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Comfort and Joy, The Sequel 1/8/2017
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Our flight on December 1st took us to Pittsburgh, where our new bus driver, Arnie, awaited us. He drove us to The Byham Theatre directly from the airport.

You know how I feel about our drivers—we’ve had such great guys, always real pros, and some have been especially dear. Arnie is of that breed. With his 35 years of experience, he is highly qualified. A registered nurse, a family man and a true gentleman, he's always ready to help us with whatever we need. And we feel safe with him behind the wheel. We appreciate our new friend very much—it’s unanimous, Arnie ticks all the boxes!

But back to Pittsburgh. Once we arrived at the theatre we were greeted by our sound engineer, Bob, who records Jim's radio show. He would be running sound for us that day. He drove in from Cleveland, along with our newest and youngest member of the group, intern Josh, who would be selling merchandise and assisting Brynne, our tour manager.

The wonderful audiences we have at each show, night after night, are simply amazing. And Pittsburgh was no different. After the show, Kris, Tracy and I went out to the lobby to sign CDs. True to form, our American Idol winner was swarmed by fans and photo seekers, as he is every night! I understand—he is a delight! I love singing with him and working with him is truly a pleasure. He fit right in to our little group!

We packed up the bus in Pittsburgh late that night for our 8-hour ride to Batavia, IL for a show at The Batavia Fine Arts Center. We checked into our hotel and I indulged in a restorative few hours of sleep, followed by a good workout. I was then driven to the theatre for sound check. The staff couldn't have been nicer and the darling senior high interns on hand helped things run smoothly.

After sound check, the Brickman crew had a couple of winners, Ernie and Vicki Knight, as dinner guests. A very nice couple, they have been following us for over 15 years. Ernie is the former policeman who put the cuffs on me a few years back for fun, remember that silly photo?

The show went beautifully, and the audience was terrific. We gratefully returned to the same hotel for the night. There was no long drive in store for us this time since our next date, at Dominican University Performing Arts Center in River Forest, IL, was only an hour away. Oof!

The Dominican U staff was so kind and helpful the following day. I was excited to see my cousins, Jim, Vernette and Brittany, whom I was able to meet briefly before the show. I was also looking forward to seeing my old high school friend, Sue, and her husband, Mark. Longtime friends, Karen and Randy Josey, along with their son, Nick and his gal, Emily, who drove three and a half hours from Flint, Michigan, were also on hand to cheer us on. What a great evening!

After the show, Josh and I were driven to O'Hare Airport's Hilton for a brief night's sleep: four hours, to be exact. Josh, who also lives in Cleveland, and I were heading home for a few days, before meeting up with Jim again in Denver. He was going to do a few solo shows in the interim.

I was thrilled to have a short break to spend with my family. But was looking forward to getting back to the tour, too!

I arrived on a Sunday morning. It was so nice to be picked up by my hubby. Once home, after a nap, a visit with my mom and a lovely dinner at the home of friends, I collapsed in my bed, only to awake Monday morning with a cold.

Whaaaat? But after seeing my doctor for a few good remedies, which included rest, at least I was able to get back to restoring my house from its post-Thanksgiving state, and to check off some items on my Christmas shopping list. I was also able to attend my first Christmas bunko party ever, what a treat!

Before I knew it, the morning of the 10th had arrived and I was on my way to Denver. Between the two-hour delay for my connecting flight in Chicago and the rush-hour traffic from Denver airport to The Paramount Theatre, I was lucky to fit in a late sound check, just under the line. The show went well that evening and it was wonderful seeing Bruce and Judy, the parents of my nephew’s wife, as well as my nephew's good buddy, Pup.

After the show, we boarded the bus for Kansas City, where we were to perform with their fabulous symphony the following evening. By this time, my cold had gone to my chest and I skyped with a doctor from the Amwel app. She recommended a couple of things and I got through the show that night, but was definitely not feeling my best. Luckily, there was another terrific audience to help me through! The crowd included another high school buddy and her husband, and my friends, George (Director) and Jerry (Assistant Director), from The Union Station, where The Pompeii Exhibition I’ve told you about is on display until May.

With only 3 1/2 hours of sleep, we were boarding a 6:20 am flight to Baltimore--our bus would never have made it in time. Jim and I chatted the entire way! With a 1 1/2 hour nap on the bus, (once it arrived), I was ready for (don’t ask how!) our evening at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with our special guests, The College Park Chamber Singers.

The audience was wonderful, and I enjoyed seeing another high school classmate, as well as a friend and her family who treated me to a beautiful bottle of wine, gratefully shared on the bus by the whole crew that evening.

Next stop, Wilmington, DE, with a 2:00 matinee at The Playhouse on Rodney Square. That day we had The Concord High School Madrigals as our guest players. They were charming and fun to work with. I saw many old friends and gained new ones that day. It's always a pleasure greeting you all after the shows!

After our load out, we were on our way to Manchester, NH. An hour into the trip, we couldn't pass up on our traditional dinner at Cracker Barrel. The six of us, including our amazing bus driver, Arnie, enjoyed the meal and each other's company.

