Saturday, December 5, 2009

Summer Vacation Part 2

We arrived in Naperville, Illinois, Monday afternoon. The motel we were staying at was great. They sent a van the train station for us, then took us back to the station Tuesday morning so we could take a trip into Chicago and see the sights.

Our first stop in Chicago was the Field Museum. Actually, it was our only stop; we spent the whole day there and probably saw less than half of it. We're planning to go back some day and finish up. We did have a bit of a misadventure on our return trip to Naperville; we got on the wrong express train (right line, it just didn't stop in Naperville) so we had to get off at Lisle (the stop before Naperville) and wait a bit for a milk run commuter train to take us the rest of the way. Come to find out later from our hotel shuttle driver that he could have picked us up at the Lisle station just as easily.

Wednesday was the beginning of the Windjammers Summer Meet. Each day from Wednesday to Friday we attended six hour rehearsals and recording sessions in the motel ballroom (with a good break for lunch). I discovered at the end of the day that I really shouldn't have forgotten my glucosamine. The fingers of my left hand (the French horn is a left handed instrument) were pretty stiff. Surprisingly, while my lips had a pleasant tingle, they didn’t feel like jelly.

The music consisted of a variety of different pieces that were used through golden era of the circus. Some were the obvious circus classics, others were more obscure pieces that had been written by the great circus composers.. The publishing dates ranged from the late 1800's to the 1940's. What I didn’t know was that often the circus band would play what was called "The Center Ring Concert" before the show actually started. These pieces consisted of the popular music of the day or common dance tunes. In all, we played 80 pieces during those three days.

On Thursday evening, we drove downtown to hear the a concert by the Naperville Municipal Band. This also gave us a look at where we would be playing on Saturday. The concert facility was wonderful. The city built a dual-purpose rehearsal hall/concert pavilion at the edge of the central park. The whole side of the rehearsal hall opens upward to form a stage that fronts an open air ampitheater. The acousitcs of the stage are fantastic. On the stage, you can hear from one side of the band to the other, and from the audience, you can hear everything, with minimal amplification.

This is a picture of the facility.
The mural you see is actually
the big door for the stage.

Friday evening was a banquet at the local vets hall. A small Dixieland combo made up of Windjammer members provided the after dinner entertainment.

We had some free time Saturday after a morning rehearsal, so John and I decided to see what the DuPage County Fair was like. It was a very small fair, about the size of the Imperial County Fair in California. There were the usual things you'd find at a fair; the one thing we'd never seen before were the duck races (we've seen turkeys race, but not ducks). I didn't find any tatting or bobbin lace in the crafts, just the usual crochet and knitting.

The big concert Saturday night was almost cancelled. A band of rain came through right when we were supposed to start playing. The organizer said that we would wait about five minutes and see how things went. At the end of five minutes, the rain had passed so they opened up the wall/door. The people of Naperville are a resilient bunch when it comes to summer rain (after all, it's just part of life in the midwest). Quite a few just settled under their umbrellas and others retreated to their cars and waited for the rain to pass. By the end of the concert, we had a pretty good crowd listening to us.

The concert went well. We even had a ringmaster, all dressed up and in full cry. One bad thing about the great acoustics… his whistle was ear-splitting.

Sunday was a day to say goodbye to everyone over breakfast, then back on to the train for the trip home.

I do need to say something about the hotel we were in. It was the Holiday Inn in Naperville, and the staff was just wonderful. We had the doors of the ballroom open while we rehearsed and I think they enjoyed listening to us from the lobby. Aside from running John and me back and forth to the train depot several times, they also provided transportation to and from the concerts and the banquet. One of the evenings a small combo of Windjammers set up in the hotel bar, and the staff brought out extra chairs for the rest of us who were hanging around listening to them. If we go back to the Chicago area, we would probably make this hotel a home base for our stay.

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