Friday, December 24, 2010

NYC Holiday Concert: Against the Law?

Stage manager Dylan Morris '11 reflects on the Glee Club's holiday concert in New York City and explains how the YGC almost sang itself afoul of the law.

The first Friday in December is always a day of celebration at Yale. Fall term classes end that afternoon. Exams and papers remain, but with the seeming eternity of reading week stretched out before us, we students feel as if we can ignore them (a week later, we feel differently).
The Glee Club has its own traditional way of celebrating this campus holiday. We board the Metro-North train and head down to New York City for our yearly Holiday Concert at the Yale Club of New York. When announcing the trip at rehearsal, our manager Rachel Wilf told us that the Yale Club is her favorite yearly YGC concert. Or, as YGC president Emily Howell put it in her ad-libbed solo during “Eli Yale”: “Out of all our fall concerts, the Yale Club is always a winner / And that’s not just because we all like free dinner.”

We are indeed treated to a tasty meal before we sing, but Emily is right; there’s plenty to like about the concert besides the grub. We couldn’t ask for a friendlier audience than a crowd of Yale alums and New York-area YGC family members, and the approaching winter holidays give us an excuse to add traditional Christmas carols like “Es ist ein rose entsprungen” and the “Glouscestershire Wassail” to our repertoire.

Yet what Glee Clubbers most eagerly anticipate each year is the night’s second concert. We head back from the Yale Club to Grand Central Station to catch the Metro-North. Before we board, we assemble on the double-stairway at the west end of Vanderbilt Hall, the station’s largest atrium. There, our director, Jeff, conducts us as we sing a semi-spontaneous mix of carols and concert repertoire.

There’s a bit of an ImprovEverywhere or flashmob aspect to the Grand Central concert. A number of people know about the tradition (in 2008, Time Out New York featured it as a “must see for the holiday season”), but most of the crowd that gathers to listen is made up of travelers who take a break during their Friday commute to listen to the choir that has mysteriously appeared in their train station. We’ve learned to watch for looks of surprise-turning-into-pleasure on passing commuters’ faces.

This year, though, the concert was not all smiles. As we were starting our second carol, “Silent Night,” a pair of uniformed New York City Policemen walked purposefully out toward Jeff, who stopped conducting and began to talk to them. We could not hear the conversation, but the officers’ expressions said enough.

Then the crowd stood up to The Law on our behalf. “They do this every year!” one bystander shouted. “They’re singing about peace!” an indignant listener told the gun-toting cops.

As for the Glee Club, we turned and looked expectantly at our assistant conductor, Max Blum. He rose to the occasion, giving us the first pitch and the downbeat of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” We began again; the crowd began to cheer. The officers, who knew how to recognize a lost cause when they saw one, begrudgingly broke off their dispute with Jeff. Missing neither a literal nor a figurative beat, he turned back to us and conducted the end of the carol.

We sang the rest of the concert without incident, boarded the MetroNorth, and sang our way home to New Haven. On the ride, I kept thinking back to the supportive Grand Central audience and smiling.

“They do this every year.” “They’re singing about peace.”

Vuvuzelas @ Harvard

On Friday November 19th, the members of the Yale Glee Club traveled to Cambridge, MA for our annual joint concert with our counterparts from Harvard. The concert is always the day before the big Yale-Harvard football game ("The Game"), so rivalry runs high. During the lead-up to the 2010 Game, there had been much ado about the possibility that both Yale and Harvard fans would be armed with vuvuzelas during the contest (the powerful plastic horns were eventually banned). During our football medley, we found a way to get in on the fun in B-flat:

John Clayton '13 juggles Yale vuvuzelas during "Lord Jeffrey Amherst Douma"

The Yale Vuvuzela Consort (Mari Oye '11, Rebecca Trupin '11, Jason Perlman '11, Dylan Morris '11), with a portrait of its spiritual leader

YGC alumna Kaley Sullivan '10 gets in on the fun

More photo fun from the Harvard Concert:

"The saddest tale we have to tell" — YGCers mourning the fact that we have to graduate.

"With Crimson in Triumph Flashing" — Noting that the Harvard Glee Club is all-male, the women of the Yale Glee Club don tailcoats when Harvard's fight song comes up during the Football Medley.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Messiah Sing-Along!

Happening Sunday, 12/12, at 2 pm in Battell Chapel. RSVP to our Facebook event here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

She's with the band.

Kate Carter '12 on divided allegiance, the YPMB-YGC football game, and transcendence of ancient hatreds.