We arrived to lots of snow in Manchester, eight hours later, at around 6:30 am. With a little rest to re-charge our batteries, we sound-checked at The Palace Theatre in front of The Christmas Carol set and backdrop. We used the doors to the toy shop and Scrooge's home for entrances and exits and had fun taking Jim by surprise every time. Again, the audience was fantastic!! Let's face it, we are fortunate to have fabulous crowds, wherever we go!

After the show, we began the 15-hour haul to Charlotte, NC, where we were to enjoy a night off before our next show. We pulled into town at around 3:30 pm and checked into our hotel. We rested, regrouped and met for dinner at 6:00. Kris, Brynne, Tyson, Josh, Bob and I walked to Thai House for a scrumptious meal; we were back in our rooms by 9:00. The following morning we all met at the bus and took off around 11:45, for The McGlohon Theatre, where my brother, Chris, who works but a block from the venue, treated me to a quick but yummy organic lunch.

After lunch, I videotaped a tour of our bus and worked on my music for my own upcoming NYE shows at Cleveland’s Nighttown. Following sound check, we were joined by an Iraqi war veteran. Confined to a wheelchair due to the loss of the use of his legs during the war, he had an amazing, positive attitude. He had treated his wife to dinner with Jim as part of a promotion that Jim was running. He and all of those in the armed forces are our heroes.

Before we knew it, we were on stage in the intimate McGlohon Theatre, playing to an audience of 700 people, including my brother, his wife and their youngest, aged 16. Chris loved the show and thought it was one of the best that he'd seen, and he's seen many! Nice to hear! After a quick goodbye to the family, we were on our way to Oxford, AL.

Our six-hour drive ended with a restful day in town, and, before dinner, a quirky visit to the original jail cell below the venue, in the company of our sound check man and Kris. The Oxford PAC, now thoroughly renovated, was originally a police station way back when!

That evening, we surprised the audience with the talents of a 16-year-old pianist/songwriter (shades of Jim when he and I first met!), Ethan Thomas. Jim discovered him and we’re sure you will be hearing good things about him in the future. It was a fun night! We enjoyed the lovely people of Alabama, as well as fans who traveled from Georgia to see the show.

Next stop, Little Rock, Arkansas: birthplace of our American Idol, Kris Allen! You can imagine the fan base there, starting with his darling wife, their 5-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son, who were staying the weekend with Kris’ parents, who still live in Little Rock. The show took place at Maumelle Perfoming Arts Center, and was packed with Kris fans, but I’d like to think that Jim, Tracy and I gained some, ourselves, that night!

After our performance, we set off for Wichita, KS, where bitter cold temperatures awaited us. At least it was toasty warm inside The Orpheum Theatre! By the way, there was no sign of ghosts this year. You may recall that last year Jim tripped up the steps a few times and his piano pedal got stuck! And I wasn’t left out, having had a major wardrobe malfunction, which many fans were quick to point out after the show, (blush)! So we were on the alert, but all was good and the audience was great. The phantom faction must have decided we were OK...

Soon we were off to Lincoln, NE where the thermometer read -6°! We had two shows, at 2 and 7 pm at the Rococo Theatre that day, cool! Or shall I say, COLD?? The heat system was down backstage and in all the dressing rooms! A portable heater brought relief only if you sat right next to it. I've never been so cold and it had to be on a day when we had two shows! BRRRRRRRR!!!! The theatre is beautiful and the audiences were wonderful, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that chilling experience.

We couldn't get changed and out of there fast enough, after our last meet & greet.We were so happy to be on the warm and comfy bus again! Direction: Louisville, KY, where we were to spend our day off.

On arrival, we checked into the beautiful Brown Hotel, adjacent to The Brown Theatre, where we would be performing the following night. After settling into our rooms, our tour manger, Brynne, and I ventured out to do a little Christmas shopping. I was able to find a few small things and Brynne purchased a beautiful shawl/cape and a smart-looking vest.

An hour later, the entire cast and crew met in the restaurant of the hotel for a delicious dinner, followed by a "family" photo session by the Christmas tree. Since Jim, Kris and I had an early radio date the next morning, we regained our rooms soon after to ensure a good night’s sleep.

After what seemed only minutes later, my alarm went off at 5:45! I began warming up my voice, as I showered and dressed for our early morning performance and interview. I felt sorry for whomever was in ear shot of my vocal warm ups at that early hour!

At 7 am, the three of us set off for WVEZ Louisville Play 106.9, a couple of blocks away. It was dark and chilly, but it felt good to be walking. And we were warmly greeted by the morning team of Jesse and MJ. We spent about an hour on the air, singing Jim Brickman songs…and composing new songs too. We were inspired and it was a lot of fun!

