Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009 Summer Tour Reflections: Wrapping Up

A poetic look at the end of tour from rising sophomore Julia Myers.

Having sung for the young girls who gave a standing ovation after every song, for the vast audience spilling into the aisles for the Creation, and for the elderly woman who kissed my cheeks with tears in her eyes, repeating “Obrigada” over and over in my ear and so many other things I only wish I could understand, I found myself sitting on the bus back to New Haven with a very heavy feeling. I couldn’t begin to imagine how a group that had just sung Bright College Years in an ill-formed circle at the baggage claim could be dispersing all around the world. But then I settled on what I remembered best about Rio, this one moment when I looked out of the bus window and saw along the shore a line of white ships poised on the glassy water. Their maiden names once painted in blood red were chipped and faded from the burning sunlight…the waves lapped up against their sides like rivulets of cool relief and when they fell away the wood gleamed with newfound heat. Their bows were securely lodged in the copper sand, but their sails stretched out to some other place. The image compelled me to write as the tour came to a close, “I cannot believe I have come so far through such a beautiful country only to have reached the end of the journey...” I thought of us parting ways to go and serve others or to further our own passions, and to hopefully also find a bit of ourselves along the way. “…and the start of another.”

And now, sitting here and writing this on a humid Friday afternoon in New Haven, with a film script beside me and the spirit of adventure in the air (please see the movie Up), having come together with people I have never met before to capture beautiful moments on film, I realize that this is exactly where all of us probably are.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 Summer Tour Reflections: Campinas

Below, Cynthia Weaver '12 talks about our days in Campinas, Brazil. 

After a scenic 9-hour bus ride filled with song, mischief and sleep, the Glee Club arrived in Campinas, home of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, or Unicamp for short. On our first day in Campinas, we gave a concert at Unicamp to a small but enthusiastic audience. After a lunch in the university dining hall, we headed to rehearsal. That evening, the Glee Club enjoyed an American-style pizza dinner with some music students from the university. It was great to get to talk with some local music students, many of whom hope to eventually study music in the United States.

            The next morning was a free morning, so the Glee Club enjoyed an evening of socializing. After our afternoon rehearsals and some free time at the mall due to drizzly weather, we headed to our evening concert at Igreja Católica Santa Rita de Cássia. The concert was a collaboration with the Unicamp Symphony Orchestra and two local soloists. Our program included pieces by Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Haydn. Over the tour, we were able to fine-tune Haydn’s Creation to a level of familiarity and mastery which choirs are not often able to establish with their repertoire. There couldn’t have been a more fantastic way to wrap up our 2009 international tour than by singing The Creation one last time. It was a successful concert with great attendance. After a reception and a night in the hotels, we packed up our things and boarded the buses for São Paulo.

2009 Summer Tour Reflections: Outreach

In this post, rising junior Emily Howell details our amazing outreach activities with the children's choir from the Cidade de Deus, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. 

Our outreach with the children’s choir Grupo Vozes da Cidade de Deus, from the Casa de Santa Ana—Cidade de Deus is the City of God slum (favela) in Rio de Janeiro, featured in the movie The City of God—was, for me at least, the most amazing part of an amazing tour.  We didn’t go into the dangerous favela, but instead met the children at the Escola SESC, where they performed for us and we for them.  The students, who learn various dancing and rhythmic activities from a young age before they join the choir, demonstrated activities from ballet to samba dancing.  They even encouraged us to join them in the samba, and kindly didn’t laugh at us (too much, anyway) when we tried to dance along.

We sang  “This Little Light of Mine” from our tour repertoire together after Jeff taught them the words and the melody.  We also sang “Muie Rendera,” part of our repertoire and a traditional Brazilian folk song, together with the kids.  Then came the concert, which was actually a joint one—first several groups of students danced and sang for us.  Our performance was preceded backstage by a stirring pep talk from our very own Dylan Morris, who urged us (more eloquently than I’m summarizing) to take this small concert for the kids as seriously as any other. Dylan explained that he was initially skeptical about this outreach, wondering what good we could really do for children who grow up in the midst of gang violence and poverty by singing for them.  But, he told us, this was more than that.  Giving them not only our music but also our respect can do more than we realize.

Dinner was the best part of the day, as well as the part that required the most ingenuity.  We went to a pizza restaurant with the kids, many of whom spoke no English; Steph Strauss, as our sole Portuguese speaker, was in high demand.  I was sitting with Sarah Dewey and Kate Carter, forming a triangle of French students. I’d been nervous about the dinner, afraid that our complete lack of shared language skills would leave us at an impasse.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Instead of focusing on the basics of introduction—did you like the concert?  Do you like school?  Can you believe how much pizza I’ve eaten?—we got right to the important stuff: the games.  Deciding that art would have to be our main avenue of communication, Sarah began a beautiful napkin drawing, to which the kids all contributed, and I produced several paper cranes, the only origami trick I know.  Kate’s paper airplanes were also a huge hit, as they started flying between tables in our area (to be honest, we actually enjoyed this more than the kids).

Of course, the funny thing about outreach is that the ones who are supposed to be doing the reaching out learn at least as much, and get at least as much out of it, as the ones they’re supposed to be helping.  Yes, it’s cliché to say so, but maybe it’s cliché because it’s the truth.  Either way, I think it’s something Glee Club was extremely aware of on June 4th.