I am, as my Glee Club bio aptly puts it, a Benedict Arnold, a traitor to the cause of Glee Club domination. After failing to cajole, coerce, or otherwise convince me, YGC left me to the ranks of that menacing and bizarre force, the Yale Precision Marching Band, in the annual epic

showdown of musical powerhouses. The YGC-YPMB football game. A battle of glee against “precision,” of spirit, of “Y’s.” The score is unimportant (*coughthebandwoncough*). Vastly outnumbered (think 300), facing an opponent honed by weekly practices and killer duck-duck-goose matches, the Glee Club put up a valiant fight and emerged battle-worn but proud.

I believe YGC’s efforts can be best described in the words of our manager and one of two fear-inspiring captains, Rachel Wilf: “Our all-star freshman (Ben Lewis, Connor Kenaston) played brilliantly, Atid Kimelman chose to play on our side instead of on the side of the YPMB-ers, some members from 2010 showed up (John Good and even Pete Clune) and the altos (Rebecca Trupin, Phyllis Thangaraj, Cynthia Weaver and I) were balanced out by our wonderful sopranos (Helen McCreary, Mari Oye, and Monica Qiu)! Derek Tam was an excellent QB, Dylan Morris ran barefoot, Adam Fishman was awesome enough to play without his glasses, Phyllis skipped studying for her midterm to run over and join us, and Daniel Cruse struck fear in the hearts of the YPMB runners.”

However, let me clarify. I did not play. See, I would be a handicap to whichever team I joined, and I don’t wish that on either side. Instead, I focused my efforts on cheering on the band while still quietly applauding YGC successes.

While whiling away my time on the sidelines, I learned some things that just can’t be taught by midterm-stricken textbooks:

1. “Bulldog, bulldog, bow wow wow…!” applies to all Yalies, not just the band…No matter what, Yale wins!

2. The show must go on. And the game must go on. So when you have a chamber singers performance and a football game that conflict, be prepared to get dirty, make a quick change, and catch your breath before breaking into beautiful song. Take a leaf from the YGC’s other fearless captain, Derek Tam’s book. He was a champion.

3. Touch football can be just as dangerous as that stuff you see on TV. Well, at least, dangerous enough for a bunch of Yalie music nerds. Get ready for lost glasses, rolled ankles, near-broken arms, and bone-crunching landings on the sidewalk.

4. A corollary: don’t put your end zone right next to a sidewalk. Concrete and momentum. Not a good combo.

5. Midterms can’t get us down. That’s what I love about Yale, especially the groups that I have

come to call my families: the band and, of course, the Glee Club. We never are too busy to take a moment and stop taking ourselves seriously (or maybe take a moment to take trivialities exceedingly seriously). Football and donuts in the middle of the New Haven Green, on a Sunday afternoon before one of the toughest weeks of the semester, and some of us spent the day

before in performance and some will spend the next hour in performance. Score.

So the Glee Club can shake off the dust from the battlefield and focus its ferocity on its next foe (or frenemy? Rather in the YPMB vein, but less cool), the Harvard Glee Club. As we put it at every halftime show: Harvard’s team may fight to the end, but Yale…Will…Win!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Memory, Leg-Breaking, Heels, and Sherbet

New member Ari Susu-Mago '13 on our
Family Weekend Concert

Like many things in the not-so-distant past, my memories of my first YGC concert are still fairly fresh (as far as memories go), but enough time has passed that they have distilled themselves into discrete moments; these pockets of clear recollection are surrounded by a fuzzy knowledge of what happened in between these moments (there's rather a difference between knowing that you hung out in the Woolsey rotunda and actually remembering every facet of the experience). Thus, I'm going to focus on the beads of clear memory I've strung together and gloss over the spaces between them, because...well, because I can't recall them clearly. And that's probably because they weren't interesting enough to be worth remembering, so you're not missing anything either way.

ANYHOW, I remember...

...walking into Hendrie on the night of the concert and being abruptly conscious of how well-dressed everyone looked (except for the fact that, as Adam pointed out during his pep talk, that the women's dresses do tend to make us look more similar than, say, svelte and snazzy like the men's tuxes). Maybe I didn't really notice the clothes at the dress rehearsal because I'm a bit fashion-blind (entirely feasible), or perhaps because a space like Woolsey seems to demand fancy clothes in a way that Hendrie does not. Either way, that evening actually felt like the first night we'd dressed up.

...Adam's pep talk about what makes singing with the Glee Club such a special performing experience, as well as his (and his mother's) admonishment that we all break all of our legs.

