The memories below were submitted by Lycoming College Choir alumni of the 1990s, and are presented in chronological order.
Lasting Impressions of Poland '90
Marsha (McElhany) DiFrango, 1993
One of my fondest memories of Lyco Tour Choir is our trip to Poland ('90). I can't even begin to list all the wild, crazy and touching things that happened on that trip. That trip, in addition to helping me make some very dear friends, had a real impact on my life. My goals in teaching were forever changed after the choir's visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. It has become my mission to make students aware of the dangers of prejudice and ignorance through the study of the Holocaust. In 1996, I returned to Germany to gather more information. All the while I was there, I thought of the choir, its dear director, and its universal message of music.
The Many Sides of Choir
Katie (Campomizzi) Clews, 1994
I can't recall a specific favorite, but there's quite a few that stick out in my mind: The 12-hour volleyball marathons that gave me some pretty good workouts, Graduation weekends, and the choir spirit gift-giving. I can't forget to mention the Christmas Candlelight Services that would pack Clarke Chapel and all of the candles flickering in unison. My parents always looked forward to coming to participate in it and to hear the choir sing.
If I think about it, the one event affiliated with choir that I'll never forget is the trip to New York City to sing at St Patrick's Cathedral. The acoustics were breathtaking, they sent shivers up my spine!
The Czech McDonald's
Cliff Chamberlain, 1996
I am here at work, bored, so I thought I would share a few random thoughts about my 1994 European Trip.
Many funny things happened, several of which I am sure have long forgotten. However one incident continues to live in my forward conscious: One of the most vivid memories occured during a long bus ride. We were traveling through the wonderful Czech countryside via tour bus, with Sven (of course, this was not his name at all) our bus driver at the wheel.
The road noise kind of put you in a trance, and thoughts often wandered. . . . In my daze, my attention continued to revert back to the fact that I had not eaten western style food for many days. Yes, I had convinced myself that I would no longer eat bread, funny little meat things, and jellied chicken. I am going on a hunger strike until we get back to the States.
As we lumbered along at 98 MPH, my vision panned to the window. As if my prayers had been sent express mail to heaven, a sight that I had not taken in for some time became apparent. It was the big "M", the Golden Arches, the epitome of American fast food culture!! Could this be real? Here, in jellied chicken land? Are the long miles and the endless tour schedule dulling my senses? No, it is real!! YES! A McDonalds Resturant!!
Sven made a quick exit from the highway and within seconds we were disembarking and heading toward real food. Everything looked familiar enough, golden arches, Ronald McDonald, red, yellow, yes, I was definitely in familiar territory.
I was accompanied by several of my burger-loving friends, namely Mike Saulnier and Sean Hart. We entered the doorway, and proceeded to order our meals. Would it be a "number 2 supersized with a coke"? Or how about a "6 piece Mcnuggets with a orange soda"? Quite frankly, it would be none of them. The menu consisted of "Big Mac" and "French Fry". Slightly disappointing, however I was willing to make do.
We promptly ordered, and I remembered that we had been told that this was a quick stop, and that we should make our way back to the bus as soon as possible. But I figured we could take a few minutes to eat our food.
While eating, I noticed that several things were a little different than the old USA Mickey D's. We already mentioned the menu. In addition, there was an armed guard at the doorway. This was a little surprising.
I was also shocked to notice a small child with her father. You may ask why this is abnormal, and I would continue by saying this was abnormal because the father was allowing the child to "Take a #2" (not a value meal this time) on the lawn in front of the resturant. Additionally, this was in full view of the armed guard, who apparently did not feel this was a problem for the lawn. Very strange people here.
Whoa! Look at the time!! We have to get back on the bus. Mike, Sean and I quickly finished our "Big Mac's" and made our way to the door. We were kind of in a hurry, so Mike decided to cut through the lawn of the resturant. Mikey had taken about 3 steps into the grass, when we heared loud shouts comming from the resturant. Looking back, we noticed the armed security guard running our way. We stopped to watch, and the man immeidately ran up and took Mikey by the arm. He was shouting at him and us, however we really didn't know what he was saying. It appeared as if he was telling us not to move and was atttempting to keep us from leaving. We had apparently violated the "keep off the grass" law.
The man yelled a few more things, motioned as to indicate "Do not move", and turned to go back into the resturant. At this point, we looked at each other and figured it would be in our best interest to run like hell. We promptly did this, not really looking back to much. We heared a few shouts moments later, more than likely from the lawn police, but my this point, we had made it to the pedestrian underpass near the highway and were halfway to the bus. We didn't really stop running until we were on board the bus.
