Sunday, June 05, 2005

Strangers for All of Five Minutes

June 1-4

Study Travelers are a remarkable lot, regardless of program destination or subject matter. From the time the group meets, everyone’s “in” with these welcoming, easy-going folks. It matters not whether you went to St. Olaf, sent your children there, or signed up because of an ad. You can sit down with anyone and be part of amazing tales of travel and full lives, or stimulating follow-up conversations to the lectures and guided site visits.

For example, during the dinner at Terra Restaurant before the Oslo concert, I learned about a Texas couple’s two-and-a-half year assignment in Paris. David had trained Algerians to operate and repair a gas plant, while Mitzi took intensive French lessons.

Their companion, Sid, is minister of music at a large United Methodist church in Texas. The freelance orchestra he hires has performed two of St. Olaf Orchestra conductor Steve Amundson’s pieces. The St. Olaf Choir will perform at that 1,800-seat church on tour in 2006.

Sid wants Steve’s next composition hot off the press. He offered to sponsor the orchestra anytime, and he means it.

Last night, June 3, in Lillehammer, our table swapped tales of funny and peculiar travel experiences. Our Norwegian bus driver, Magne, joined in, and I interpreted. When a new road from Oslo to Sweden cut his farm land in two, he gave up farming in favor of driving coaches all over Europe.

Today, June 4, over an exquisite salmon lunch, a cluster of us discussed the universality of singing, language and early instruments, music teaching techniques, and the similarities and differences of singing and playing instruments.

You couldn’t ask for better companions than a group drawn together by travel and learning!