Young Ambassadors

Now to continue and finish my saga of the singing groups. In about April of 1977, Newel Dayley, head of the Music department called and asked me if I would come and judge (critique) the Young Ambassadors at a concert in the deJong Concert Hall. He said they were going to Europe and were having some problems. He wanted me to tell him if I thought they were ready to go as the show stood. I told him I would be glad to come and I did and he came and sat by me. All through the show, we could see serious problems and afterward both agreed that something needed to be done. He said he would be in touch with me and perhaps they could help me with my plans for a tour of the Orient with Donna, not a singing group. The next day he called and asked if I would meet with their conductor and talk the matter over with him and help out the group. Again, I said I would be glad to. However, I made the stipulations that I would have to be paid and would go to Europe with them. He agreed. I had worked the year before with their director and like him very much. In fact, I had known him as an under-graduate.

About the next day, he came to my house and we sat on the couch and I told him I had to be very honest with him about what I felt was wrong with the show and I poured out exactly how I felt. He was very understanding and said he could see as I pointed out various areas that they really needed my help. I said I would like to see their entire repertoire and then we could meet again and decide where to go from there. I told him that there was one thing I wanted understood–he was the director and I was only the helper and that I wanted to do everything I could to help him.

A few days later, the group went through all the songs they knew. About Friday, Newell called and said that the director was no longer with the group and they wanted me to take it over. In the words of the film magnet, Sam Goldwyn, I said, “Include me out!” I wanted nothing to do with it. He wouldn’t say why the director was leaving and I never did find out all the details, but there were several other problems I gathered beside the failure of the group to be up to ‘snuff.’ That was a ‘bad day at Black Rock’ for me. Newell said that if I didn’t take them over, they would have to cancel the show. I begged them to let the former direct and his wife go with us, but to no avail. They had never been to Europe and I felt terrible that they had planned so much to go and now weren’t going.

The students in the group had all paid their money to go and the posters were out all over Europe about the show. Besides, this, this was the first tour that was being sponsored by the Church instead of just the University, and we were going under the auspices of the Missionary Department. There was so much at stake, but in the first place there were only about 2 1/2 weeks to shape up the show and do it for the powers that be to see if they felt it was good enough to go. I wasn’t sure I could do it, and I just mourned the fact that the former director was gone. But, the different levels at the top of the University kept calling me and urging me to do it. and I decided that for the sake of the students who had also been planning on it for so long, and because of the various conditions that were at stake, that I probably would have to go ahead.

The members of the show were aghast when they heard that the director had been fired. Some of them knew me, but very few and they loved their erstwhile director, and I didn’t blame them. So they all met together to decide whether they wanted to have a 66 year old woman take them over from the other director or whether to quit the show. I guess they also decided that they wanted to go so bad and there was so much at stake that they would ‘take me on’. So, we started rehearsals. By the end of the second day, they were coming up to me and saying, “This is what we have needed. We can see that you know what you’re doing”, etc. They were a wonderful group. I worked with various sections of them 6:00 a.m. until midnight. I told Newell that he would have to take over the band and get them ready. That was not an area I was adequate in. He said he had already taken care of that. He asked Kurt Bestor to take over the band. He was just a student but very talented and did a great job with the show. Dee Winterton did the choreography, but when we were ready to go, there was a student choreographer who was going to take over and she was great also. I made them change all the costumes but one because they were awful. And the girls were wearing ‘clumpy’ brown shoes with evening dresses and I made them get sandals because they screamed they couldn’t afford it, so I sent them to a shoe outlet and they got them.

At the end of the 2 1/2 weeks, we did the show for the Administration and they were very pleased with it. And, they gave us to go-ahead to take the show to Europe. I also have in my diary of the trip which any of you can read if you wish. The tour was very successful. They were the best group I had ever traveled with, not withstanding all the small and large groups I had traveled with. The show was a great success everywhere we went and we had very few problems with anyone or anything. However, all through the tour I kept getting the feeling that they felt that my heart was still with the Sounds of Freedom, since I had started the latter and been with them for so lone. Every so often I kept telling them in the Green Room before the show that they were the best group I had traveled with.

Finally the last night came for a performance before we left for home. As usual I had my famous yellow pad with a critique on it when we all met in the Green Room, but I told them that I had no critique for them that night. They had done a great job all through the tour (Holland, Germany and France) and had never lost their enthusiasm and I knew they wouldn’t this night. I said a few more ‘encouraging words’ and then said that I had told them many times that they were the best group I had traveled with, and I was sincere and that I had just one more thing to add and that was, “From now on I’m a Young Ambassador!” And, they clapped and shouted and stomped and it was great fun. They did the show of their lives that night and the next morning we flew home. It was another great experience of my life among the many.