I learned alot about other cultures on my European trip. I learned much about their food (I also lost about 10 pounds). I also learned alot about various uses for your front lawn, some of which are more excepted than others in the eyes of some.
Respectfully submitted, Cliffy
Jen Greco, 1997
My favorite memories are of the Candlelight Services and the performances at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC. I also enjoyed rehearsals and the overnight trip where we performed in NJ and then NYC. Thanks for the memories!
Matthew Beish, 1998
There are too many memories and stories to share! I thank God for the people and experiences I had during my choir days. We were blessed to sing beautiful music under a wonderful conductor. The Benediction continues to sing in my heart as I think of my Lycoming days. Hello to everyone and God Bless you!
Krista Is Generally Humorous, Even When Puking
Brenda Bowser and Krista Poppe, 1998
Brenda: I guess one would definitely be the night Fred's mother was passing away and we were in California. The choir showed its true colors that night. Even after more than a week together, we were as close and strong as ever. Of course, any memory that involved Krista [Poppe] is generally humorous, except for the whole zoo vomiting thing — and even that had its moments.
Krista: One time – I puked at the San Diego Zoo. Actually two times.
Brenda: One of the funniest Krista memories would have to be the night we spent in a Polish youth center. Well, that whole day was so funny that we were laughing ourselves into tears all day and all night. It was the first time I think I've ever seen Krista squirm over housing conditions. Oh, there are just too many memories to share . . . I'll have to give this more thought.
Heather Duda, 1998
I have several memories of the choir from my years at Lycoming. After four years of tour, chamber, and large choir, who wouldn't have a story or two to tell? But what I want to share is the impact choir has continued to have on my life. My choir experiences make for great stories and are some of the first stories about myself that I tell people. I am always mentioning the trips, the embarassments, and the laughter. And you'd be surprised how quickly you can bring any conversation to a complete halt by saying that you sang backup for Barry Manilow and performed at the White House.
I recently realized just how much the Lyco choir has become a lasting part of my life. Every morning when I enter my office, one of the first things I see is the picture of the 1997 Tour Choir standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The photo sits on my desk beside a wooden replica of Clarke Chapel. The picture and replica always make me smile as I remember something different about Lycoming, whether it is a tour moment or a candlelight service. It seems that all of my best memories about Lycoming College can be directly linked to my involvement with the choir. Thank you Fred for the wonderful memories that truly do last a lifetime!
Do You Remember...? (Europe '97)
Shannon Krebs, 1998
Numerous memories flood my head when I think about Choir and Tour Choir. Probably the clearest of these is the May '97 trip to Europe! For anyone (and everyone) who was on that tour or previous Lyco European tours, do you remember . . .
— the minute stature of all overpasses in Poland?
— hostile hostellers in Gliwice (along with retro-style comforters?)
— the infamous pig roast and Olympic-style games? (not a good showing on the part of the U.S.)
— singing the Peter Lutkin Benediction at the wall in Auschwitz?
— amazing concerts (and similar receptions after :) ) in Seligenstadt, Szczecin, and Wagenfeld?
A Tale of Poland
Jennica Musselman, 1998
In May 1997, the Tour Choir traveled to Szczecin, Poland for a two-night stop on the European tour. (Please note that nothing in this story is an exaggeration!)
We got there after spending an entire day on the bus, and we hadn't had dinner. At the chor house, Jan Szyrocki matched us up with our hosts. Heather Duda and myself were paired with a 21-year-old Polish girl who seemed very nice. She said that she didn't have a car and so we were going to walk to her apartment. Of course, we were agreeable, despite our suitcases, because Heather and I were the tour managers and are generally polite. We set off, down the street . . . and down another street . . . and another. By then, both of us were really struggling with our luggage, but our host still didn't want to get a taxi. Two other members of the Polish choir caught up to us and convinced her that we couldn't make it all the way to her apartment, and so Heather and I ended up paying for the taxi (which was all right with us, actually, by that point). It turned out to be an extremely good idea, considering her apartment was clear on the other side of the city!
She lived in a tenement building that illustrated everything one would stereotype a tenement to be: dirty, dilapidated, loud, with dogs barking and kids screaming everywhere. Her live-in boyfriend, who didn't speak any English, met us in the tenement's courtyard and — thank goodness — carried our suitcases up the three flights of stairs to their apartment.
