2014 tour group photo by Chris Leeming
This year’s tour was a great success! We had fun, worked very hard, and traveled through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world!
As noted above this year’s tour was dedicated to our dearest friend and fellow Chautauquan, Faith Craig Petric. As a girl in Orofino, Idaho she had attended the annual Circuit Chautauqua that arrived mid summer to give six days of educational lectures, speeches, opera, theatre and light entertainment. In 1982 when Faith heard from long time friend, U. Utah Phillips that he was traveling with our newly minted Circuit Chautauqua, Faith, aged 67 at the time, jumped into her car and joined us on tour and then for every tour thereafter until she was 95!
Chautauquan, Fiona Worcester, created a beautiful poster for the tour which shows Faith as a girl looking down at the Circuit Chautauqua she is about to attend.
2014 Tour poster by Fiona Rose
The 2014 tour was booked not long after Faith’s passing in November 2013 in the land of her birth. The towns we visited were Sandpoint, ID., Libby, MT., Eureka, MT. Hotsprings, MT., Orofino, ID., and Spokane, WA.
The tour’s highlights were:
SANDPOINT, IDAHO – July 15-19
Sandpoint, photo by Chris Leeming
We arrived at the beautiful home of our Sandpoint sponsors, Jerry and Becky Luther, during the day of June 15. That night we held our first band rehearsal. For the next two days we had endless band rehearsals, show rehearsals, mad costume inventing. Plus we got to know one another start orienting ourselves to Chautauqua daily life.
Stephen Bent (now O’Bent after he married out marvelous stage manager, Shannon O’Neil, later this last summer) was our musical maestro. He worked tirelessly, with great élan, and with infinite patience arrangeing endless bits for our acts and for our huge musical numbers.
At his initiative, the summer 2014 tour incorporated the ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Verdi’s opera ‘Il Trovatore’, which had been a staple of the Chautauquas of one hundred years ago. In addition to adapting both orchestral and choral versions of the piece, he invited local participants to join both our band and choir to perform the pieces in each town on the tour. This created a phenomenal way for local people to join in making our show truly a collaborative experience for us all.
Sandpoint’s mayor pronounced our visit as Chautauqua Week! Our Community potluck was held next to the Bonner County Historical Society Museum which had mounted our Circuit Chautauqua exhibit. Many New Old Time Chautauquans got to see it for the first time! Our community show was a hoot which was held at a school and attended by disadvantaged children. The parade was joined by local musicians and went right through downtown and down by the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. The workshops were held in a downtown park and premiered two new workshops.
Joanne Murayama, a New Old Time Chautauqua founder, gave a workshop titled, “Life Behind Barbed Wire.” It was a wonderful presentation based around her parent’s experience in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The other was Paul Magid’s slide show lecture on the history of the Chautauqua movement.
The evening show this year was a themed one about the life Faith Petric and the history of Chautauqua. Paul and Amy Englehardt (known to some as Amy Bob, lately of the acapella group, the Bobs), MC’d. It was a wonderful mix of vaudeville, theatre, opera (more on that later) and music. Opening night was a huge success replete with a standing ovation at the end. The show was performed at the venerable and much loved Panida (pronounced like Canada) Theatre. We raised $5,000.00 for TIPS (Transition in Progress Services) an organization that provides transitional housing and program management services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence in Bonner County! WOW!
LIBBY, MONTANA – July 20-22
Libby Care Center, photo by Skip Adeedoodah
The town of Libby is the country’s largest super fund site. For 80 years the W. R. Grace Mining Company mined vermiculite from a nearby mountain and Libby became a company town. Unfortunately, the vermiculite was laced with asbestos fibers. The company found out that they were mining a cancer causing product 40 years before they were stopped by the government. They sold the vermiculite as insulation all over the country. But even worse they never told their workers. In 1999 the truth was publicized in a Seattle Post Intelligencer investigative report. Ever since then Libby has been fighting a losing battle against cancer. The EPA has been removing all the soil from town and taking out all of the vermiculite that the company gave to schools for free. Today the largest employers in town are the hospital and the EPA respectively.
We arrived to a town that after 15 years was still in denial, suffering from the mine closure and the sickness that continues to plague the population. It was interesting in that at first people didn’t know what to make of us. We camped on the grass of the grounds of a school that had been closed because of its vermiculite insulation. We set up our tents and had a wonderful community potluck but it was a lightly attended event. The next day we had 7 community shows plus a show and lecture at the Lincoln County Heritage Center. After a parade at the hospital we divided into 2 groups and headed out to various convalescent homes and senior centers. It was a long and meaningful day. That night it clouded over and cooled down and by parade time the next day it began to rain. We thought about canceling the parade but Karl Meyer, Chautauqua Board President, came up with a great idea. Get 4 Chautauquans to hold each leg of an easy up and put some of the band under it. The full band was able to fit under two easy ups and we had one of those great improvised parade highs. That was the moment the town fell in love with us. We had also done parades in a grocery and hardware store. The workshops were held outside (the rain had stopped) and in the old school. This time there were loads of people in attendance. The show was sold out. In fact, it was the most tickets they had ever sold to an event at Memorial Auditorium. It was an emotional affair with another standing ovation at the end. One of the highlights of the show was during the finale, during our version of Verdi’s “The Anvil Chorus” the floor in front of the stage rose into the air with out hunky anvil strikers rising heavenward!
