"Students Recall Trip Highlights on Drive Home"
Wednesday, May 5, 1999
By JAN HORGEN, Of The Globe-Gazette
It was late - nearly midnight. The dark water of the Potomac River reflected the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the buses crossed the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and headed out of the city.
The Mason City High School Concert Choir left Washington, D.C., Monday night on a wave of success. The 78-member choir began the return trip to Mason City with an elegant lead crystal award for finishing in the top eight at the National Invitational Choral Festival.
But the six-day trip wasn't about a crystal award; instead, it was filled with memory album moments - that only happen once, but remain for a lifetime.
That last performance of "Bandari" on stage in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was so intense, so emotional, so meaningful that tears were trickling down the faces of fully half the choir members as the last chords died away. Just off stage they embraced each other in celebration and sadness. It's hard to let a moment like that go.
Ted Leaman, trying unsuccessfully to cover his emotions by joking, said, "If anyone asks, I'm not crying - somebody must have stepped on my foot."
Others just let the intensity of the moment flow, wiping away the tears between bursts of laughter and trembling smiles.
"Unbelievable, so unbelievable," said Vikki Hasapopoulos. "Singing for our vice president and the Japanese prime minister and from there to the Kennedy Center - how many choirs do that in one day?"
"I was getting pretty tired, run down, until we found out we made the top eight," said Liz Klus. "What an honor. It was worth every minute of the hard work and long hours."
Ben Plank reflected on the choral performances and the trip while taking a breather at Woodfield Mall in Chicago Tuesday afternoon.
"This has been one of the crowning experiences of my life," said Plank with an almost solemn smile, "the singing, the crowd jumping to their feet almost before we were finished singing that last time."
But the Holocaust Museum left a deeply disturbing impression, as the exhibit is meant to do.
"The Holocaust Museum was the most powerful thing I have ever seen ... horrifying," said Plank.
"My jaw dropped, my eyes were opened and it left me with a sadness I haven't felt for a long, long. time. And it made me aware of how everyone must do all we can to keep that from ever happening again."
Those same feelings were expressed repeatedly by most of the students.
For choir director Joel Everist and for Rachel Everist, who accompanies the choir, the trip was also inspiring and emotional and rewarding.
"It just doesn't get any better than this," said Joel Everist. "The performances, the opportunities, the entire experience. And these kids, they gave so much."
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