...standing at the back of Woolsey, listening to the band playing, and worrying about all the wrong things. And what are the wrong things to worry about before a concert? I can't give a comprehensive list, but a brief sample might include: that the basic tacking I'd done wouldn't be enough to keep my dress hemmed, or that I would drop my Yale gear while running onstage, or that the heels of my shoes would catch in the grating and cause me to faceplant into the carpeted aisle. (For the record, none of these events occurred, a fact that is not due to my having worried about them.)

...that shimmering, soap-bubble-of-a-moment at the end of Abendlied, when we'd all stopped singing but the sound continued to float in the air. If anyone asked me why I sing in choirs, I'd probably answer with, "Because I love it." If they asked me why I loved it, this is the sort of example I would give. Same goes for that awesome, ringing final chord of My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord. "Why do you sing in choirs, Ari?" "Because it just sounds so damn cool."

...the faintly-agonizing walk back to Hendrie in heels after the concert. This one still puzzles me, as I've done a ton of musical theatre and choir in my life and am not unused to wearing character heels for long periods of time---yet it was with the most profound relief that I was able to plop down on a chair in the rehearsal room and removed the accursed things from my poor, bruised feet. Maybe I'm just out of practice wearing tall shoes...or perhaps I'll re-hem my dress so I can wear flats for the Princeton and Harvard concerts. We'll see.

...under the expert tutelage of John Clayton, becoming a volunteer YGC-punch-brewing sherbet-meister. Mmm, sherbet in punch.

In summary:

To the YGC: thanks for a great first concert at Yale!
To Adam: I apologize for having failed at breaking my legs this time around. Maybe this can be rectified by wearing stilettos while running up to the stage, or through the judicious application of a baseball bat to the tibias?
To John (and the punch): More lemon sherbet. Always, more lemon. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Meet the 2010 YGC Officer Corps

Welcome to all the fantastic new members of the Yale Glee Club. In keeping with tradition, we offer the following (extremely serious) bios of our officer corps for your edification and amusement.

President – Emily Howell, CC 11

Emily Howell is a senior in Calhoun College, majoring in English. She hails from the charming city of Lynchburg, VA. Having already filled the roles of Social Chair and Tour Manager in the past, Emily is currently the longest serving member of the Glee Club Officer Corps. Other than presiding over the YGC, she spends her free time terrorizing elementary-schoolers with the Yale Children's Theater group, and lending her hunky alto vocals to the Christ Church Choir. Emily Howell is also a computer program developed in the 1990's as an interactive interface that facilitates musical and language communication. Look it up on Wikipedia.

Manager – Rachel Wilf, TD 11

Rachel Wilf is the Manager of the Glee Club and manages to make that job look manageable. She is a senior in Timothy Dwight College and is majoring in History. A native Connecticutian, she has an older sister and a younger brother. When she is not singing alto, Rachel drums with the Konjo African Dance Troupe and writes for Midnight at Yale, an online magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys climbing up mountains, swimming in lakes, looking for sheep, and raising the slogan of Yale triumphant.

Stage Manager – Dylan Morris, BK 11

Dylan Humphrey Morris is a native of the People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is an incurable cross-country runner, and a tenor, except when he’s a bass. Dylan once spent thirty days in the wilderness, among rocks and hills and brooks and vales, but did not remain there forever at rest. He is a senior Ethics, Politics and Economics major in Berkeley College but can talk your ear off about fractal geometry anyway. His job is to make sure you hold your folders in the right hand – that is, your left hand – right?

Social Chair – Jenny Witthuhn, TC 12

Jennifer "Jenny" Leigh Witthuhn (deceptively pronounced Vittoon) is actually Glee Club's Anti-Social Chair, the companion officer to Eli, the Social Chair. She knows all the words to the Lion King, and if she were a Winnie the Pooh character, she would be Piglet: he is small, adorable, and a loyal companion. A junior in Trumbull College, Jenny likes bad TV, chocolate, and puppies (very much), and she does not like mayonnaise. Some stats: she is a psych major, a tour guide, a second soprano, and she has visited 5/7 of the Earth's continents. She plans on sharing her German heritage with the Glee Club this year by wearing a dirndl to Gleetoberfest. If Jenny could befriend any mythical creature, she would choose a unicorn.

Social Chair – Eli Mitchell-Larson, MC 12

Eli Mitchell-Larson, a junior in Morse College, grew up in the forested fiefs around beautiful Portland, Maine and saw his first color television only after arriving at Yale. As the Social Chair of the Glee Club, his primary task is to undo the damage done by his partner Jenny, the Anti-Social Chair, while also promoting a "gleeful" social atmosphere for all involved. When he’s not singing and traveling with the Glee Club or Yale Spizzwinks (?) a cappella group, he enjoys walking his goats and Nordic skiing. As an Environmental Studies Major, Eli thinks all singers should bring re-useable water bottles to each rehearsal so he can borrow them when he’s thirsty.

