JenSop: The Singing Traveler!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.


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Today Along the Rhine River

Hi everyone!

I’m currently training a new tour. (An established tour, but new to me.)  This is one that Miloš has already been trained on and started working, and once I have it under my belt, we’ll get to work it together!  Yay!

I’m training with some nice colleagues that I’ve worked with before, so that in itself makes for a very pleasant experience.

Today, we traveled along the Rhine River.  (Germany)

We made a stop in Rüdesheim, then sailed through the castle-filled stretch of the river, and lastly made a short stop in Koblenz to see the Deutsches Eck.  (Where the Mosel River meets the Rhine.)

In Rüdesheim, we toured the Musikkabinett (a huge collection of mechanical music machines,) had lunch at the Rüdesheimer Schloß, and then took a gondola ride up the hill to see the Niederwalddenkmal (which is a monument built in the late 1800’s to commemorate the unification of Germany.)

In the afternoon, the ship sailed through the Rhine Valley, rich with castles and quaint towns.

Then in the evening, we explored the Deutsches Eck (literally translated, means “German corner”) of Koblenz, and got back to our journey northward, with Cologne as our next stop.

Here are some photos from the day.  (Three sections: Rüdesheim / Sailing / Koblenz)

 

First, Rüdesheim!

 

 

Now on to the castles!

 

And then a visit to Koblenz

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Dealing with Life’s Big Disappointments

Hello there, dear readers.  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written.  Please forgive me. I have very little free time, and when I do, I usually work on something for our Youtube Travel Channel. (Feel free to CLICK HERE to see what’s new over there!)

I wanted to address something that I think happens to so many of us once we get to a certain age.  (Haha – I used to be so private about my age when I was hard-core auditioning.  But I’m starting to be okay with sharing this formerly-taboo private information.  Maybe a part of me is a bit proud of what I’ve learned in these 42 years on the planet.  Or maybe it’s because once you get to your 40’s you really do start to care less what other people think.  I really don’t give a crap actually – that in itself is very freeing.)

However, it’s also an age where you start to realize that the big things you were hoping would happen for you in life, just might never happen at all.  When you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, life seems so vast out ahead of you.  Even if you haven’t accomplished certain things, you know you have plenty of time to make them happen.  Patience, determination, hopefulness; they’re all chugging along beside you as you keep on trying.

Right after turning 40, I took a job as a tour director.  (Which means, I basically take large groups of tourists around Central Europe, primarily centered around river cruising.) I had two reasons for my decision: financial security and I was encouraged to bring my music to the job as much as possible.  (I would not have accepted the job if that latter part had not been part of the equation.)  I have benefits. I have a retirement plan.  Crazy stuff for a life-long musician!  I like my job – I really do.  But in all honesty, I struggle on a regular basis, because I’ve really taken a big step away from what I had dedicated the entire first 40 years of my life.  Yes, when I was singing professionally on a regular basis, I had to piece together many jobs just to get by – but I was getting by, and let me tell you, the high that I got each time I was onstage was one like no other.  Close your eyes and imagine that you can fly.  That’s what it felt like.  Just glorious.  I also had a thriving voice teaching studio, and I was a really good teacher!  I miss helping students learn to sing!

Yes, I get to sing on the tours I work, but it’s not quite the same.  (And I’ve occasionally gotten pushback from jealous colleagues. That freakin’ sucks.)  I don’t get to practice regularly.  I haven’t performed in a full production with orchestra for a few years now.  I feel like the one thing I worked so hard for is gradually slipping away, and I know I’ll never have the career I thought I’d have, or even the one I DID have. I’m grateful that my Christmas Caroling business (Olde Towne Carolers) is super successful, and I get to be a real professional singer again every holiday season, but oh, how I desire to be more artistically and musically challenged!  Oh, to be on the STAGE again!

Then there’s the constant struggle of infertility and having to realize that I’m probably never going to be a mother.  Rejoicing in the pregnancy announcements of friends (so many pregnancies and babies), yet feeling constant sadness as well, because I can’t experience that same personal joy for myself.  Months go by, then years go by.  Nothing works, not even IVF.  Another closed door.  Another life disappointment.  Always being asked by guests on tour if I have kids, or am planning to have kids.  Working on my rehearsed answer so I don’t get upset talking about it.

The two big things that I thought were going to be a part of my life, just aren’t.  I had such great expectations for myself.  I had such lofty goals.  I’m immensely fortunate in that I’ve found my true soul mate and love of my life.  I could not get through any of this if it weren’t for Miloš.  He’s the biggest blessing in my life.  I make a conscious effort on a regular basis to count my blessings – to take stock of the good things in my life.  Some days are easier than others when it comes to that, but I try.

If you, too, have come to a point in your life where you realize it didn’t turn out the way you always planned, or you’re carrying around big disappointments, remember that you are NOT ALONE.  We’re all around you, and we’re all just trying to make the best of everything.  It’s good to be reminded of that saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”  It’s really true.  I think so many of us forget that.  Behind the smiles in the pictures, there’s struggle and sadness. So many of us sharing in these same feelings.  All the more reason to go with kindness, always.  Share a smile – it’s always free, and it could be the best gift someone gets on a tough day.


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The View From Above

Yesterday, we flew back to the States for a work seminar, which starts tomorrow.  Fortunately, we were able go back a day early so I could grab my car from Pennsylvania; to be able to drive it up to Connecticut for the seminar.

The route our plane took us gave us some breathtaking views, with the sky still alight during the nautical twilight.  The first noteworthy portion highlighted some beautiful clouds and cloud patterns below us.

Then we flew over the bottom of Greenland: the coastline speckled with little icebergs, which contrasted with the majestic fjords jutting up from the water’s edge.  Seriously stunning.  I did a tad bit of research, and even though most of Greenland is flat, there is a narrow area of rocky mountainous coastline along the eastern shore.  These peaks and cliffs are called the Watkins Range, with the highest mountain being Gunnbjorn’s Fjeld, which is the highest point in the Arctic at 3,694 meters (12,119 ft).

I took a ton of pics and wanted to share some with you.  I do LOTS of flying for work, but this was one of the most picturesque flights I’d ever taken.

I hope you enjoy my photos!  (You can click on the individual photos to see them enlarged.)

 

The first few photos are of the gorgeous cloud patterns over the ocean:

 

 

Next, we have Greenland!  How amazing!  We were at full cruising altitude, which means these mountains must be huge!

 

Then, we came in over Canada, always chasing the twilight side of sunset.

 

 


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Please subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

Hi Dear Readers!

 

First, I’d like to apologize for not writing as much lately.  Time has gotten away from us!  Also, in 2017, we found a new outlet to show all the great places we travel: Youtube!

We thought it was a more interactive way to share some of our crazy adventures all around the world.  It didn’t take us long to reach 10,000 views, and we joined Youtube’s partner program; which allows creators to make some money for posting videos.

We were making slow but steady progress.  (I think we were up to twenty-something dollars! Haha!)

But Youtube has informed us that since we don’t have 1,000 subscribers to our channel, we are being dropped from the partner program due to their new rules.

So we have to try to get to 1,000 subscribers by February 15th, or that’s it!

Please help us out!  Subscribe to our channel!  It’s totally free!

We promise to keep bringing you helpful and informative videos of places all around the world!  (And I’m always open to suggestions, in case anyone would like to make requests – as long as it’s within our means!)

Here’s a link to our page:

 

PS: Update!  Happy to report that we made our goal and remained a part of the Youtube partner program!  But please check out our page and become a subscriber! We’d greatly appreciate it!

Please subscribe!

Thanks to all of you!

xoxo Jen


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Home in PA – Scenes From a Winter’s Day

Caroling season is over, we took our annual Disney trip, and it’s almost time to head back to Europe.  It always feels like the time flies by way too quickly.  Perhaps it’s always going to be that way when I’m “home.”

 

We had some snow overnight, and after taking care of some afternoon chores, my dad and I went for a walk in our woods and around the Graf Pond.

 

I know some folks hate the snow, but maybe because I was born in late January, it’s kind of in my blood.  (I do hate it if I have to drive off to a caroling gig, but this time of year, it doesn’t bother me one bit!)   Being out in nature after a fresh snowfall is one of the most beautiful things.

 

I thought I’d share some of my photos with you….

 

 

I call this next set, “Daddy in the Forest”

 

 

And finishing the day as the sun goes down…

 


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In memory of a wonderful teacher… Dr. David Sprenkle

 

(I’m waiting to publish this post until an official obituary is released, as I don’t want to put anything out there before the family does…  And the obituary is now posted. CLICK HERE to read.)

 

I just found out this morning that a beloved professor/choir director from undergrad just passed away last night: Dr. David Sprenkle.

I’ve had other favorite professors pass away in recent years – Mr. Pearson (my voice teacher at NEC), Dr. Schmidt (my music history teacher at WCU.) But today’s news of Dr. Sprenkle’s passing intensely effected me – so much so, that I felt I needed to share some thoughts here.

I spent four years singing in the Renaissance Chamber Choir at West Chester University, and three of those years were under Dr. Sprenkle’s leadership.  He was also my professor for my first semester of choral conducting class, was my advisor for part of my time at WCU, and was probably a teacher of mine for another class/seminar or two that I’m forgetting about right now.  (It has been a long time since I finished my Bachelor’s degree; one does forget a detail here and there.)

Chamber Choir was life-changing for me. I had already had an interest in “early music” before participating in the choir, but through Doc Sprenkle, I learned so much music from the Renaissance period – and it became a true musical passion of mine.  It still remains probably my favorite period of time in music history. Chamber Choir was the perfect combination of creating beautiful music, learning the style and history, AND having fun.  So many rehearsals ended with English country dances, where the entire choir danced, and laughed, and sang. (“Gathering Peascods” anyone?)

We put on Madrigal Feasts and organized Renaissance Faires.  We sang in traditional concerts in Swope Hall.  And we performed in beautiful Renaissance costumes!   We were often joined by the Collegium Musicum, which was the Renaissance instrumental ensemble at WCU.  It’s where I first learned (and heard) what crumhorns and sackbuts were!  (Still love that sound!)

In Chamber Choir, I got to hone my leadership skills and grow as an individual and team member.  (During my senior year, I was president of the choir, and I couldn’t have been prouder!)

I made amazing friends, and got to sing with them a few days every week! I learned motets, madrigals, and songs that I’d later go on to perform and/or record as a professional singer.  All because of Doc Sprenkle.

I often thought of Dr. Sprenkle as the years went on.  When I recorded my Early Music Christmas CD (“Echoes of Christmas Past”) back in 2009, a good deal of it was influenced in part from what I learned from Doc.  He had a direct influence on so much of the music I made in my life after WCU.

David Sprenkle was kind, infinitely patient, knowledgable, and always had a smile on his face.  I can only imagine the countless other students that he also impacted – just like myself.

He will be truly missed and remembered for the wonderful teacher and person that he was.  My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, and everyone else that was touched and inspired by him.

 

Here are some photos I’ve been able to put together.  I’ll add additional pics if I (or former classmates) can find more.  (Thanks to Steph Buchert for sharing these photos.)

 

 

 

 


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Adventures in Kindness

 

Yesterday, I encountered another series of delayed flights in my efforts to get home between tours for some much-needed rest and relaxation.  (The way airlines are scheduling flights nowadays with hardly ANY layover time is ridiculous, but that’s a discussion for another day…) Anyway, after two delayed flights, it was quite clear that I was going to miss the direct shuttle from the Zagreb airport to Rijeka.  Which would mean shuttles to the bus station, long bus rides, needing to schlep heavy luggage all over the place. I was not looking forward to all of that while already so exhausted.

We were still in the plane waiting to disembark, when three of us women at the front of the plane began to talk.

One woman was from Croatia coming home, one woman was from Saudi Arabia here on vacation, and then there was me – the American who lives in Croatia, but who’s usually all over central Europe most of the time.

Arwa from Saudi Arabia was headed to the island of Krk to meet her children who were already there.  Krk is the island just across the water from where Miloš and I live.  She offered to take me along with her – she just needed to hire a car.  The third woman looked at the address where Arwa was headed, and indeed, I could easily be dropped off along the way.  As we waited for our luggage, we all chatted about our lives and why we were there.  The third woman (who’s name I couldn’t remember, but who I later found online, as she’s a successful tennis umpire) was heading home. She was really inspirational and gave me a lot of hope about some things going on in my life.  I was really glad to have met her –  even for a very short time.

And Arwa insisted on taking me along with her, so we went up to find a car.  Alas, she needed more of a car service kind of thing, not a rental car. BUT the woman at the rental car desk said she knew someone who might be able drive us! She called her childhood friend who was available and would be able to charge a good price. We experienced such generosity from the woman at the rental counter AND her friend who drove us.

As a result, I was able to get home quicker than the bus, and I met some lovely inspirational people.  Arwa would not accept any money for the ride, and let me know that in her culture, it is a true honor to help someone when they need it. How refreshing on such an exhausting day to encounter kindness after kindness after kindness.  Every person was a blessing.

Some people think life is a series of coincidental chances, events just being thrown around in random chaos.  However, I believe that nothing happens by chance – it’s all meant to be and has it’s own reason for happening.  When we meet people, they are there to impact our lives in some way – maybe a big way, maybe a small way, but they all have a reason for joining us on our journey.

From the way I met my Croatian husband while on vacation, to meeting someone who would become a best friend (who also happened to be an American opera singer) at a random Vienna Starbucks, to my most recent tale of getting home from the airport yesterday – there is no such thing as coincidence!

Wishing all of you , dear readers, good fortune and kindness on your own journeys!