Choir camp day 1 – Monday, August 27
A beautiful, clear day. After arrival, the boys selected their cabin, and then they were impatient to get to the waterfront. The strong swimmers swam out to the rocks in the middle of the lake. Others practiced swimming around the docks. We discovered plenty of leeches, but the water was fresh and inviting even so.
During snack in the dining hall, Nick introduced the counselors, divided the boys into two teams (the boys named their teams the “CR Rockers” and “Nick’s Dream Team”, “NDT” for short), and went over camp rules. The boys then had their first choir rehearsal in the activities hall, which was interrupted by a bit of smoke and excitement when the camp generator fried the keyboard cord, but rehearsal resumed in the dining hall, and the boys learned Non Nobis, the Byrd grace we sang before every meal at camp: Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
The afternoon was spent in a spirited game of Capture the Flag, and more waterfront time. Dinner was a splendid affair, with Shay’s
roast chicken au jus, sautéed onions and mushrooms, rice, and broccoli enjoyed by the light of propane lanterns in the dining hall. All the boys came back for seconds, and some thirds. One team helped to set up dinner; the other team to clean up. The set up was complete with wild flowers on the tables (courtesy of NDT). At clean-up time, Eugene shone as an expert dish-washer (representing the CR Rockers). The set-up and clean-up for this first meal set the stage for a week of fierce competition between the teams in these all-important activities.
The day ended with a long game of German Spotlight. I believe there were even cookies and milk before bed.
Choir camp day 2 – Tuesday, August 28
The boys awoke at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of Nick and Henk intoning “Polar Bear” from outside their cabin. After some confusion, the boys managed to get on their swimsuits and race for the lake as the morning mist rose up, sun-lit, into the crisp air from the warmer water. Anthony (for NDT) was out the cabin door first. Phin (for CR Rockers) was a close second, rubbing his eyes as he ran. Eugene was in third.
Breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and cheese. The boys performed some team songs they had written.
Choir rehearsal senza keyboard: Nick, Nico, and the boys worked on sound production and the fine art of singing a phrase, while learning Purcell’s Thou Knowest, Lord and the Howells Collegium Regale Magnificat.
Rehearsal was followed by a rousing soccer match (in which even the camp dog, a chocolate Labrador named Eeyore, joined), and then swimming.
Lunch was Shay’s hot chicken soup with rice (made from scratch from the chicken of last night).
Following lunch, the boys had “Team Time” to work on various point-earning ditties, like team songs and skits for Skit Night. More waterfront (Nick, Nico, and Henk have been taking turns teaching a few of the boys to swim), a snack, another rehearsal.
Dinner of bangers and mash, fresh kale, and green beans. This was the inspiration for Anthony’s unforgettable “Sausages” song, which morphed into the even more unforgettable “Ketchup wit’ Burritos”.
Tuesday night was Campfire Night, with a great, blazing campfire complete with s’mores.
Choir camp day 3 – Wednesday, August 29
Wednesday broke decidedly autumnal, but that didn’t stop the 7:30 a.m. polar bear swimmers.
During breakfast (of poached and fried eggs, pan-fried tomatoes, onions, bacon, toast, and grilled mashed potatoes), however, some of the boys lost points for their team for being too scantily clad for the weather. Those who were still in their wet bathing suits and turning blue were told to go back to their cabin and get warmer clothes on. At camp one learns not just the fine music of Howells, Stanford, and Purcell, but also the basics of survival in this cruel world.
Breakfast was followed by a rehearsal with a new keyboard freshly brought in from Halifax, and a better extension cord. Rehearsal was followed by another soccer match, and waterfront time. Luke, our junior counselor, had to leave camp this afternoon for a competition back in Halifax. After a fortifying bowl of chicken soup, he and his dad departed for the big city amid cries of “It’s not the same without Luke!”
Lunch of pita sandwiches, chips and salsa. This may have been the lunch when Anthony performed his #2 hit song, “Camp is Fun”.
And then the game of crocker – that traditional choir camp fiasco where the man at bat, armed with a canoe paddle, must defend a precariously-set wicket from the kickball being pitched by the other team, and run to a base and back each time he hits the ball, with any part of his body, and no matter whether there is time to get to the base and back before the pitcher launches the ball again at the wicket. When the wicket falls, the batter must be replaced immediately by the next member of his team, before the other team has time to get the ball back to the pitcher and knock over the wicket yet again. The batter earns one point for his team each time he makes it successfully to the base and back without the wicket falling.
More waterfront time, followed by snack and a visit by the Chair of our Board of Directors, Barbara Butler and partner Roy. Barbara and Roy brought delicious, homemade snack bars, and chatted with the boys in the dining hall and then observed some of the afternoon rehearsal. Barbara said the rehearsal – and more generally camp – was a “beautiful” thing to witness.
Team time followed rehearsal. Skits in the making.
We entertained more guests for dinner – Paul and Meg, and Muriel Halley. Muriel made lasagna and macaroni and cheese, to which camp counselors added roasted fennel and beets, and salad with shallots and green beans. A special dessert of ice cream and chocolate sauce.