Publicity Chair – Mari Michener Oye, TD 11

Mari Oye is the Publicity Chair for the Glee Club. She is a senior Political Science and International Studies major from the picturesque town of Wellesley, Massachusetts. At Yale, she can sometimes be seen rollerskiing around campus, which is a public safety hazard. Mari volunteers with Dwight Hall, is one of the founders of the Yale Afghanistan Forum, and spent last summer in Tajikistan learning Persian and making friends with goats. In her spare time, she enjoys shape-note singing and bothering people to write for the YGC Blog.

Archivist – Sam Sanders, CC 12

Sam Sanders, a junior in Calhoun, is majoring in Indecision & Chinese and as Archivist is responsible for keeping your music together, usually involving the use of spreadsheets, mild threats, and baked goods as incentives. Failing that, she will employ Public Shame and/or Predator Drone strikes. Sam works for NASA as a research assistant in the summers (which means things she's made are in space - be afraid), probably plays video games more than you, and used to be a competitive dancer, which involved lots of out-of-character sparkly costumes. She enjoys cooking and feminism, at the same time, and sings in the New Blue, Yale's oldest all-female a cappella group. She is a soprano I for life.

Wardrobe Manager – Ben Robbins, SY 12

Ben "Hot Lava" Robbins is the wardrobe manager of the Glee Club. He is a junior sociology major hailing from Grand Island, Nebraska (pop. 45,000) and members of the Glee Club like that he calls soda "pop." Ben used to be in a show choir called Ultimate Image and will put those skills to use this year as the performance manager for the a cappella group Living Water. Ben has impeccable taste in clothes and on South America tour challenged fellow bass Justin Quam to a modeling walk-off on a Río rooftop involving both swimwear and formalwear portions. Ben won.

Domestic Tour Manager – Arshia Chatterjee, SY 11

Arshia Chatterjee is a Domestic Tour Manager this year as well as a senior in
Saybrook. A native of New Jersey, she is double majoring in Political Science
and Economics. When she is not singing Soprano 2 in Glee Club, she is also
involved with the Hindu Students Council. Her favorite mythical creature is
the hippogriff. She would love to take it on tour with her but is afraid it
won't fit in her suitcase.

Domestic Tour Manager – Abigail Droge, CC 12

Abigail Droge, a junior English major in Calhoun, is Glee Club’s own Southern Belle and domestic tour manager. When not wiling away her time contemplating Pooh, she practices her word-perfect recitation of Sense and Sensibility. Lest you think she is entirely domesticated, please be warned that years laboring on the Yale farm have made her a pretty tough gal. Abigail is a soprano I, and therefore alphabetically first in the YGC roster list, as well as first in our hearts.

International Tour Manager – Kate Carter, SM 12

Kate "Benedict Arnold" Carter has twice deserted the Yale Glee Club to play for the Yale Precision Marching Band in the annual YGC-YPMB football game. Despite or perhaps of because of this, the YGC has triumphed. The rest of the year, however, Kate is a deeply loyal YGCer who sings Alto II, manages tours, and works with Sean in the YGC Office. Outside of the YGC and the Band, Kate is a Dwight Hall public school intern at Barnard Environmental Magnet School in New Haven. A junior in Silliman College, Kate is a student in Yale's teacher prep program with a focus on high school education. She is fluent in French and Iowan.

International Tour Manager – Claire Paulson, DC 12

Claire Paulson is now a junior in Davenport College from Ann Arbor, MI, and has previously been the one of our Domestic Mini-Tour Managers. Her musical experience ranges from high school choir in Iowa to Magevet, a Jewish a cappella group at Yale, which she pitched during her sophomore year. Claire is a Cognitive Science major and a closet trombonist, and is studying Chinese. She also is the proud owner of a rotating disco turtle light.

Outreach Chair – Adam Fishman, SM 13

Adam Fishman, a sophomore in Silliman, hails from Chicago, giving him what he considers perfect, accent-free speech. In fact, he was offered a job recording language learning tapes for children in middle school. Adam's the most enthusiastic math major you'll meet at Yale, but loves a lot more than just numbers. His other passions include China, and music of the African diaspora. His doppelgänger is Owl from Winnie the Pooh. Adam gets 12 hours of sleep a night and is never sarcastic, ever. “You should be able to write much more searing info about me. I'm disappointed,” says Adam.

150th Reunion Chair – Jasmine Dyba, CC 11

Jasmine Dyba, a senior in Calhoun, will be using diplomatic skills learned from Actual Diplomacy to navigate the complicated world of alumni relations as the 150th Glee Club reunion chair. When she isn't talking to our elders, Jasmine takes the time to be environmentally friendly and Epicurean. She has a culinary interest in Winnie the Pooh characters. Jasmine hails from Silver Spring, MD. You can find her in the Glee Club by her stylish glasses, but don't talk to her about cats, especially talking ones, because they creep her out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something Auditioning This Way Comes

“Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain is blasting off President Emily Howell’s computer. The door opens. She hits pause. Officers rush to seats in the Glee Club Office, stow half-eaten bagels under chairs, and try to look semi-official and yet not intimidating to freshmen. “Something Auditioning This Way Comes,” says Emily.

I can’t shake the feeling I’m in a reality show. There’s one chair in the center of the room. Kids from West Virginia, South Africa, California, Vietnam, and Long Island are coming in one at a time to say hey, shuffle their feet, and talk music at Yale.

As a cheat sheet to those of you planning to audition in future who may be reading the Glee Club Blog, I offer a set of possible questions you should study up on. We’ll answer some of them ourselves, as a sneak preview of the new officer bios to be posted Monday.


Q: If you could build a house out of any unconventional material, what would it be?
A: “Ice cream sandwiches. They’re kind of like bricks and would be structurally sound.” - Claire Paulson, International Tour Manager

Q: If you could have any mythical creature as a pet or a friend, what would it be?
A: “In my youth, I 100% would have chosen a unicorn, and I’m not entirely sure that would have changed. But dragons are just really cool. Or like, a talking cat. Or something that could fly. I’ve given this a lot of thought.” – Emily Howell, President
Addendum: “But a dragon would be really hard to take care of.” – Emily
“Not if it could go kill its own sheep.” – Kate Carter, International Tour Manager

Q: If you were a Winnie-the-Pooh Character, which character would you be?
A: “I would be Piglet, because Piglet is small and adorable and a loyal companion.” – Jenny Witthun, Social Chair.

Q (from Jasmine, 150th Reunion Chair): If you could eat a Winnie-the-Pooh character, which one would you eat?
A (from auditionee): I’m a vegetarian.
A (From Jeff): “Well, obviously Piglet, right? Piglet would be tender.”
A (from Adam, outreach chair): “You could stew Piglet and Rabbit together.”

Q: Who’s your favorite Disney villain?
A: “Ursula, totally. Because she has the most baller song in all of the Disney movies, she’s modeled off of a drag queen, she’s played by Pat Carrol and she has eels.” – - Kate Carter, International Tour Manager.

After a few hours of this, Rachel Wilf, manager, began accidentally saying “With mychical” instead of “Which mythical creature is your favorite?” This is a clear indication of fatigue and the beginnings of insanity.

Some statistical data gathered over the course of the last two days:

We believe there may be a correlation between those auditionees who chose a dragon and those who chose Tigger; they may be extroverts. Please note that this dataset is not comprehensive… we had one Roo and one wyvern respond after I made the graphs.

Finally, please rest assured that the composition of the 150th Yale Glee Club was not, in fact, determined by these deeply revealing questions, but by the talent, commitment, and musicality singers displayed during auditions.

That said, we remain in awe of the members of the class of 2014 we have met. Between them, they can whistle Clair de Lune, beatbox with only their teeth, make fire by rubbing sticks, win archery championships, jump rope while sitting on the ground, sing the Kings and Queens of England, and memorize 200 digits of Pi. We wish them the best at Yale and in all the years after, and hope they stay as badass as they are now.

We also want to congratulate all the new members of the Glee Club – expect a (more serious) welcome post soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Santo Domingo

Casey Klippel '09, the wise old woman of the YGC, on our last few days in Santo Domingo.

The last day on the Tour That Broke All The Rules started out by ... breaking another rule. The morning after our closing banquet usually consists of sad farewells and moaning-and-groaning about the early wakeup call. But not on this tour! Banquet technically happened last night (though more on that later), and instead of travelling home today, we had our first free time in Santo Domingo as well as our final concert. Time to rise and shine!

Those who rose and shone early enough could take a walking tour of the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo. Since I am a professional athlete in the extreme sport of sleeping in, my day started instead at our awesome hotel’s even awesomer breakfast buffet (read: tons of pastries, three kinds of tropical fruit juice, and unlimited fried cheese). To be fair, twenty-two of us had toured the Colonial Zone yesterday afternoon. Santo Domingo contains many of the oldest European-influenced buildings in the New World, and its main church is the only truly Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. The walking tour also brought us into the National Mausoleum and the palace built by Christopher Columbus’s son.

