By Michael Kyle ’85
I’ve heard that phrase dozens of times when showing my passport after traveling abroad.
And I heard it again at the end of last week, as the majority of Choir members returned from Trondheim in two waves (affectionately known as the “Icelandair Wave” and the “Delta Wave”). Still others stayed on for an additional sojourn: summer programs at European universities, travel with family, and travel with friends. But wherever we all ended up after concluding the 2013 Centennial Tour (including three days of rehearsal and taping for the December PBS Broadcast) we all knew it was over.
There are things the energized but weary travelers will miss: Where are the ice machines? That’s the size of the roll-away? No laundry facilities … again? Salmon … again?
And there are things we already miss:
- Expansive Norwegian breakfasts
- Fun and engaging Norwegian bus drivers
- Singing for a king (how many people get to do that?)
- Spiritual experiences in performance venues ranging from the newest of the new (the concert hall in Stavanger) to the oldest of the old (Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim)
- An expressive and heartfelt thanks to the choir from President Anderson
- A moving rendition of Beautiful Savior at the grave site of Bernt Julius Muus, the college’s founder
- Devotions that honored our hopes and aspirations and remembered and mourned those family members and friends no longer with us
Memories captured by cameras permeate Facebook and Twitter (or as the KLM flight attendants says — “Tahvitter”), and we’ll hold even more memories in our hearts.
I am so proud of the St. Olaf Choir and its members’ ambassadorship as musicians, as Oles, and as Americans.
I am so proud of those who worked behind the scenes to pull this off. It is no easy feat to move 75 Choir members, a sometimes anxious conductor (sorry, Anton), and an equally nervous vice president (me) around a country some 4,000 miles away from campus.
I was on this tour as a college representative, but along the way I realized I was on this tour in many other roles, as well: as a father (proud dad of an Ole Choir member), as an alumnus (who loved the time we got to share with the Groupie Tour and the study travel group), as a friend (you meet all sorts of people and hear all sorts of stories when you travel with the St. Olaf Choir and its merry band of supporters).
But I also was an American in a country that values America for many reasons. I was an American in a country that sent many, many families to immigrate to the United States many years ago. I was an American in a country of people who are kind, generous, entrepreneurial, traditional, and spiritual. And I was welcomed with care and compassion.
And when one Norwegian said “welcome home” to me before a concert, I realized just how important home and tradition are. It was the experience of a lifetime for which I will always be grateful.
Michael Kyle ’85 is vice president for enrollment and college relations at St. Olaf.