The choir had just finished a 10-day concert tour of London and Paris when the eruption of an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland shut down air travel, causing the cancellation of their April 16 flight.
The group of 54 people, including chaperones and accompanists, spent the next seven days trying to live on the cheap while soaking up culture in the City of Lights. They bowled, had a picnic along the Seine, took a day trip to Versailles and sang an impromptu concert, said Cynthia Haines, a parent chaperone on the trip.
Finally, on Thursday, April 22, the choir caught a flight to Minneapolis after hours of delays at the airport, Haines said.
"The kids sang one of their popular songs called 'Butterfly,' which has a section of lyrics which state 'And tomorrow I will fly,'" Haines said. "They changed the song and sang as we took off, 'And now I will fly.' Everyone cheered."
Once back in Minneapolis, the choir broke into five groups and trickled back into the Bay Area on different flights over the course of 36 hours, she said. The last group arrived late Saturday night, April 24, she said.
To keep everyone housed and fed, choir director Jill Denny and several chaperones ran up their credit cards. The bills haven't all come in yet, but Denny said that the tab is expected to be $50,000.
"Superintendent Barry Groves called when I was over there and said the district will pay off all the debts, as soon as we tell them the amount," said Denny, calling it a huge relief.
Fundraising efforts began right away, with all donations going straight to the district to cover the expense, said Denny. On Monday, April 26, the Madrigals sang at the In-N-Out Burger on Rengstorff Avenue as part of a fundraiser with Movin 99.7 DJs Fernando and Greg.
"We received $500 in donations in a couple of hours," Denny said.
A planned concert with the Peninsulaires Choir has now become a benefit concert, set for two shows on Saturday, May 8 — at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. — at Los Altos High School.
The Madrigal choir will also perform at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, at the A La Carte and Art event on Castro Street, Denny said. By then a CD of the Madrigals performing in London and Paris should be available. Called "Springtime in Paris," its cover will feature the picture of a volcano, Denny said.
The Madrigals weren't the only students stranded. Los Altos High School had a group of 32 art students stranded in Poland, district officials said, causing financial difficulties for them as well.
More on the Madrigals is available at www.mvla.net by clicking on the MVHS choral music page. Donations to either high school group — marked "Madrigals" or "LAHS Art Club" — may be sent to the MVLA High School District, 1299 Bryant Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040.