Parading in the rain, Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, led by Stephen O’Bent, photo by Phina Pipia
EUREKA, MONTANA – JULY 24-26
On the July 23 we drove the next day to our Montanan Chautauquan Pom Collin’s home. We had a great day off (despite a fast moving thunder storm). We had a big dinner at a nearby lodge and sang the anvil chorus, with the band singing their parts as well.
The next day found us in rainy and cool Eureka for the community potluck. It was an easy-up moment with local venison and great conversation with the locals. We had been there only 7 years before so many people remembered Faith and our last visit. That night we gave a wedding shower to Stephen and Shannon O’Bent. Loads of fun! We also had a new arrival in the person of longtime Chautauquan, Alexandra Craig, Faith Craig Petric’s granddaughter, who had flown all the way from Ireland!
The community show was held at the Mountain View Manor Good Samaritan Center. It was a lovely event and you could see that music really stirs something in people even when it seems nothing else will. The next day we paraded through town which was caught on video by a drone pilot. The band went down Main Street right to Riverside Park at the Historical Village run by the Tobacco Board of History. Our amazing sponsor, Rita Collins, had really got the word out as people showed up from all over the county to participate. That night we gave the show at the beautiful Lincoln County High School Auditorium. A great time was had by all!
HOT SPRINGS, MONTANA – JULY 27-29
The People’s Center, photo by Chris Leeming
Hot springs is an isolated little town of 500 eccentric people. There is no cell service and they don’t want any. There are hot springs and, in fact, where we camped is a wonderful ranch style motel-resort retreat called Las Alamedas. Thank you to our host, owner, Paul Stelter! The Hot Springs committee of about 12 people, spearheaded by Janell Clarke, really whooped it up for us. The Potluck was amazing and filled to the brim in the Kootnai-Salish Tribal Meeting Center in Hot Springs. The next day we went to Pablo, Montana where we did workshops and a show at the Tribal People’s Center. Clay Mazing and a gang of Chautauquans went around the village streets hawking the show and sure enough a bunch of folks showed up. The parade was filled with local groups, the workshops which were held downtown on Janell’s property was also filled with local workshoppers. The show, the only one held outdoors, was done in Hot Spring’s Style, set up on a narrow stage, under the trees and, eventually, the stars.
OROFINO, IDAHO – JULY 31-AUGUST 2
The Anvil Chorus, photo by Jon Crandell
After a day off (a day off of travel, a hike for a visit to the Jerry Johnson hot springs and a show we do every year for ourselves, called the Ben Show) we arrived at Faith’s home town of Orofino, Idaho. It was thrilling to be there. We camped right in Orofino City Park next to the Clearwater River. That night after a wonderful potluck hosted by the Orofino Rotary Club we held a moving memorial service for Faith. The band played a New Orleans funeral march down to the banks of the river. There were many moving testimonials which finished with some heartfelt words from Faith’s granddaughter. After her testimonial she walked into the river near whose banks Faith had been born and spread some of her ashes while Paul juggled torches over the flowing stream until they sputtered out.
The community show day was packed and astounding! We first went to the Idaho Correctional Institution and played to 400 prisoners. This was arranged (with loads of paper work, background checks, etc..) by our community show maven, par excellence, Anne Gavzer. A great connection was established between us and the prisoners, as something like us had never been performed at the prison before. We then went over to the nearby State Hospital North, a psychiatric facility. There too connected well with the patients. After a short break we drove over to the nearby Nez Perce Tribal Center. A highlight there was a waltz we had with children!
The parade the next day was fabulous as we were joined by the local VFW chapter who led the parade in uniform, flags hoisted high. We started right at the spot where the old circuit Chautauquas were held. Speaking of which the museum exhibit at the Clearwater Historical Society was amazing! The workshops were equally stunning as there were many local ones including a fascinating workshop/demo of flint knapping,. The show was held at the Orofino High School auditorium. With local musicians at hand, and Faith making appearances in the show (7 Chautauquans girls and women played Faith at various ages in her life) it felt like we had touched many hearts, including our own, in the sold out hall with a standing ovation!
SPOKANE – August 3
We packed up, drove and set up at the lovely Bing Crosby Theatre in downtown Spokane. It was a fitting last send-off in a stunning old vaudeville house. This was a benefit also for the local public radio station, KYRS.
CLOSING CIRCLE – August 4
Closing circle, photo by Chris Leeming
The next morning was our last all together. We all felt so close to each other and there were tears, ideas for the future, many tired yawns and lots of laughter.
~Paul Magid, tour organizer