This morning, about half the Glee Club took the opportunity to lounge by our hotel’s expansive swimming pool. I joined in the swimming party after an attempt to walk along the Malecón, a pedestrian path that runs along the Caribbean shore. My excursion itself is hardly noteworthy, except for the incredible traffic - not once in the entire half-hour walk could I actually cross the road to walk on the Malecón. But perhaps the sea is bluer from the other side of the street. The roads in the Dominican Republic have certainly been Breaking All The Rules, from the hilarious (cows), to the dangerous (cows at night), to the unexpected (rivers), to the insane (low-hanging power lines). In the last case, the driver of the “Guagüita Heavy,” or Cool Little Bus, climbed on top of our main 55-passenger coach to move the power line. Before you ask, yes: he is a superhero. Namely, Spiderman. Compare:

The entire Glee Club ate lunch together in Colonial Zone at a Dominican buffet. From there, we travelled to the palatial National Fine Arts Museum to rehearse for our final concert. We would be sharing the stage with the National Choir of the Dominican Republic tonight, and everyone eagerly anticipated this concert as the capstone musical experience of tour. Jeff told us the entire concert hall had been sold out and two overflow rooms were being set up, adding to our already great excitement. We had our first extended rehearsal in several days and enjoyed perfecting both the technical and expressive elements of all our pieces for the last hurrah. After we practiced our set, we rehearsed “Little Innocent Lamb,” “Guayacanal,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” with the Coro Nacional. Similar to our version of “Muie Rendera” during our tour last year to Brazil, our tempo for “Guayacanal” was about half as fast as it should have been. After rehearsing with the Coro Nacional and their fantastic percussionists, the song sounded much more exciting and animated!

We had a couple hours of downtime before our final concert, during which we could have a snack at the backstage bar and simply hang out. A widespread outbreak of Gleeardia by this point on tour did nothing to dampen our spirits or lessen our end-of-tour traditions. Danny Townsend ’10 and Sarah Dewey ’10 each gave a pep talk inspiring us to cherish this last concert. Even though much mirth lay ahead in the the after-party and after-after-party, the next hour would be the last time the 149th Glee Club would meet as friends in song. The Coro Nacional began the program with a selection of five works, and about fifteen of us snuck into the wings to listen to their beautiful renditions of opera choruses. Next, we performed our hour long set without intermission. Music is the art of time, and our final time together passed much too quickly - the quietly blossoming “O Quam Gloriosum,” the inexorable “McKay,” the lighthearted yet poignant “into the strenuous briefness” by Ryan Harper ’10, and even the short and sweet International Football Medley (played blindfolded by Justin Jee ’10!). I teared up during the transcendent expansiveness of Bruckner’s “Os Justi,” and I’m sure there were not many dry eyes left by the end of Bright College Years. Of course, Breaking Another Rule, BCY was not the last piece on our program. The Coro Nacional returned to the stage for our three joint pieces plus an exhilarating encore.

The final applause over, it was time to Break As Many Rules As Possible before tour really, truly came to an end. The Coro Nacional hosted a mind-blowing, rule-breaking bash that involved a second final banquet buffet, outdoor merengue dancing, and unlimited rum and Coke (eerily parallel to my first-ever night on Glee Club tour five years ago, except in that case the drinks were airborne). We returned to our hotel after midnight, exhausted but unstoppable, as exemplified by the following exclusive interview with John Good ’10:

YGC Blog: John, you look tired.
Mr. Good: I’m SO tired!
YGC Blog: Are you going to sleep?
Mr. Good: No, I’m going to the party!

Alas, I had less resolve than John and went to sleep after returning my music to Sean. It turns out the catchy refrain of “Guayacanal” cannot be removed from one’s head by simply removing the sheet music from one’s folder. But sleep is a reconciling...

Song of the day: “GUAYACANAL!!!!” (not to be confused with “Guayacanal, Slow Version”)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Vallejuelo Outreach Slideshow

Yale Glee Club Workshop Slideshow from Julia Myers on Vimeo.

On the Dominican Republic leg of tour, the YGC hosted arts workshops for young people from the town of Vallejuelo and its surrounding villages. "Team Film," an outreach group led by Julia Myers '12 and Phyllis Thangaraj '11, created a video slideshow documenting the workshop experience. The slideshow includes photos taken by the workshop students themselves.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Vallejuelo and Rio Arriba

Rebecca Trupin '11 describes an epic YGC day in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Photos: Josh Schoenfield '10

Yesterday, Jeff told us: Great work today, guys, in handling the unexpected. For sure there will be some kind of surprise tomorrow.

