While planning for the 1971 tour, I again worked through “Jerry Ford’s Office of the Vice President.” We were notified that we were “tentatively” on the White House schedule.
It, of course, depended upon the president’s schedule. Needless to say, the kids and I were hopeful; but also realistic. We knew that the president had a country to run, and world affairs to deal with, and listening to a high school choir was, most likely, not high on his list of priorities.
We began our tour (with hope in our hearts), and on the second travel day, I was notified by the White House Scheduling Office that we would be singing for President Nixon in the White House Rose Garden.
We were informed of the protocols, times and procedures that we needed to follow pertaining to our time in the Rose Garden. The kids, the chaperones and I were ecstatic!
On the designated day, after breakfast, and after all the kids and the few chaperones that were with us were in their assigned bus seats, I made the rounds of the four busses, and spoke about what we were about to experience.
I knew that I could depend on them; totally. They were truly professionals. They were my kids and I was their dad. We pulled up to the gate and a young, impeccably dressed Marine came aboard.
He was from Grand Rapids. He had been assigned the special duty of welcoming us to the White House. Amazing!
He took the bus’s microphone and welcomed us on behalf of the president. He instructed our driver where to park, and then followed the same procedure for each bus.
We slowly drove to the designated area and the kids and chaperones followed me (very quietly) to the area facing the White House doors. The choir quickly arranged themselves in concert formation. The taping equipment and electric keyboard that we had brought with us were set up, and the chaperones stood next to the choir. Everything was ready!
The White House doors opened and out came the President Richard Nixon, accompanied by the Vice President, Gerald (Jerry) Ford.
Mr. Ford handled the introductions and then the president began to speak.
He said, “I want you all to know that your director has a lot of influence with the vice president, and the vice president has a lot of influence with the president and that’s why you are here.”* (*from the Grand Rapids Press.)
The kids applauded and then it was our turn. Carol, our accompanist, gave us the starting pitch and the choir began our eight-part arrangement of the National Anthem.
Words can never describe the emotions we all felt, singing that song, in that place, in front of the president and vice president. The music soared and our spirits soared with it:
“O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
The song ended. I left no room for applause. We were allowed to sing two songs. The second song was our musical signature, and I was taking no chance on possibly being cut off because of a president’s schedule change.
I motioned to our accompanist and she immediately went into the introduction of “…….