Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Grueling Day

When you go to a Winter Harp concert and watch the musicians walk on stage, you would never dream what they sometimes have to go through to get there.

Dec. 9 was such a day. Lori Pappajohn woke up at 7:30 a.m. to see snow falling outside. Oh no. Winter Harp was flying to Edmonton that day -- out of Abbotsford -- and as we Vancouverites know, if it is snowing in Vancouver, it is often blizzarding in Abbotsford.

Lori quickly called everyone and told them to leave early for the airport. Joaquin left first. When he was half way to Abbotsford (around 176th St.), he called Lori to say the road was a sheet of ice and everyone was spinning out. He watched in horror as several vehicles in front of him spun out of control, slid into the ditch and rolled several times. The freeway was almost at a standstill. At this rate, he’d never make the plane, and neither would the band members who were still behind him. Lori was at home manning the phones and Joaquin asked her to call the other band members and warn them of the treacherous road conditions. Lori kept calling members to get their locations and to calculate at the rate of speed they were going, if they’d make the plane. The morning quickly turned into a race against snow, ice, accidents and a plane that was about to take off. Then a radio station announced that both the east and west-bound freeway lanes were closed. Wow! That meant Winter Harp wouldn’t get to Edmonton for its concert that night. One member was already in Edmonton -- harpist Sharlene Wallace. Lori called her -- “can you do Winter Harp as a solo act tonight?” she half jested.

By now Lori had called WestJet several times and had the entire band on standby for a later flight, if necessary, which would get them into Edmonton just in time for the concert -- by the skin of their teeth.

While Joaquin was seeing people driving into the ditch, the band members who were farther behind him on the road, were seeing the ambulances -- and in one case a helicopter -- taking the injured away.

Then, miracles of miracles, a salt truck went by. And the roads got much better. Suddenly the freeway was moving. The eastbound lanes weren’t closed as the radio had reported. And before long Winter Harp members found themselves at the airport just in time for their flight.

What a relief that was. However, the fun didn’t end. Landing in Edmonton they couldn’t find one of their instruments -- the beautiful bass psaltery. It was no where. They waited and waited at the luggage claim, but no psaltery arrived.

Finally it was found hooked up on a conveyor belt in the bowels of the airport.
Then the band discovered that the 2 vans they rented weren’t working properly. One -- the seats wouldn’t go down. Joaquin and Lauri tried again and again in the freezing cold, to get the seats to go down so the instruments could fit in. No luck. The other van, the sliding door wouldn’t close all the way, so the wind howled in. And these were brand new vehicles. So, that took a while to sort out and get a new van.

Arriving at the theatre, now late, they had a grueling sound check, as it was hard to get a good sound on the harps -- it is ALWAYS hard to get a good sound check on the harps.
Then suddenly it was 20 minutes before curtain time. The performers wolfed down supper, made themselves beautiful and walked out on stage.

They had all been up since 7 a.m., had a grueling day with little rest and then walked out and played the show. But something magical happens when you walk out on stage. All the hassles and challenges of the day roll off your back -- they stay back stage. And when you walk out -- and see all those faces in the audiences, it’s like the day has begun anew, and is beautiful and full of magic.

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