Never were truer words spoken. The day began smoothly enough with glorious sunshine and delicious oatmeal (there was fruit as well but the oatmeal earned rhapsodic praise from all who tasted it). We climbed aboard our buses at our hotel and set off for our second day in the remote town of Vallejuelo.

There, we separated into Film Team, Dance Team, Theater Team, Writing Team, and Quilting Team to lead creative arts workshops with children from the nearby villages. I’m sure I speak for most of the Dance Team when I say we got well exercised when, at the end of our workshop, the kids taught us salsa, merengue, and reggaeton.

After lunch, several Glee Clubbers began spontaneously singing on a balcony. Old beloveds such as “Ride the Chariot” and “This Little Light of Mine” soared over sunny fields of white and yellow butterflies while newer pieces such as “Ye Shall Have a Song” gave voice to our awe of the shadowy mountains rising over the valley.

With clouds gathering for the daily afternoon thunderstorms we boarded our flat bed trucks and drove off to do outreach and a concert at the village of Rio Arriba. As we approached, we began to grasp the true meaning of “remote.” We left the paved road and climbed higher into the mountains on bumpy stones and gravel. To the left – a sheer hill where the road was cleft into the mountainside; to the right – a steep gorge down to a brown river, and a steep rise again up jungle-coated heights. Everywhere was green and breathtakingly beautiful. Think Congo, or perhaps, Peru.

We disembarked and were so distracted by Nature’s glory that we almost failed to notice why the trucks had stopped. There was a river before us crossing over the path. A fast-flowing rain-swollen brown muddy river dividing us from our destination (Glee Clubbers naturally and helpfully resorted to singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the sight of our impasse). A few of the older children we brought staggered in and were quickly swallowed up to the waist, though they made it across without trouble. Jeff commented that in all his training to direct choirs there was nothing about crossing rivers. And there we were.

Thus began an epic saga. We stood on the bank for more than an hour debating various solutions. Cross farther up at a narrower point…nope, just as bad as down below. Use our trucks…no, the drivers refused. Use a horse…a villager brought one, but it was very skittish. Turn back…no one liked this idea. Give a concert from the river bank…less than satisfactory. Wade across? Some Glee Clubbers began removing their shoes in preparation, but not everyone was willing nor did it seem particularly safe (what if it rained and the river grew larger, trapping us on the other side?).

We eventually decided to wait for a while and see if the water would sink. And what better to do but sing while we waited. A group of villagers had gathered on the opposite bank to witness the progress of this odd bunch of foreigners. We serenaded them with “Gaudeamus” and “Guayacanal.” In the meantime, the water had sunk a great deal and little girls were crossing back and forth. In the words of several Glee Clubbers, we were being “shown up.”

Our intrepid leaders Jeff and Sean finally managed to negotiate a deal with a truck-owning villager who agreed to ferry those Glee Clubbers who didn’t want to cross on foot. The truck revved its engine and took the river full steam ahead. The rest of us rid ourselves of socks and shoes (or not) and plunged in.

We marched triumphantly up the hill to the village and were overcome again by its beauty. Little pieces of land with cinder-block houses, subsistence plots, donkeys, banana trees, and luscious vegetation spread on either side of the dirt road. Never has the Yale Glee Club performed in such a faraway location.

After an enthusiastically-received concert in the one room, cement-floored church, we bid a hasty farewell and rushed down the mountain before the rain made the road impassable. With the clouds at our heels we jostled over bone-rattling rocks and, eventually, became rain-sodden for the second day in a row.

We are now returned safe and sound to hotel rooms and showers. But the memories of this day will be harder to remove than the stains from our socks. Most of all, I will picture the old woman who swayed beside me singing “Guayacanal,” a song she remembers from long ago. Though she may never have seen a concert in her life she sang beside us – the Yale Glee Club, of all people.

Song of the day: “Bandolero”

2010 Summer Tour: Film, Writing, and Quilting

Neena Satija '11 and Daniel Olson & Dan Thompson (the so-called "Men of 2012") write about the first day of outreach in Vallejuelo. Photos: Josh Schoenfield '10.

[Daniel Olson]

The day started out early in San Juan with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. We didn't know what to expect from the massive outreach project we were about to begin with children from around the area of Vallejuelo, a small village 45 minutes from San Juan. We arrived at the Centro Agro where we first met the kids. We shared a couple of songs. They sang a Spanish version of "If You're Happy and You Know It" and we sang "Gaudeamus Igitur". Shortly after, we broke up into the six classes we had prepared for the children. Over the past month, Glee Club members had been working hard on lessons in drama, dance, singing, quilting, creative writing, and film. The glee club is a multi-talented bunch and those talents really showed today.

