This volcano in Iceland kept students from Connecticut stranded in Europe. Now, they're finally making their way home.
Members of a Mountain View high school choir whose recent trip to Europe was unexpectedly extended by a volcano eruption in Iceland returned to school Monday.
The Mountain View High School Madrigals were stranded in Paris for a week past their return date after the ash cloud from the volcano prompted airport closures throughout the region.
Paris may not seem like a bad place to be stuck, but choral director Jill Denny said today that once all the expenses are tallied, the cost of the extra days could reach $50,000.
Denny said there were 41 students and 13 chaperones on the trip. When the ash cloud shut down the airspace over Paris on April 15, the hotel where the group was staying made space for them to stay a few more nights and lowered the room rates, Denny said.
"Initially, everybody was really jubilant that the stay was extended, but it quickly turned to the reality that they couldn't leave and some were homesick," she said.
Their tour company paid the up-front costs for the hotel, and Denny and the parents put the rest on their credit cards.
The trip was initially supposed to span 12 days in England and France. "They were singing all over London and Paris," including at Notre Dame Cathedral, Dennis said.
When the trip got longer, the group simply kept performing, at times spontaneously on the street.
"Sometimes we would pick a spot because we felt like the acoustics were so great," Dennis said.
The street performances always drew a crowd, she said.
"Some of our music was traditional French folk pieces and so they would usually end up singing along," Dennis said.
One student, who speaks fluent French, arranged a rendition of La Vie en Rose.
"That was really a special song," Dennis said. "No matter how old or young they were, everyone seemed to know it and that was very special."
The American Church in Paris gave the group space to rehearse and offered its gym so the kids could get exercise. The group ate out one night at the Hard Rock Cafe so the students could get a "taste of home," but for the most part they ate cheaply, buying food at the store and making meals out of it.
"Some would go to the bakery and others would go to the market and get fruits and we would all meet at the park," Dennis said.
"We certainly didn't forget that we were in Paris and there was a lot to be seen," she said.
The students finally made it home on staggered flights late last week. Now, the question is how to pay the bills.
The radio station Movin' 99.7 planned to hold a fundraiser in Mountain View this afternoon to help recoup the cost of the trip. The event was set to begin at 4:30 p.m. near the In-N-Out Burger at the Rengstorff Center, near Highway 101.
A meeting is planned tonight to discuss the trip's cost, and the group is working on producing a CD of the music the choir sang and recorded in Europe.
On May 8, the Peninsulaires Choir will hold a benefit concert for the Madrigals at Los Altos High School. There will be performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Denny said. A second concert is set for May 24 at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church.
Those who wish to donate to the choir can send checks payable to "Mountain View High School" to MVLA High School District, 1299 Bryant Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040. "Madrigals" should be written in the memo line.
A celebration is planned in the school's quad at lunchtime Tuesday to welcome the choir home.
The Madrigals weren't the only Peninsula group stranded in Europe by the ash cloud.
Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves said 32 students from Los Altos High School taking part in a European art tour were stranded in Germany.
He said that contingent's tour agency is expected to pick up most of the extra costs.
Groves said some of the Mountain View High students stranded in Paris were worried they were going to fall behind in learning a dance piece they are supposed to perform in early May.
To keep them in the loop, students back home filmed the choreography and posted it on YouTube. The traveling students watched it online and didn't miss a beat when they showed up to rehearsal on Saturday, Groves said.
Another group, a dozen French and Spanish language students from Gunn High School, was stranded in Barcelona for a few days, Gunn assistant principal Tom Jacoubowsky said. Those students returned home Thursday after missing several days of school, he said.
"They're working with their teachers" to catch up on schoolwork, Jacoubowsky said. "Their teachers have been very understanding."
"They're glad to be home," he said.
Dennis said she thinks it was good for her choral students to learn that things don't always happen as planned.
"It was a great life lesson," she said.