Wednesday marked a departure from New York; a state in which our choir had spent the last three days. After a restful night with host families in and around Ithaca, we were back on the road in our trusty steed (driven by George, the real MVP of this tour) in search of our next destination. Heading south, we happened upon Hershey, Pennsylvania just as thoughts of lunch were becoming quite vocal. Earlier that morning, our host families had each graciously provided us sack lunches, and we settled into a food court in the center of Hershey’s Chocolate World to enjoy our meal. Playful banter arose over who had the best host-provided sack lunch – ginger ale, gourmet organic turkey sandwiches, and whole containers of hummus all vied for the title. In the end, however, collaborative spirit won out and food was exchanged, shared, and passed around.
We then set out to explore the consumeristic hustle and bustle of Chocolate World. Amidst a delightful chocolate scent, we found such practical items as 5 pound chocolate bars, sequined Hershey’s pillows, or a package of a dozen flavored lip balms (Hershey Kisses, Twizzlers, Reese’s Pieces, etc…). A complementary 3D film showing the process of milk chocolate production capped off our experience and we flopped back onto the bus, fully satiated with chocolate and ready to nap.
Our evening destination was St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town, WV. A deacon in this church had heard the Chamber Choir during its live broadcast with Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion last May, and then set about to bring the Chamber Choir to sing at St. James. We enjoyed both giving a short concert and also offering several selections during a Mass which followed. The church is the largest Catholic church in West Virginia, and it was a very fun, live space in which to sing and worship! Following the Lenten Mass we sat down to a formal dinner along with members of the church’s Archangelus Chorale. As classical music wafted through the dining room, we enjoyed a three-course meal on fine china with linens and a plethora of silverware (which sparked some confusion for those of us with less fine dining experience). Caramelized onion crostini, grilled chicken breast, and a berry trifle were all served to us by high school students who were part of the church’s catering apprentice program. These young men and women had the opportunity to gain valuable skills through this program. We enjoyed connecting with the students amidst a delightful culinary experience.
Experiences with host families continue to be a highlight, and it was no different this evening. Myself and three others spent the evening with a couple and their vivacious Jack Russell Terrier. It is always a delight to explore someone’s story, home, and experience. In addition, to get to their house, we drove past land with layers of historical significance: several mansions built by descendants of George Washington and the inspiration for John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to name but a few.
Spirits continue to be high and laughter is oft present. We look forward to enjoying the last days of tour!
The choir warms up at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town, WV: