Day 4 was another busy one. We started the day with a scenic drive through the Loire Valley by the Loire River on our way to visit Château Chenonceau. This beautiful castle located on the Cher River (who knew she had her own river?) was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, and has been called the “Château des Dames” because of its history of being administrated and protected by historically prominent women, including Catherine de Medici.
Once we got there, I gave the girls in my group the option to go off on their own (since we were someplace where you couldn’t really get lost), or to hang out with me. They picked me without even thinking about it. (Yay! Have I mentioned I had the BEST group out of anyone? I’m so sad that most of them won’t still be in the chorus the year after next when we go to Austria.)
We had a great time exploring the maze and the castle, before having what turned out to be a really tasty lunch. The restaurant had some American offerings, and I think we were all pretty happy to be able to have burgers and fries for the first time in a couple of days.
After the castle, it was back to Tours for the pre-concert rehearsal at Eglise Notre-Dame la Riche. Chaperons especially looked forward to these rehearsals, as it was pretty much the only time we were “off-duty” and free to do a little exploring on our own. For a whole hour and a half! Yes! Unfortunately, most of my free time that day was spent going to the cell phone store, trying to see if they could help me get my data-only SIM cards to work. No such luck. Thank goodness for hotels and buses with free wi-fi!
When rehearsal was over, we went back to the hotel so the singers could change into their concert uniforms, then it was off again to dinner. (Yeah, it didn’t make sense to any of us, either.) After dinner we returned to the church for the concert.
[I do want to interject here, that this has absolutely nothing to do with anything, BUT...before dinner, I saw a goat. Wearing a hat. On a leash. Being walked through the streets of Tours. I wished more than anything that I'd had the opportunity to take a picture, but it was not meant to be.]
As the show got underway, I took a seat to the left side of the stage with a couple of the other chaperons, and others were over on the right. In a previous blog, I alluded to a couple of singers “going down”. Apparently, when you take kids who have been traveling, not quite eating, sleeping and hydrating properly, put them on a stage under hot lights and have them stand for long periods of time, you create a sort of “perfect storm” for passing out. The singers have had it drilled into them that if they start to feel woozy, lightheaded, or otherwise bad in general, that they should just sit down where they are – this is much preferable to having someone take a tumble backwards off of the top riser in the middle of a performance, especially when that performance is in an ancient church with an incredibly hard marble floor. Unfortunately, knowing what they should do doesn’t always ensure that this is what a singer does. Not wanting to “ruin” the performance, or to miss out, sometimes they’ll try to push through the bad feeling…so as chaperons, we have to constantly watch the singers for signs that anyone might be about to lose it.
Through the first song, one of the other adults and I were watching one boy in particular in the top row who had been feeling under the weather all day. As he sang, he seemed to be closing his eyes alot, and just seemed off. As the selection ended, I made my way back behind the chorus and tapped him on the shoulder to make sure he was ok. He said that he was, and continued to stand and sing as the next song got underway. Just in case he was mistaken, I sat down on the edge of the stage behind the chorus out of sight from the audience. It was from this vantage point that I noticed the Zealot.
Off to one side of the audience, he sat away from everyone else, on a pew directly behind a large column. At first I thought he was just enjoying the performance, though the longer it went on, the more it seemed like something else was going on – like he was having his very own religious experience or something. He was very animated as he fingered his rosary, crossed himself repeatedly, occasionally raised his arms to the heavens and yes, even sobbed. Like a baby. When he first caught my attention I thought, “Uh…oooookayyyyy. Obviously this guy is serious about his choral music.” The longer it went on, a few others noticed him as well. At one point, I made eye contact with one of the other chaperons stationed across the room, and she mouthed, “What the fuck?” All I could do was shake my head and shrug in response. Whatever was going on with him, it seemed harmless enough, until someone in the audience moved to sit a little too close to him. Startled, he jumped up suddenly, and started to move quickly down the side of the church, away from the chorus as if he were leaving. About halfway down, however, he turned abruptly and started heading back up towards the front. He stopped in the aisle and looked around as if he was confused, and seemed for a moment as if he planned to walk directly in front of the chorus, right between the performing kids and their director. Our tour guide, Johan, saw this as well, and pushed away from the wall where he was leaning, and took a few steps toward the man.
I started to wonder if this guy just might be dangerous.
Thankfully, he turned at the last second and headed quickly back down the main aisle, away from the kids. After that, I could no longer see him from my vantage point behind the chorus, but everyone kept performing as usual, so I hoped that meant he had left.
Unfortunately, though, the zealot’s departure did not mark the end of the drama. During this performance we had (what seemed to me like) a record number of kids have to sit down during the performance – 7 of them altogether. At one point, I had to grab some money and run across the street to a little convenience shop to purchase some juice, because we were running out of fluids to hand to dehydrated singers. Sometimes chaperoning is stressful!
In the end, everyone was ok, though, and the audience loved the performance. As it was getting pretty late at this point, we went back to the hotel and it was lights out. Tomorrow we visit Mont Saint-Michel!