Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 Winter Tour Blog, Day 4: Eugene, Oregon

Below, Sophomore Dylan Morris gives his account of our fourth day of tour.

One YGCer’s Day in Eugene:

6:45am: The YGC wakes up early for the 8:00am bus to Eugene. We’re aiming to arrive midmorning; our director Jeffrey Douma is scheduled to teach a master class at the University of Oregon. We thank our Portland hosts and head to meet the bus.

~8:30am: The Glee Club buses roll out of Portland. Several Glee-ple on my (quiet) bus catch a few extra Zs.

10:45am: The YGC arrives in Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon Ducks. As a former high school cross country runner, I am excited when I spot Hayward Field, the fabled University track and field venue and the site of this past year’s Olympic Trials.

While Jeff is teaching his class, the members of the YGC have a chance to explore the city. YGCers disembark and head off in packs. Fellow YGCer Mari Oye ’11 and I decide to take a running tour of the city that bills itself as Tracktown, U.S.A.

11am-3pm: The YGC explores Eugene. One group visits a vintage car dealership, another starts up a game of Ultimate Frisbee on the U of O campus. Mari and I start our running tour from Hayward Field and head up to “Pre’s Rock,” a memorial at the site of the car crash that killed 24-year-old Olympian runner and former University of Oregon star Steve Prefontaine. From there, we circle through beautiful Hendricks Park, a hilltop rhododendron garden. Then it’s down to the banks of Willamette River, where we pick up “Pre’s Trail,” yet another Prefontaine memorial, this one in the form of nearly five miles of beautiful soft bark trails traversing Alton Baker Park. Finally, we return to Hayward Field to try a lap on the famous track. Hungry after the running tour, we grab lunch at a Mediterranean sandwich shop on campus and then join the Frisbee players for a few points. At last, 3pm approaches and we walk to the newly renovated Beall Hall, the site of the night’s concert.

3pm-5:30pm: The YGC rehearses in Beall Hall. The acoustics are excellent and, with Jeff’s guidance, we begin to get sense of the space and how to perform in it. A crazy-but-brilliant scheme to relay Jeff’s conducting to YCGer and organist Ray Nagem ’09 via YGC president and conducting student Casey Klippel succeeds with flying colors, but unfortunately the Baroque tuning of the organ means that it cannot render Gerald Finzi’s “God is Gone Up” as it was intended to be heard. Instead, we will wait, and perform the Finzi in San Francisco at Grace Cathedral. At around 5:30, we wrap up a very productive rehearsal and follow our tour managers Mary Schnoor ’10 and Sarah Dewey ’10 to the dining hall where we’ll be eating.

5:30pm-6:30pm: Dinner at the U of O. The food is good and so is the conversation, as YGCers fill each other in on their pre-rehearsal activities in Eugene.

6:30pm-7:45pm: We truck back over to Beall, get changed for the concert, and start warming up.

7:50pm: Senior Joel Knopf delivers a sincere and eloquent “pep talk,” calling upon us to sing our best. Casey Klippel and Justin Jee ’10 add a comic talk to keep us relaxed.

7:55pm: Under the direction of stage manager Sam Reinhardt ’10, the YGC lines up in performance formation and files into the lobby outside concert hall.

8pm-10pm: Showtime! We run down the aisles and onto the stage and sing “Gaudeamus Igitur,” our traditional opening song. Jeff introduces our first set of songs, and we begin Edvard Grieg’s “Ave Maris Stella.” Undergraduate assistant conductor Max Blum ’09 (rejoining the Glee Club after a stint touring with his a cappella group) directs us as we sing Rachmaninoff’s “Bogorodiste Djevo.”

A highlight of the first half of the concert is the moment silence in the audience after the quietly dramatic ending of Christian Grases’ “Amanacer.” As Jeff lowers his hands, they begin to applaud, and we run off for intermission.

At intermission, Cynthia Weaver ’12 keeps us loose with a funny pep talk. We grab our “Yale gear” to wear during the Football Medley, Sam gets us organized, and we run on for the second half.

We begin the second half of the concert with the playful Brazilian folk song “Muié Rendera.” The tenors and bases get to play the part of a brash and overconfident suitor, and we’re only too happy to oblige. Next are two songs that represent a change of pace for the SATB YGC: an all-female arrangement of the spiritual “At the River” (accompanied by Neena Satija ’11 on piano) and an all-male arrangement of the traditional American folk song Shenandoah created by early 20th century YGC director Marshall Bartholomew for his Glee Clubs. Bartholomew’s arrangement is wonderful to sing. In some parts, it is soft and plaintive; in others, it is dramatic and expressive. We follow it up with a beautiful arrangement of “All the Pretty Little Horses” done by our current director. My favorite part of the arrangement comes, as luck would have it, at a moment when I’m not singing, so I get to listen and enjoy it. The men are silent as the women sing “way down yonder,” with a few sopranos soaring above on “in the meadow.” The line conveys the song’s pathos; “All the Pretty Little Horses” is a lullaby sung by a slave woman who has been forced to leave her child alone to care for the master’s.

To end our folk song set on a brighter note, we sing Roland Carter’s rousing arrangement of “This Little Light of Mine.” The song has been perhaps our best crowd-pleaser all tour, and tonight is no exception.

From there, it’s on to songs of Yale. We begin with YGC senior Bram Wayman’s Fenno Heath Award-winning composition “Through Eden,” and follow it with “’Neath the Elms.” Then it’s “Eli Yale.” Manager Stephen Wirth ’09 is excellent as he fills in for President Casey Klippel as soloist. His ad libbed couplet “Those Oregon State Beavers are rather wack / Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack quack!” draws laughter and applause from the U of O Ducks fans in the audience. With Stephen singing Casey’s part, we have need for a second fill-in soloist — Stephen usually joins Casey to sing harmony during the last, most hammed up verse of the song. To the YGC’s delight, director Jeff Douma steps to the plate and delivers a great performance.

Then it’s time to invite up YGC alums (there are a few in the audience) and don Yale gear to sing the Football Medley. The new tradition of dueling accompanists reaches another level as, with Max Blum back, we have not two but three pianists fighting over the right to play the medley. Max, Ray Nagem, and Eli Luberoff ’09 trade off the piano with hilarious slapstick choreography and without missing a single note. As we sing the final chord, Casey frisbees a blue cowboy hat to Jeff, and he puts it on to cut us off.

Casey now takes center stage and conducts us with blue kid-gloved arms as we sing “Bright College Years.” We finish and dash off to loud applause.

10:30pm-11:30pm: There’s little time to relax right after the concert. We change quickly and head out to meet our Eugene-area hosts. Steven Bruce ’09 and I stay at a house right on the banks of the Willamette River. Our hosts are very nice, and serve us an excellent post-concert snack: homemade apple pie. We chat with our hosts, but conscious of the 7:45am bus to Chico, CA in the morning, Steven and I soon set our alarms and prepare to turn in. I pause to begin this post, and then fall asleep, another packed and fun day of tour in the books.

-Dylan Morris, '11