Nearing the end of their tour, the group awakens in Atlanta, Georgia. If this is your first Sonos Tour Blog post, click here to go back to the beginning.
Day 16 – The Force Awakens: On our first morning in Atlanta the group did what everyone else in America did, we went and saw the new Star Wars movie! Having just premiered the night before, our director Jim found us tickets to a 3D showing at a theater close to our venue. The movie was fantastic and a perfect break from all the touring.
You’ll notice too in the picture that we are wearing heavier coats in Atlanta. The entire tour we had been blessed with perfect weather. All across the East temperatures were abnormally high and precipitation was abnormally low. Terrible for white Christmases, but great for a touring handbell ensemble. In fact, over the course of the entire tour, Atlanta was the only city I had to break out the winter jacket after leaving Massachusetts on day 3.
One of the many beautiful starts that made up the display in the center of the church we performed at in Atlanta, Georgia.
Our venue for the day was Central Presbyterian in Atlanta, Georgia. Linda Maloney and David Vandermeer set up a great concert for us and took great care of the group. I felt like I had been to that church before, but it wasn’t until Linda reminded me that I figured out it was the venue for the Lessons and Carols concert during the 2014 Handbell Musicians of America National Seminar in Atlanta. During that event there was a beautiful mobile in the middle of the sanctuary made of brightly colored origami swans. This time the mobile was an impressive flowing collection of origami stars made from what looked like old hymnal pages. The entire sculpture made for a beautiful center piece to the space.
After the concert we striked the set up in record time because of an enticing prospect and long drive that lay ahead. Some of us crazier members in the ensemble notice that day 17 was a free day in the schedule, and that our final concert venue was only an hour from Orlando, Florida. So, we decided to throw in a day at the theme parks into the schedule. To maximize our time at the parks we also decided to get a head start on the 6 hour drive to Orlando by doing half of it the night before. That meant that at 11pm half of the group set out on the road heading south.
Around 2am we rolled into Valdosta, Georgia to stop for the night. Apparently this is a popular trip for families in the South to take, because Valdosta was basically a sea of hotels. We barely noticed though as we quickly fell asleep for the night.
Day 17 – Mischief Managed: While the sane half of the group spent the day leisurely making their way to Florida, my half of the group woke up early after only a few hours of sleep to finish the drive to Orlando, Florida. This was my first trip to Universal Studios in Orlando and I was as giddy as a first year on the Hogwarts Express. The five of us who decided to do Universal Studios mainly had our sights set on Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, the two Harry Potter themed sections of the park.
Since this is a handbell blog, I’ll spare you my giddy ranting about how spectacular the Harry Potter parks were. Needless to say, my mind was blown. The attention to detail was incredible. I could have spent all day just analyzing the window displays in Diagon Alley. The Harry Potter themed rides were a rush. Part motion simulator, part roller coaster, part 4D experience, Escape from Gringotts was such a fantastic journey we had to go back and do it again before the end of the day. I also drank far too many butter beers, but they were just so good I couldn’t help myself.
Lucky for us the park closed at 9pm, which forced us back to hotel for the night. Exhausted, we climbed into bed, reliving the thrill of the day in our dreams.
Day 18 – Two Final Concerts: After shaking off my sugary butter beer induced hangover, it was time to get back to work. The final day of the concert tour involved two performances at the The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in The Villages, Florida. We couldn’t have picked a better venue to finish off our tour; our dressing rooms were beautiful, the green room fully stocked, and the stage had a wooden concert shell that carried the bells wonderfully.
Our two final concerts went off without any major hitches. Between shows they fed us butternut squash ravioli, the second time on the trip we were impressed by a butternut squash entree! We took advantage of the break between shows to do a quick photo shoot. The lobby of the Sharon Center was a remodeled church, so the space was beautiful and perfect for some photographs.
We had four numbers we were using as encores at the end of the show this tour. “West Indies Carol”, “Scherzo”, and “Stille Nacht” are great pieces, but my favorite by far was “White Christmas”. I don’t know what it is about the thick chords that create a dramatic tension through out the song, but I love it. “White Christmas” also happened to be our least played encore. However, as we hit the last encore of the last performance of the tour Jim called up “White Christmas”. Reno had been hit by a blizzard while we were on tour, so by day 18 I was dreaming of getting back to my snow covered home, making “White Christmas” the perfect way to end this incredible tour.
After the final petting zoo, we packed up our equipment carefully making sure it was ready to fly and headed back to the hotel. By this point many of us were too tired to go out and celebrate and instead spent the night relaxing in the hotel and packing for the flight home.
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Now that I have had a couple weeks to reflect on the tour, I still can’t believe that we pulled that trip off. The entire tour was exhausting and rigorous but at the same time thrilling and exciting. Many ringers dream of one day making handbells their career, and for almost three weeks I had the opportunity to do just that. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to Sonos that they let me play on this tour.
This trip also gave me hope for the future of the instrument. Every venue we were at treated us like professional musicians. The audiences were large and left educated about what handbells could do. I wish we could get more groups touring to performing arts centers like Sonos does, or take Sonos full time so we can perform in front of more audiences. Professional handbell ringing is possible. But it is up to the handbell community to make professional handbell ringing a viable career.
This tour was the first time I ever realized just how extraordinary the early members of Sonos were. It never occurred to me just how revolutionary the precise, clean, classical playing I grew up hearing Sonos perform actually was. From the beginning Sonos created itself as an ensemble of professional musicians, and they never let the fact they played handbells stand in their way. I know for myself there are many times that I timidly skirt around the fact I play handbells, but all that does is sell my skills short and reinforce the idea that handbells aren’t a real instrument. Well no more. After this tour, when someone asks what I do (when I’m not at work actually making money), I am going to tell them I’m a professional musician. And that I play handbells.