Today I have a guest blog from Bonnie Kraft, whose fantastic  too-brief solo on “Where Shall I Be?” every time gave me shivers on my arms and a lift inside my chest. The way she sang showed me how singing should be done.  Read her account of the Villlage Harmony trip, below:

The Wild and Crazy Adventures of a Traveling Quartet

Once upon a time there were four super singers (Bonnie, Gill, Robin and Fric) from New Hampshire and Vermont who took a very long and exciting trip to the marvelous country of Macedonia…

It was a beautiful New England summer day in late June when the four departed for their appointed rendezvous at Logan Airport for the first leg of their journey on United Airlines…Mysteriously this flight never actually occurred, and thus became the catapult for the cascade of adventures which followed with a layover in Boston, including a mouthwatering Ethiopian dinner at the Habsha Restaurant in Malden, MA, a tantalizing subway ride to view the amazing and colorful glass sculpture of an one-eyed artist, Dale Chihuly, and the new flight itinerary to Sofia, Bulgaria allowing for a delicious fruit and muesli breakfast at the Goethe Bar in Frankfort, the meeting of a famous Macedonian opera singer, and a perilous drive through Bulgaria under the hands of the good and faithful  Macedonian taxi-driver (movie star and wine smuggler) and soon to be loyal friend…Bronco of Berovo.  The quartet quickly developed a fluency with the important phases of Macedonian language…”Di mi Skopsko ve molem!” and “Fantastichno!”…..

With their arrival at the Hotel Monastir in Berovo, Macedonia, the adventure continued…Over hill and dale, the super singers wandered and explored breathtakingly beautiful country side, learning to speak unspeakable words, singing songs of mysterious Macedonian rhythms with the intoxicating sounds of accordian, tupan, tambura and kaval, and were initiated the ways of complex dances with special handholds and hidden codes of hops, skips, and kicks…”raz, dva tri.”  They met “sheeps,” spectacular horses, goats, friendly doggies, cats and kittens, peacocks, an array of unusual insects, with one singer graced by the glorious sound of the elusive nightingale. They sampled delightful honeys, sweet pears, picked juicy raspberries, heartily consumed thirst quenching watermelon and warded off illnesses with a daily dose of chicken soup, potatoes, sliced cucumbers, the reddest, sweetest, juiciest tomatoes, rich olives and cheeses and morning doses of kefir, yogurt, fresh jams and wild mountain thyme chai. And, were filled up at mealtimes with the addition of roasted and specially prepared meats of local pig, lamb and cow. They were sharply warned of the dangers lurking in deep lakes, the likely possibility of finding a frog or even a bear in the zelnikot bread, and dared to taste the breath-catching, tear-streaming, tongue-burning brilliant green peppers, learning to eat cautiously when such foods served. Fueled by the national fermented fruit drink, rakia, and the premium beer, Skopsko, the traveling quartet sang and danced into the night. Yet, most astoundingly, throughout their wanderings the traveling quartet was warmly received and welcomed into the homes and heart of the Macedonia people—on hillsides, in monasteries, in fields, on hikes, and invited into homes in the small villages and big cities by…people who smiled with twinkling eyes, extended handshakes, offered hugs and cheek kisses, kafe and rakia, and gave gifts of the heart with song, dance and treasures of family stories, little potted plants, flower bouquets, books in cyrillic, holy water, and Bulgarian Bear’s Blood wine….By the end of this wild adventure the traveling quartet had learned to sing the folk songs of Macedonia in full voice with open heart and dance joyfully supporting one another…