That evening at The Brown Theatre, we performed before one of the most thrilling audiences of the tour, which included my niece, Jenni, her boyfriend and his mom, and my good friends, Scott and Sandi, who had just moved to Louisville a month earlier. Our bus driver, Arnie, was also in the audience that night and really enjoyed the show! The energy was off the charts that night! We will never forget you, Louisville!!!

After the show, Arnie drove us to Columbus, OH, where we were to perform at the charming Southern Theatre. We had played here before and were happy to be back. We rehearsed with the choir that was to join us that night and they were very good. Some of our long-time fans, like Kristin and her mom Nancy, as well as other friends were in attendance. Kristin gave me a mug printed with "Rise and Shine", like the song Abe and I wrote—such a thoughtful gesture. Thank you, again, Kristin! The show was sold out and again, the audience was wonderful.

Next stop, home, for many of us: Cleveland! My husband picked me up at around 1:30 am, at Jim's office, where the bus dropped us off. It was my last trip on the bus and I bid my farewell to Arnie. I was so grateful to have had him on our team this year. Ed and I drove home and were in bed by 3 am. It felt great to sink into my own pillow again!

The following day, Brynne and Kayley (our social media gal from last year) picked me up and drove me down to Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra, where we would be performing to an almost sold-out crowd of 2,000. What a magical place! In the audience that evening, were my 91-year-old mom, my husband, my son, his gal and her parents, my sister, her son, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. My family had a great time and my little grand-niece behaved beautifully at her first evening theatre experience. She told her mama after the show that she wants to be a singer, just like me! And this hometown crowd was right up there with Louisville! What a homecoming! What an audience! We had a blast on both sides of the stage! That night, I went home and slept like a baby, visions of sugarplums already dancing in my head...

December 23rd was the final show of the tour for Tracy, Kris and me. I met Jim at his office and we drove to Sandusky together, where we performed at The Sandusky State Theatre. We were joined by a small choir and a string ensemble from Sandusky High School.

This evening was bittersweet. I was looking forward to being with my family for the holidays this year, but sad to see the road family break up. Our closing show went well, we all said our goodbyes and wished each other a very Merry Christmas. It had been a fun tour and I really enjoyed the addition of Kris to our group. Perhaps we will be the same cast next year? In the meantime, I look forward to seeing Jim and Tracy at our show with The Allentown Symphony on January 21st.

Christmas Eve. I spent the day wrapping gifts and getting my house in order. Ed and I picked up my mom and met my sister, her son and his family at 6 pm for The Childrens’ Mass. We were missing Mike and my brother, Geoff... During the beautiful celebration, Father Tom, who had presided over the funerals of both, made a special mention of Mike, whom we had lost just seven months ago. It was very touching.

On Christmas Day, after enjoying our gift exchange with my youngest son, we went to my sister's house for a beautiful dinner. There were 10 of us, counting the baby and toddler. Thank God for the little ones who distract us and bring us such joy!

The next day, I was busy preparing for the arrival of my eldest son, his gal and her mom, driving in from New Jersey to stay with us for almost a week. They arrived at around 1:30. It was great to have our boy from LA home again!

Later that day, while I was at rehearsal for my NYE shows, Ed took everybody downtown for dinner at Crop Bistro. They were joined by Pat, a college buddy of Sean’s, and his fiancée. Rehearsal went well and with a little help from the freeway, I arrived at the restaurant by 8:30. Luckily, I hadn't missed out on too much fun!

During the week, we enjoyed dining out, dining in with Wendy and her gang (I hosted three big family dinners), lunching out, watching movies…and remembering Mike, and our brother Geoff, who died on December 27th, two years ago.

The 28th, I awoke with my second cold in a month. Grrr. That has never happened before! I thought I was immunized by that first bout, sure to be in good voice for New Year's Eve. All I could do was to try to get better, with rest, Bragg vinegar concoctions, elderberry extract and zinc lozenges, supplemented with daily sinus rinses. The shows had to go on......And they did.

So, although I wasn't at the top of my game, I did my very best and it worked out fine, with a little scratchiness that Abe thought brought extra soul, especially to Tammi Terell songs. Abe and I were backed by our band of tremendous musicians including bass, drums, guitar, keyboard, sax, trombone and trumpet.

We performed two back-to-back shows for two sold-out crowds and had a ball! Our wonderful audiences included my boys and their gals, my hubby, my nephew and his wife and Abe's kids and his siblings. Kristin came to the 8:00 NYE show too, after attending the Brickman Christmas show in Columbus earlier in the month. Her mother, Nancy, and her boyfriend drove her up to see me. How’s that for a dedicated fan?!! Of course, there were plenty of people we weren't related to—the whole crowd was simply amazing.

After the second show, I went home and continued to celebrate NYE with family and friends. I was in bed three hours into the New Year, which wasn’t going to do my cold any good, but I was coasting on the energy of a fantastic evening. It was the first time in 20 years that I hadn't performed with Jim on NYE. I adore singing with Jim, but it made for a nice change to celebrate 2017 in my own town, doing my own music.

I’ll be back next month with new adventures. In the meantime, a blessed, happy New Year to all!