After two big concerts in Saint Louis, Missouri the group heads south to Arkansas. If this is the first Sonos Tour Blog post you’re reading, click here to go back to the beginning.
Day 12 – Walton Center: After six hours of driving, the group arrived at the Walton Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Due in part to funding from the Walton Family (who owns Walmart), the theater was beautiful and well staffed. The crew helped us unload and set up and the greenroom was fully stocked with drinks and snacks, which was a blessing after the drive that morning. Because several people in the group were getting sick, I took the opportunity to chug orange juice. Our host Mitzy made sure we had everything we needed. In fact, her whole job was to take care of the performers back stage. I found myself a bit jealous of her job. There was an incredible list of acts coming through the theater this year and I would love to hang backstage with all of them. If handbells don’t work out, I know what my new career path will be.
The concert there went well. We had several hundred people in the audience, and many of them enthusiastically came up after the show to see the bells and chat with us.
Day 13 – teach a man to ring: Day 13 kicked off with another master class with 6th graders. This time we only had 75, so they joined us on stage so they could watch us up close. Again we held their attention for the full hour, and the questions from them were insightful. I love playing bells because once all 12 of us get moving in unison while throwing around shiny instruments, everyone is captivated.
We had the afternoon to relax and explore Fayetteville. There’s a great downtown area around the Walton center with all sorts of restaurants, shops, and bars. It reminded me of Reno actually.
That night we had dinner with Ozark Bronze, a community handbell ensemble based there in Fayetteville. They fed us a delicious spread of BBQ, and we spent the evening giving them a master class. First we did some workshops on 4-in-hand, bass bells, and moving while ringing, then we had them perform for us while we gave them some feedback. The group was a blast to work with. Everyone was very receptive to feedback and they all wanted to learn as much as they could from us. After a couple hours we finally had to kick ourselves out because we could have spent all night with them. We all made some new friends that I’m sure we’ll keep in touch with over the years.
Day 14 – Bartlett: We all got up early and hit the road again. This time we were headed east to Tennessee. After another 6 hours of driving we made it to Bartlett, Tennessee. Sondra Tucker and Todd Wilson set us up with an hour concert at Bartlett UMC. Our concert was squeezed in between some other church activities like choir practice, which meant we had a good audience, but we had to cut the program down.
By this point in the tour we had out set up and take down routine perfected. One of the smartest things Tess our equipment manager did was give us all specific jobs. Setting the tables, draping the tables, managing percussion, setting up extra bells, and stashing the cases were all job assigned to various members. Since tensions can get high on a tour like this, having assigned jobs allowed us to stay out of each other’s way, and gave us some down time once we arrived at a venue to relax and settle in while someone else did their job. If your group is going to do more than a couple shows in a row, I would highly recommend assigning jobs.
We had about 100 at our concert in Bartlett. There were quite a few kids there from the youth bell ensemble at Bartlett UMC, so we invited them on stage to play percussion with us on our last piece. After the concert we were hosted by members of the congregation. All of the families that gave us home stays that night took great care of us, and it was fun to get to see the local side of Tennessee.
Day 15 – Cabo: Early in the morning we were all returned to the church to start the drive east to Atlanta, Georgia. Because there was no concert that evening we took the drive at a leisurely pace. I got to check Mississippi and Alabama off my list of states I have visited, since I’ve never spent much time in the south. Even though we were in the south, Jim found us a Mexican restaurant called Cabo in Jasper, Alabama. It was a strange clash of cultures, but I will say the food tasted great.
We rolled into Atlanta and spent the night at the hotel. At the beginning of the trip many of us would have a couple drinks and hang out every night, but at this point in the trip Marquise and I ordered a pizza in and spent the night surfing the internet. Two weeks on the road was exhausting, and the trip wasn’t over yet.