The apartment consisted of one medium-sized room, one smaller one, and a tiny kitchen. I didn't see any beds anywhere (or much furniture, either), nor did I see a bathroom. It turned out that the bathroom was a community one in the hallway, and it was only a toilet. Our host didn't have a shower, and she didn't understand why we needed to wash anyway, since we'd just had showers the previous evening. We ended up washing in a large metal tub placed on the kitchen floor. The water had been heated on the stove, since they didn't have hot running water, either.
She also didn't expect to have to feed us dinner, and we were starving. She fixed us rice with tomato sauce. We still felt really guilty about eating their food, since they didn't seem to have much extra. Heather and I ended up sleeping on a mattress on the floor, without pillows. And incidentally, we slept next to our host's live spider collection, which inhabited a corner of the wall about two feet away from our mattress. (She proudly showed us her spiders, and I immortalized them on video!)
The next morning, our hosts wouldn't let Heather plug in her hair dryer (I had charged my camcorder surreptitiously!) and they looked at my curling iron like it was a device from Star Trek. The girl walked us to the castle, where the choir was rehearsing — about a mile or two. That afternoon, we were supposed to spend time with her – per the Szczecin choir's schedule – but she had to go to classes and work, so we holed up at the chor house for the day with the lucky Lyco kids who were being housed there.
She also didn't have time to come to the concert and party that night, and her boyfriend made arrangements for another host to bring us back to the tenement. We didn't get back until 2 a.m., because our ride didn't want to leave the party until late. We also got lost on the way back to our host's apartment, partly because nobody knew exactly where they lived (including us) and they didn't have a phone.
When we made it to the tenement, everything was pitch black, especially in the stairwell. Marcus Myers and Trevor Loehr walked us up, but I think they were more scared than we were! Our hosts had been in bed for hours, and were obviously annoyed that we had returned so late — even though it was their fault for leaving us at the mercy of another driver. We went straight to bed. Because of the seven locks on the door, we couldn't get to the hall toilet during the night — and we were full of Polish beer.
The next morning it was time to go to the bus and leave Poland. We were absolutely ecstastic when our hosts got us to a taxi to take us back to the chor house. I remember Heather saying "It's finally over!"
But it wasn't. The taxi driver, who only spoke Polish, hadn't understood where our hosts had told him to take us, and we ended up at a school far outside of the city. We tried to sing to him and use sign language to let him know we wanted to go to the "chor house," but it just didn't work.
For some reason, he took us to the castle, where we had performed the night before. Heather and I got out there, hoping to find someone in the castle who spoke English. At this point, we were already about 30 minutes late for the bus, and we couldn't help but think that Fred had our passports, and if the choir left, we would be stuck in Poland! Heather was crying hysterically and I started yelling at her, "We have to keep going! We don't have a choice! " In retrospect, that bout of hysteria as we walked into the castle is quite amusing.
Luckily, the castle's director spoke English, and he shipped us out to a van driver, who took us to the chor house. We jumped out of the van and hugged Fred, crying and crying. The nightmare had ended. And now, it makes a great story to tell all our friends — but it definitely left a bad taste in our mouths about Poland.
Story amendment, 2014: Looking back at this tale now, almost 20 years later, I realize that our take on this experience does smack of "first world problems." But keep in mind, we were two 21-year-olds in Europe for the first time. That first night, we had no way to reach Fred or anyone (this experience far predated widespread cellphones!), we didn't have our passports, and the apartment did not seem to be in a safe neighborhood (to say the least!). And while I can sympathize with our host's living situation, the fact is that she did not seem to have much interest in hosting us during the two days we were there. She didn't seem to realize basics that were expected: providing a meal, shower facilities, and transportation to and from the concert site, just to state the obvious. These are not unreasonable expectations of a host. (I should mention that none of the other tour members seemed to have this same experience in Szczecin.) Wherever she is today, I hope she is doing well.
Early to Rise
Heather Myers, 1999
On Spring Break Tour 1999 (somewhere in Michigan). Susie Covert, Remi Mawokomatanda, Jenn Snyder, and I were staying together. Remi and I were in one room and Susie and Jenn were down the hall. I woke up, and since there was no clock in our room, I checked my watch. It was 6:10 a.m., and since we were getting up at 6:15 and I was first to shower, I got up. I showered, dressed, did hair, etc. and then went to wake Jenn. She went to shower. I turned the light on in the hallway and glanced at my watch. It was 3:15 a.m.! In the dark, I had mistaken 2:30 for 6:10. Jenn and I both went back to bed and got up 3 hours later! Needless to say, I stayed in bed until the alarm went off the rest of the tour!