This was it. The moment I’d been waiting for! I took one step at a time as I ascended the red carpet stairs. My dress shimmered and sparkled as the movement of my feet ruffled the soft fabric and the beading shimmered in the lights. Backstage is only a place seen by those lucky and honored enough to perform on that exquisite stage. We finally made it to the darkened entrance stage right. I stepped through the door. The lights were blinding, though nothing I was not used to. It seemed as if all time had stopped and I was suspended in mid-air as I took in everything around me. The seats were filled to capacity and the room was bright and welcoming. As I looked around, I could see that there were people from the edge of the stage all the way to the top and back of the room as well as surrounding us on three out of four sides. As I floated to my place on the risers, time lurched forward again and sound came rushing to my ears. The room was full of applause and the audience on their feet, excited and ready to hear us. My heart beat a rhythm in my chest and soared into my throat while my smile swept across my face from ear to ear. We had made it. We, the Centenary College Choir from Shreveport, Louisiana, had made it to the stage of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, and we were welcomed with warm applause and joy as our audience was ready to hear us sing and perform. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing choir and to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience while a part of it is astounding and breathtaking. We traveled to Australia and New Zealand this past year as our year-end international tour. Just to be able to travel to such an amazing place is a blessing, but to also be asked to sing our own program in the Sydney Opera House, was even more of a blessing that is also a dream come true.
While abroad we were able to experience different cultures and learn about their customs and ways of life. In New Zealand we visited a Mitai Village. They introduced us to their customs and we were able to watch and take part in performances which illustrated some of the teachings that are an integral part of their lives. We were also honored to be able to eat a dinner that they had prepared for us in a traditional setting. While in Australia we were also given a welcome dinner in which the Snake Gully Bush Band was the entertainment for the night. They played and sang songs that were traditional to Australia and after we had finished dinner they invited us all to the dance floor and taught us some of their dances.
Another important way that we learned about New Zealand was a visit to The Agrodome. This is a place where they put on a show for our entertainment, yet the entire show was for the purpose of us learning about the farm life in New Zealand. They introduced us to nineteen different types of sheep and we watched them round them up with the sheep dogs. They also sheered a sheep and even had a few volunteers come up on stage to learn how to milk a cow. We were also given the opportunity to visit Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we were able to encounter many native creatures including the Kookaburra and the Tasmanian Devil. But most exciting of all we could pet the Koalas and feed the Kangaroos!
Since we are a choir we also gave a few performances of our own. In Auckland, New Zealand, we sang for the congregation of Pitt St. Methodist Church. They were so joyful to receive us that their pastor even gave us a parting gift: a special blanket that had been made locally just for us. In Sydney, Australia we sang for the boys of the Knox Grammar School. This was an especially delightful treat because they joined us in singing the Requiem Aeternam, the first movement of Mozart’s Requiem. We also sang for the congregation of the Wesley Mission Theatre as a part of one of their evening church services.
In addition to performing and learning about the culture, we had a bit of free time for sightseeing like tourists. We had some free time in Sydney in which we could take in the sights. I visited the Sydney Aquarium as well as taking a little bit of time to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Two of my friends and I were able to take the last tour of the daylight. While we were climbing the bridge, which was an incredible adventure that I would recommend to anyone, the sun was setting over the harbour and over the Sydney Opera House. It was an exquisite view from the top of the bridge. As we reached the pinnacle of the bridge they were just turning the lights on the Opera House. They project a stunning display of lights on the sails of the Opera House for all to see. We saw the majesty of the Opera House with a backdrop of the beauty of downtown Sydney. It was an awe-inspiring view that is second to none other than I have ever had the opportunity to witness. Traveling to Australia and New Zealand and singing in the Sydney Opera House is an experience that I will forever hold dear in my memory and heart. I am blessed to have been given such a beautiful opportunity.
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