During dinner, under the flickering light of propane lanterns in the cozy dining hall, Henk told the boys a bit about a ghost who inhabits the little church across the lake. He proposed an excursion to the church after dinner to see what could be seen. No flashlights allowed. The boys and counselors – almost the entire camp (all but sleeping Wyn, and Vanessa, who was appointed to keep watch over the lonely, wind-swept camp while all the others were gone, and who thereby won points for Team Wyn for bravery) – trooped off down the moonlit dirt road that winds around the lake, all sticking close together.
Choir camp day 4 – Thursday, August 30
Thursday morning’s polar bear dip was later than usual – 8.00 a.m. Breakfast of cereal with bananas and honey, and toast. All the campers went down to the docks for a camp photo session – a camera propped up on a post for Liz to hit the timer and come running to join the group. Nico had to leave on Thursday. Everyone bid a fond farewell to Nico.
The rest of the day brought two rehearsals, a second game of crocker, team time, a lunch of sandwiches, chips, broccoli, carrots, and cucumbers, and most notably, a canoe trip around the lake in a stiff breeze. Dinner of burritos (flour tortillas, ground beef, refried beans, grated cheese, tomatoes, sour cream).
Then the Skit Night. The CR Rockers presented the skits “Cinderblock”, “Orange Stand” and “Strep Throat” and NDT presented “Nick’s Dream”, “Silent Dinner”, and Anthony’s improv with Henk. Phin brought everyone together with an enthusiastic call for the Top Ten camp memories. The teams received equal points for Skit Night, since the CR Rockers presented three solid skits and NDT put particular effort into writing and performing their flagship skit “Nick’s Dream”.
Dessert of apple crisp with ice cream, and an impromptu dance session in the dining hall (with Nick and Henk providing hand percussion) following skits. The boys were told that there would not be a polar bear swim tomorrow since it would be the last day and all the boys should take the opportunity to sleep in.
Choir camp day 5 – Friday, August 31
Come Friday morning, however, the melodious polar bear call rang out deep and true, and sure enough, the boys, with potential points dancing before their eyes, managed one more dunk in the morning-fresh lake before breakfast.
Following breakfast, the morning rehearsal. An hour and twenty minutes into the rehearsal, all participants (Nick and the boys) determined that they had put in enough time and energy for the day on plainsong and Anglican chant.
Following rehearsal, all of the campers (except for Henk who was at this point bed-ridden with a cold) went for trail-walk, which quickly turned into a bush-whacking, back-country exploration experience. Through thick woods, then across a great bog to a logging road that led back to camp, the boys and counselors exhibited great intrepidness and team spirit.
Lunch, and then camp clean-up. And then the great Nonathlon began (a nine-event competition of the teams).
Event 1 was the Blind Piggy Back – one athlete must ride piggy-back to guide a blind-folded runner through a relay course. NDT won this event.
Event 2 was the full-team Leap Frog and Sprint relay. The CR Rockers prevailed.
Event 3 was the Egg-and-Spoon relay race. NDT took the lead once more in this event.
Event 4 was the four-legged race (three boys tied together). The CR Rockers again prevailed, coming back to a tie.
Event 5 was the Dizzy Course, where the camper must put his forehead to a baseball bat standing on the ground and run around it until dizzy, and then run a relay course. The CR Rockers pulled ahead with this event.
Event 6 was the Cross-Country Run. There was a great deal of debate around how many people from each team should be allowed to run, and how the points for this event should be awarded. The general feeling was that Phin was bound to win; the question was only how many runner-up points would be awarded. As it turned out, only Logan completed the race (because Gabe twisted his ankle during the first leg of the run and his fellow choristers stopped to help him, but Logan was too far ahead to be aware of this development), but he graciously offered to forfeit his winner’s points in light of the circumstances. The Run was a wash.
Event 7 was the first of the three waterfront events: the Bathtub Race, where the athletes must swim from the dock out to a canoe and back, all the while lying on their backs and keeping their toes out of the water. Undaunted by his twisted ankle, Gabe won this race on behalf of NDT, with Alistair a well-fought second place for CR Rockers.
Event 8 was the Cracker-Swim-Sing, where the athlete must swim out to the canoe, take a saltine cracker in his mouth, swim back to the dock with the cracker in his teeth, chew the cracker at the dock and then sing the first verse of Non Nobis. Sam won this event for NDT, with Eugene a valiant second for CR Rockers.
Event 9 was the Paddle-Free Canoe race, with each team in a canoe to paddle (with hands) around a course. According to a long history of choir camp lore, the key to this event is more teamwork than brawn. The CR Rockers won due to NDT overshooting the turn around the corner of the dock on the return trip.
After the Nonathlon and a quick snack, the campers piled into cars to head back to Halifax (with the counselors promising to update the points board before the next rehearsal). Everyone was depressed to be leaving camp (but likely also secretly relieved to be returning to the comforts of the 21stcentury).
Over the course of five days, the boys had learned the Geoffrey Shaw Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, the Purcell Thou Knowest, Lord, the Howells Collegium Regale Magnificat, the Thomas Atwood Teach Me, O Lord, the Stanford Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in C, the Tallis O Nata Lux, the Elgar Ave Verum Corpus, the Byrd Non Nobis, and many psalms. Everyone came away with a life-long interest in leeches and their curious habits. Everyone learned that it is best to keep a water-obsessed chocolate Labrador away from the waterfront while others are trying to swim. I think it is safe to say that we all look forward to many more choir camps to come!