When Kris Miller gets an idea, action follows.
Over the past 48 years, she has regularly organized reunions, and this year marks a special one: the 50th anniversary of the Bradford High School Choir tour to Norway.
Miller worked to organize a gathering in September, but even she is no match for the ongoing COIVD-19 pandemic.
The choir’s director, Roger Tweiten, was planning to drive from his home in River Falls to attend the reunion here in Kenosha, but his doctor advised Tweiten and his wife, Verna, against traveling.
Add in internet connection problems and a new hip, and you have a rescheduled, online-only Zoom reunion.
While the “choir kids” will be separated physically, their personal connections remain strong.
That may be because preparing for the 1971 trip was a huge undertaking for these high school students.
“A great deal of fundraising had to occur” before they could even go to Norway, Miller said. “We also rehearsed music way beyond what a high school choir would normally perform.”
At that time, a high school group traveling oversees was rare.
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For a lot of the students, the trip to Norway was their first time visiting a foreign country — and their first time on a plane.
Steve Vepraskas, who was a senior in 1971, said the “seven- or eight-hour flight seemed like an eternity. We also had smaller flights while in Europe, from Amsterdam to Oslo, Norway.”
The choir “toured Norway by motor coach and then finished our tour by taking a ship along the coast from Bergen back to Oslo on the North Sea. It was a very rough ride,” he recalled, “and many students got motion sickness, so the bathrooms were our friends.”
The choir performances, he said, drew large crowds in venues ranging from soaring cathedrals in Oslo to small churches and parks in smaller towns.
“Each performance was unique and memorable,” Vepraskas said. “Roger Tweiten had put together a program of songs that embraced the culture and heritage of our two countries, as well as classics of choral literature. The choir also learned the official national anthem of Norway, which was performed many times throughout our trip, an audience favorite.”
Oranges for sale!
This was also the first foreign trip for choir member Ron Gomez, who said his previous travels involved riding “in a Rambler station wagon to Texas” as one of five kids on family trips.
The group needed to raise more than $50,000 — “a tidy sum back in the early ‘70s,” Tweiten said — and Gomez recalls a parade of “oranges, grapefruits and candy.”
Yes, this trip started the now-familiar school music group citrus fruit sales. Many Kenosha residents boosted their Vitamin C levels over the years thanks to Band Boosters oranges.
“People were so gracious,” Gomez said about the student fundraising. “One woman told me, ‘I always wanted to travel and didn’t, but I want to help you.’”
When you bring 64 teens to a foreign country, you need some great chaperones.
Luckily, this choir had them. Gomez still thanks the adults on the trip “for putting up with us high school students.”
For Richard Hansen, joining the trip as a chaperone — his daughter, Kathleen, was in the choir — was “a last-minute decision. I had to go to Chicago and get a passport quickly.”
The 1971 tour was his “one and only trip to that beautiful country. We had a great time there, with performances in Oslo and several other cities. We met and stayed with nice people and had wonderful summer weather, too.”
Hansen was “amazed” that he could “speak only English there, and it was no problem.”
He recalls “setting up a KeNorway booth and selling fruit. So much fruit! We went to all the summer functions with that portable booth.”
One of his favorite memories from the trip is “buying some little souvenir skis for my son, who was back at home.”
Hansen still can’t quite believe “it’s been 50 years since that trip. Time really does fly. I’m 90 now, so there’s a lot of water under the bridge, enough to fill a fjord.”
Tammi Hauck Jerred was a junior in high school in 1971, and, unlike most of her peers, she was a seasoned traveler.
“I was very fortunate that my dad, Allan Hauck, was a Carthage College religion professor and had planned trips to the Holy Land,” she said. “He had a lot of contacts in the travel business, and my parents actually helped plan the choir trip. My dad went on the trip as a chaperone, too.”
Before moving to this area, the Hauck family “lived in Nebraska, and my dad took a sabbatical year. As a family, we spent a year traveling around Europe in a VW van,” she said. “I had done a lot of traveling because of my dad.”
It was, however, her “first time traveling with friends and not just as a kid with my family. That was really fun.”
She recalls performances “where the audiences really loved us. We were a very good choir, and at that time, it was relatively rare for a group of American teens to come and sing in those smaller towns.”
As for those fundraising fruit sales, Hauck said with a sigh that “our family did buy a lot of fruit. I hated grapefruit then — and I still hate it.”
Have a comment? Email Liz at [email protected] or call her at 262-656-6271.