When, two days later, Maria (the incredible woman who leads the school) brought some of the Grupo Vozes kids to our second concert of Haydn’s Creation, there were smiles, hugs, even tears.  Many of them wore the Yale hats and Glee Club polos they’d received at the concert the other day, and one of my new friends from dinner still clutched a paper crane in her hand.  We waved goodbye as the buses pulled away, and they waved back.

            I still have a napkin from dinner.  The drawing on it features a tree, a cat, a dog, a bird, and three smiling girls, and, in an elementary school girl’s handwriting (bubble letters!), the words “Animal,” “Feliz,” and “Amor.”

Emily, Kate Carter, and Sarah Dewey at dinner with girls from the Grupo Vozes da Cidade de Deus.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Photographic Look at Tour: Argentina

Here are some pictures from the Argentina leg of our recent South American tour. 

A scene from the tango show we saw on our last night in Buenos Aires.

A snapshot of the colorful Argentinean neighborhood of La Boca. 

The 148th Glee Club at the Santa Susana Ranch in Buenos Aires.

Glee Clubbers horseback riding at the ranch.

Gauchos perform at the ranch. If a gaucho snatched a ring (pictured), he gave it to a lucky Glee Club lady in exchange for a kiss.

Cathedral in La Plata, the capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Summer Tour Reflections: Outreach

In this post, rising sophomore Ben Robbins talks more in-depth about our outreach concert at a Buenos Aires school.

On our first full day in Buenos Aires, we performed an outreach concert at the Colegio del Buen Consejo, a private girls school near La Boca, one of the slums of the area.  We sang our tour repertoire for nearly 250 girls, ages 5--18, in the chapel of the school.  They responded with a lot of enthusiasm, especially to our native Colombian Andres Torres '09, who was translating for Jeff.  After the concert we didn't get to talk much to the girls (the H1N1 outbreak and our group's poor overall level of health made people uneasy) but the director of the school was very appreciative of our visit and performance.  She emphasized the importance of music in the education of the girls, all of whom are from poor families and are sponsored to attend the school.  She explained that music is integrated into the rest of the curriculum so that they can learn a skill to be proud of, while making huge gains intellectually.  It was a fun concert overall and a great start to tour.  The "Power of Song," as the title of our potential documentary seems to be, seemed very apparent in that school building as we could see the girls at the second floor windows, overlooking the barbed-wire-topped walls around the school, waving goodbye to our buses as we pulled away.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2009 Summer Tour Reflections: Buenos Aires

The Glee Club just got back from an amazing South American tour to Argentina and Brazil. Below, rising senior Sarah Dewey looks back at our time in Buenos Aires, our first stop. 

"Buenos Aires Capital City" was, as advertised, the Paris of South America, a fact evidenced superficially by the couture and the locals' affinity for their dogs; however, it was clear that here was a city and a nation with great spirit and an easygoing attitude. All of this was visible in the graffiti we passed in each South American city: in Buenos Aires, flights of fancy and colorful characters; scrawled initials in Rio, and in Campinas a kind of cramped Portuguese futhark that covered the struts of every building. Argentineans express themselves in a way that only Argentineans can, as we soon found out when our buses rushed from stop to stop before an organized protest could clog the city streets near the Plaza del Mayo and impede our progress to the hotel.

Appropriately, we started off our tour with a pilgrimage to Eva Peron's grave, and visited also the La Boca neighborhood. La Boca is a barrio divided into extremely touristy and extremely impoverished areas, with its charming brightly-colored corrugated tin buildings catering to the romantic imaginations of travelers, and its slums next to Rio de la Plata serving as a reminder that all throughout South America, YGC would encounter such surprising juxtapositions. We wondered what this abstract "power of song" could possibly do for the people of this continent, rich and poor alike. Why was there a cameraman with us documenting every moment, every arm wrestling battle, and every jubilant chorus in the streets of whatever city we descended upon? We received our first answer when we gave a concert at the Colegio del Buen Consejo, an all-girls’ school, and found our biggest fans. The little girls used the prayer benches in their academy's nave to great effect, standing on them and giving thunderous applause. It was an excellent reception to the country and a reassuring moment for everyone when they greeted us with enthusiasm.

Eager to try out our classroom Spanish in practical settings, many of us soon felt meekly resigned to the basics of menu Spanish, namely "empanada carne" and "agua con gas"--the power of song, it seems (ah, the relief!), is that music really is the most universal language. It was with this, the enumerated of our innumerable epiphanies about foreign travel and our odd sort of statesmanship, that we met Nestor Zadoff, a leading Argentinean choral conductor. While his name evoked delightful memories of the grandiose "Zadok the Priest", the man himself was amazingly humble, friendly, and overall charming. While music was the universal language for the duration of our workshop on Astor Piazzolla’s tango arrangement, “Adios Nonino.” Zadoff also proved fluent in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English, language skills which greatly aided everyone in understanding and led to not a few chuckles as our translators got cheeky or the Francophones in the group suddenly got a chance to feel smug in a linguistically hostile continent. Zadoff teased out the subtleties of the piece, explaining to us its meaning as well as showing where we should emphasize certain aspects of the tango style. He could hear colors in the notes that were foreign to us, because the piece was written by his countryman with a musical attitude purely Argentinean. As much as song is international, it became clear from this workshop that music requires incredible cultural intuition to properly perform, and that merely perfecting one's diction on a rolled "r" is not going to accurately represent great music. Zadoff taught us all of those things without saying them, and gave us his director's comments with such good humor that the hour-long workshop flew by and we quite regretted not having more time to work with him. Our performance of the piece had clearly greatly improved, and we couldn't wait to debut it the next night, hoping to wow the crowd with tango v2.0.