Singing, sight-seeing (and sickness!) in the city that never sleeps

Carnegie Hall. Broadway. Central Park. Times Square. The Plaza Hotel. All these landmarks–and much, much more–have been experienced by a large contingent of Worthingtonians this week.

Today marks the last full day that 105 Worthington High School (WHS) choral members (along with several adult chaperones and “tag-alongs”) are in the Big Apple. Kids who just a few years ago sang about “NYC” in the WHS production of “Annie” have now had the opportunity to experience a taste of that fabled metropolitan area first-hand, due to the planning and coordination of choral instructor Kerry Johnson.

It was over a year ago when Johnson first presented the idea of taking her choir students to New York, and enthusiasm for the trip grew from there. So it transpired that, after several fundraising projects (frozen food, cookie dough or spaghetti feed, anyone?), part-time jobs, parental contributions and concentrated packing efforts, dozens of students boarded three Reading Bus Lines coaches in the chilly WHS parking lot Monday afternoon for a 25+ hour ride across the U.S. to the Clifton, N.J., La Quinta Inn & Suites (approximately 16 miles from Manhattan).

There, the weary travelers had a mere half hour to refresh themselves before their grand adventure really got under way–a quick stop at Yankee Stadium, dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, a subway ride to Times Square and “Cinderella” on Broadway. Not bad for a first night on the town!

With two teens of my own on the tour, my interest in the trip has been understandably high. Technology enabled us to literally track the buses online (via an app aptly named “Followmee”) as they rolled to the East Coast, but there is still no means of instantly teleporting oneself some 1,000 miles. That’s unfortunate, because we were unexpectedly awakened from a sound night’s slumber around 12:45 a.m. Central Standard Time Wednesday by a beeping cell phone with a message from our ninth-grade daughter, informing us she had spent most of the night throwing up in the hotel bathroom and didn’t know what to do.

In a flash, I sent a text message to the indefatigable choir director, seeking help for the sick 14-year-old. Instantly, Johnson responded, “On my way,” and though she was surely exhausted, she sought to help the poor girl and called me back a short time later to let me know what steps had been taken.

Sadly, my daughter was not the only one affected by what appears to have been a short-lived but intense virus; close to 10 students were similarly afflicted and missed most of Wednesday’s exciting activities, including Al Roker’s NBC Today Show weather report, a walking tour of Central Park, a singing appearance at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a tour of Radio City Music Hall. WHS math teacher Theresa Hoesing drew the (un)lucky chaperone straw and nobly stayed behind with the ailing youths, but later that afternoon, all were able to rejoin the fun and embark on an evening harbor cruise, featuring an up-close and personal view of the Statue of Liberty.

The week’s weather has been mostly tourist-friendly, with participants reporting many signs of spring in New York, even as they visited Chinatown and Little Italy yesterday after a morning “Making Music” clinic with Broadway performers. A walk across the Brookyln Bridge to the 9/11 memorial was also on tap, and the memories are piling up faster than text messages can be sent and Facebook accounts updated, with photos revealing only smiles and excitement.

“The choir sounded awesome in the cathedral setting,” offered one parent who was present. An impromptu performance of an African call-and-response spiritual the choir students delivered in Central Park on Wednesday was also greeted with a positive response by passers-by. “Way cool,” commented another parent on the scene at that moment.

But a tour designed for 14- to 18-year-olds can’t provide every creature comfort some adults might appreciate. One on-the-spot parent, wishing in vain for an “adult beverage” nightcap after a long, tiring day, queried in a wistful text message, “Did you know this is an alcohol-free trip? What’s that all about?”

Eh, maybe next time. This one’s all about the kids. And if they can make it there–sickness, subway, singing and all–they can make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York.

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