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Our favorite KC watering hole …

Our favorite KC reunion hosts …


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Here's one man's view of the reunion …

And here's another man's view …

2013 NASSOON Reunion - Kansas City 

By Dunc Dempster


Although it's likely to be of limited interest, I was so inspired by my recent Nassoon reunion trip to Kansas City I've just got to burden you with this description.  The week started on Monday evening, September 30th with departure from Kona International on a United Air red-eye to San Francisco. I was once a UAL fanboy sporting United 100,000 Miler club credentials, hoarding gobs of banked miles for future free trips and greedily using the United Premier lounge whenever possible whether I needed to or not. Since then, United merged with Continental to become the 2nd largest air carrier in the world and has grown so big and awkward and impersonal, it has lost my allegiance in the process. Nonetheless, it was the fastest and most direct routing to Kansas City and it was a reasonably comfortable 7.5-hour flight, notwithstanding the cramped-to-nonexistent legroom and the eleven dollar "snack." Hawaiian Air puts United to shame in almost every respect, but that's a separate story. 


Landed in San Francisco at 3:30 next morning and, during a four-hour layover awaiting my connecting flight to Kansas City, who should appear from thin air but four other Nassoons, all of whom were on their way to Kansas City for the reunion. We all weathered the 3 hour United Express hop to Kansas City, landing at 4 pm. Shared a taxi van to the Intercontinental Hotel and settled in just in time for the opening reception and dinner at the Roof Top Bar & Restaurant where most of the other 45 'Soons plus wives/honeys/groupies had gathered after various arrivals from all points.  Enjoyed a great buffet dinner and much renewing of old friendships as well as an initial round of song. 


Next morning, Wednesday, October 2nd, we gathered at 8:45 in a private meeting room for the first of our two rehearsals of the week. Picture if you can some twenty-five 60- & 70-something men (plus two 80-somethings) of various ilks and persuasions, hailing from all points of the geographical and social compass and bound together by a common love, that of creating music — vocal music, a-cappella music, joyful, personal, memory-teasing music of their youth.  Barely 30 minutes in and we had all morphed into 20-somethings again, singing and reliving the old days in a veritable avalanche of youthful exuberance and wistful reminiscence. Another two hours is all it took to hone that disparate group into a formidable world-class music machine, churning out all the old songs, the old feelings and the old fond memories of a distant past.  But look and listen a bit closer and you'll see that it was neither old nor distant at all … it was real and viable and right here in this latter day, twenty-first century, in-your-face present, and we relished each song, each story, each memory, and each other with a passion seldom known in today's hectic atonal whirlwind world. The Princeton Nassoon Alumni of the mid-50s-to-mid-60s had been born anew for the seventeenth time in as many years.


Armed with that brief rehearsal under our belts, the rest of this first full day was devoted to a group luncheon at the Webster House, a wonderfully restored two-story Romanesque style brick and stone schoolhouse dating from 1885, specializing in authentic antiques, boutique shopping and fine dining. There followed next a tour of one of Kansas City's real eye-openers — the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This ultramodern, uber-high tech, multi-purpose performance hall consisted of two separate 1800-seat auditoriums, equipped with the very latest electronic and acoustic technology and connected by a third common area supporting structure of glass, stainless steel and concrete, all somehow miraculously connected and suspended by steel cables. Our private tour included a chance sneak preview of the Kansas City Ballet back-stage setup and concluded with an impromptu rehearsal of our own as we spontaneously broke out in a thank you song to our tour guide in the cavernous, echo-drenched lobby. (Listen to and watch our impromptu Kauffman Center rehearsal here)


Our second full reunion day centered on a tour of the National World War I Museum, another well guarded Kansas City surprise — a unique memorial to the history of that devastating "war to end all wars." Among the many awe-inspiring features was a thick transparent glass lobby floor, below which sprouted some nine thousand red silk poppies, each one representing one thousand human fatalities, commemorating the nine million souls from all sides of that complex war who lost their lives while stoically and often blindly pursuing it. Other unique displays included full-scale dioramas depicting the horror of trench warfare plus examples of just about every weapon of war used on land, air and sea. It was amazing to learn, through displays and audio/visual demonstrations, just how little and how late America's participation in that war was. Later that afternoon we held our first public performance at the George Hamilton Combs Chapel, a benefit event to help raise funding for the chapel's organ repair and renovation, where we performed to a standing room only full house.


Friday, October 4, our third reunion day, found us on a tour of yet another Wonder of the Kansas City World — the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Once again, this modest Midwest city, heretofore little known or understood by most of us, surprised and amazed us all. The museum, consisting of two contrasting structures — a solid older classical Beaux-Arts structure affectionately dubbed "Stone", and a contrasting modern glass and concrete Bloch Building named "Feather," housed a world-renowned collection of European, American, Native American and Chinese art as well as a large collection of Henry Moore bronze sculpture. After lunch in its spacious 15th-century Italianate courtyard, the group performed an impromptu concert of sorts in the adjoining columned lobby area. After another dinner at Lidia's, a downtown restaurant, the group enjoyed a First Friday "Pub Crawl" in the City's arts district known as the Crossroads District. 


The fourth day, Saturday, October 5th, was a "free" day for shopping, touring, revisiting museums or anything else we wanted to do. Finally, the traditional end-of-reunion dinner at the home of our hosts, Buzz and Sue Kelsey, was the icing on an already over-the-top, exquisitely planned and deliciously executed 5-day confection. All in all, the event was a resounding success for everyone involved, and we all look forward to an even better one next year, either in Hawaii (yikes!  that host would be me!!) or San Francisco.   

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