The last day of Stamps-Baxter 2009 was my last day of Stamps-Baxter for a while. To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I'll make it back next year, or even the year after that. It's too far a drive just to drop by for a few days. We'll be visiting Nashville twice a year, but those trips will probably be in March and September to line up with other industry events. I've also heard there's a quartet convention in Alberta each July. Don't know if that would be good for me or not? I guess we'll just take it one summer at a time.
That said, Friday was a bit emotional for me. Yes, there were lots of practical things to do, like collect room keys and send final thank you notes, but my main focus was just connecting with the people I care about. I chatted and visited and had my photo taken a hundred times. I hugged and shared stories, and, in truly valued moments, I had friends tell me how much they'll miss having me as part of the school.
There was an office triumph too: the new school website is up and running! It's been several months in the making, but Friday morning, the site was launched, and our first student registered online for 2010. The site looks great, but more importantly, it's going to reduce office work by half! Why didn't we come up with this a year ago?
Closing Program began at 6:30, and it was stunning. Truly, truly stunning. I've been bragging about the group singing all week, and it surpassed its reputation. They changed the format a bit this year. The show opened with about 30 minutes of the choir, then all the auditioned acts performed, and then 30 more minutes with the choir to close it out. We were able to get the entire group onstage on risers, and they looked terrific. I'm pretty finicky about choirs, but this really sounded good. From a technical point of view, the cut-offs were clean, the dynamics were clear, and the blend was great.
But from a spiritual point of view - wow! There were songs where the entire room was smiling, and songs where singers and audience alike were wiping away the tears. At one point, Ben, Mary Tom, Rosa Nell, and Faye Speer all sang together. I don't think I've seen that in my 5 years of singing school. Just before the penultimate song, we heard an old recording coming through the sound system. It was Dad Speer, giving his testimony at NQC after 50 years in Gospel music. As his passionate voice faded out, and Tracey began to play "I am His and He is Mine." There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Backstage, there were more hugs, more photos, more "find me on Facebook!" After we cleaned up, the staff went out for food and laughs and stories. This is the stuff I'll miss...