"Capital Sights Wow the Choir"
Saturday, May 1, 1999
By JAN HORGEN Of The Globe-Gazette
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was quiet along the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 5:30 Friday morning as two new drivers slid behind the steering wheels of the chartered buses.
The early-morning change roused only a half-dozen of the Mason City High School Concert Choir members. The rest were too road weary to open their eyes until the breakfast call three hours later.
After students ate breakfast and the buses were fueled, the students, chaperones and school personnel loaded up for the final leg of a journey that started at noon Thursday.
"Next stop: Washington, D.C.," announced choir director Joel Everist.
By noon Friday, the buses were crossing the Potomac River, and the 78 choir members got their first glance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where the choir will compete in the National Invitational Choral Festival.
But first, a mini-tour took the group to monuments and memorials around the city that was in full spring bloom.
"Wow, it's awesome. I didn't know what to expect," said Molly Scoles, standing on the Capitol lawn and pointing toward cherry blossoms clinging to tree branches.
Rob Siddell and John Szymeczek, like Scoles, had never been to Washington and were impressed with the architecture, the atmosphere and the history.
"There's so much to see everywhere," said Siddell.
A few minutes later, Crystal Kleven stopped for a moment to take in the view from the top step of the Lincoln Memorial.
There was a catch in her voice as she said, "It's just unbelievable, unforgettable. It's the first time I've been very far from home, and to come here and see this ... something to always remember."
Back on the bus, excitement sparked in Abby Pierce's eyes. She was humming, looking out over the city and still focused on the task at hand - competing against some of the best high school choirs in the country.
"I never thought I'd ever live up to the expectation of excellence my family has about this choir," said Pierce, who is the third of three sisters to earn a place in the Mason City Concert Choir.
Rachel, the oldest of the Pierce sisters, went on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City four years ago. The middle sister, Sarah, sang in the choir that took the stage at Orchestra Hall in Chicago two years ago.
Now, it's Abby's turn.
But long before the sisters sang, their mother, Cay (Fitzgerald) Folsom, was a member of the Mason City Concert Choir in the 1970s.
"It's a family tradition to belong to this choir and sing in exciting places," the youngest Pierce said. "It's about believing in myself and all the great singers in our group. When it comes to singing, I'm a competitor."
And in a group known for its excellence, Pierce was anticipating the competition that awaits the choir today. Mason City is one of 28 choirs from the United States and Canada invited to the festival.
"We may be a small town - the smallest in this festival - but we have big voices," she said.
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