discovered that it was our very own Vickey Whiting. Her positive energy gave the show an added bonus. After the show and after all the crowd had left, we were treated to an hour long clinic with the brothers and learned more about what it takes to perform at a professional level and how to improve overall. It was a real neat experience as these guys are all LDS and share our values. As we left the theater, it was pouring rain and only a few umbrellas to be had (Arizona mentality: it never rains and it never gets cold), so we formed a bridge to the bus with 3 umbrellas and most everyone kept dry. We retired late again but it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone's face.

Off and Running, Flying, Busing . . .

Yes, we're off and running and headed to Branson. Of course we are doing it in a colorful way (as ususal). We left Mesa on Tuesday afternoon and were driven to the airport in D-Day fashion. We seemed to arrive in one wave after another while other travelers stood by in wonder. You'd think they had never seen a blue plastic bin before. Thankfully, Southwest opened up a section of the ticket counter just for LIGHT. This caused some consternation for some beleagered travelers as they tried to get into our line. They were sent elsewhere. Why? No blue plastic bin. Who'd have thought? As you might expect, when we were all gathered at the gate to wait for our flight, it wasn't too long before the LIGHT Entertainment Company began to do what they do best - entertain! Out came the guitars, and the singing (and other forms of enLIGHTenment) began. They were pretty caught up in it and perhaps thought they were in a show as the customer service representative had to get on the PA system and publicly tell all the other travelers to sshhh. Or maybe it was meant for us. I guess we'll never know.

Once on board, we began to settle down a bit (something to do with seatbelts). When the snacks were served, three of our lovely and highly talented young women (wanting to hone their culinary skills) offered to help. And help they did. Down the aisle they went and served everyone on board their delicious airline food.

Upon touchdown in Tulsa, we quickly let the pilots know what a good job they did as the back half of the plane erupted into spontaneous applause. Again, the only thing the bewildered passengers could do was to just shake their heads and smile. (ed. note it was observed by several passnegers that some of our kids were reading their scriptures. They came away impressed).

We found our luggage (literally, we had to find our luggage) and met the Kroll's at the baggage claim. We loaded our huge mountain of blue bins and headed into the night with our driver, Dean (repeat driver for LIGHT, yeah). After a couple of hours (about 2:00 AM), we stopped in Joplin at a Flying J truck stop to refuel. And boy did we ever. The airline counter in Phoenix must have called ahead because as soon as the cashiers saw us coming, they announced, "Code 50 in the complex". I'm not sure what that means but I think it means that everyone who works here, y'all come out and watch these kids. Great. Another appreciative audience.

With everything and everyone refueled, we started the last leg for Branson and soon arrived (soon meaning: you fell asleep). Wow. The accomodations are fabulous. They're little cabins in the woods, decorated by Bass Pro Shop. After a few chilly moments in the Missouri air getting our room assignments and luggage, we finally settled down into bed (at least the adults did) around 4:30 AM. With prospects of another fun-filled day ahead in 6 more hours, we can hardly wait.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Just Getting Up and Running

Alas, not everyone can travel with LIGHT to the Branson competition. So . . I thought I'd share a little of what we see and hear so that everyone at home can be apart of it. My plan is to upload pictures of the kids and describe some of their activities with you. Feel free to add comments and or suggestions. Look for fresh updates soon!