I helped teach the film class. With video cameras (one of which will be donated to the kids), we had the kids conduct and film interviews with one another. It was so great to hear them open up about their experiences at school and their favorite activities. Though I didn't witness the other groups firsthand, the stories I heard from other YGC-ers indicate similar success.

One of the biggest hurdles in conducting these classes was the language barrier. I had taken Spanish classes in high school, but never had a chance to use it practically until today. It was often difficult to express myself clearly to the kids. There are, however, some very good Spanish speakers in glee club who took the lead in classes. All glee clubbers, no matter their knowledge of Spanish, managed to find some way to communicate with the kids. We discovered that art is a universal language.

[Neena Satija]

It's hard to expect to accomplish a lot in less than an hour and a half, even for the groups who led workshops on dance or visual art. But those of us in the writing workshops faced some unique challenges: 1) It's much harder to overcome the language barrier, 2) Writing is a more personal, often solitary exercise, and 3) Writing is often only associated with school, and school often = boring.

We approached our activities with these challenges in mind. In terms of #1, we were fortunate to have a very high proportion of Spanish speakers in our group. For #2, we came up with writing or reading activities that could be done together - for example, each person in a circle would read a page from the Spanish translation of "Green Eggs and Ham" ("Huevos verdes con jamon"), or each person would write one sentence to contribute to a collective story. These activities helped us get over some of the hurdles of #3 as well. But to get at the heart of #3, we decided to have frank discussions with the students about why they write. Their answers were thoughtful, eloquent, and often very moving - responses included "to express yourself when you have too many emotions," "to communicate with my family," "to remember what's happened in the past," and simply, "because writing is beautiful."

After this discussion, we presented each student with their own journal, and encouraged them to write in it every day. What they wrote or how they wrote it wasn't important. They could write poetry, lists, one paragraph, even one sentence. The only important thing was to write every day. Then we asked them to write their first journal entry about their favorite place. Students wrote about everything from their houses to the beach to a baseball field.

We were so thrilled to see the students clutching their notebooks at the end of the day: They really didn't want to lose them! Even the next day, some students from our workshops the day before were still carrying their notebooks. A few even came up to me and showed me things they had written since the workshop. But the most rewarding thing about the workshops for me, personally, was that they reinforced my need to write as much as possible. How could I tell these kids how important it is to write every day if I don't do it myself?

[Dan Thompson]

Quilting might seem an odd project for a tropical country, but it provides a great medium to illustrate concepts of visual art and blending of culture. My group's approach has been to give a brief overview of quilting, starting with a history of the West African quilting tradition, brought to America by the slave trade. We discuss the concept of themes, first suggesting several of our own and then having them brainstorm four themes they find important. They then draw representations of these themes on a sheet of paper, and pick their favorite to make into a square of a quilt.

Of course, it would be much too time consuming to sew a typical quilt, so instead we have the kids work with a single ~10 square inch piece of felt. Materials they have available include fabric paint, extra felt, glue, and (most popularly) glitter. This project is unique since we will eventually piece together an entire quilt from each student's work. We hope to symbolize a sense of collective effort to produce an artistic work. Here are a few pictures of some individual squares, look out for a pic of the final product in a few days.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: The Dominican Republic at last

Mari Oye '11, YGC publicity chair, on our arrival in Santo Domingo.

A brief post about today's journey. You'll be reading accounts from many more Glee Clubbers over the next few days, as we go up into the hills of the DR to do a sort of creative arts outreach program. For now, I'll do my best to keep you up to date.

I'm on the top floor of our hotel in San Juan de la Maguana, watching a thunderstorm. First impressions:

This is not Florida. This is very starkly not Florida. It teems in a way that Florida doesn't. It's certainly very beautiful - we drove past fields of banana trees, tall mountains on the right, azure sea on the left. Caroline Mezger '10, from Switzerland, was especially glad to see mountains again. The flame trees reminded Rebecca Trupin '11 of Tanzania.

It's also very poor. There are piles of garbage that no one picks up, and shacks of cinderblock and corrugated tin. I woke up yesterday - was it only yesterday? in Winter Park, to see the sun rise over a lake that hosted jetskis, speedboats, decorative plastic Canada geese and a real stork. Oh, and alligators.

The DR is different. The buildings in Santo Domingo are painted pastel, sometimes with the very-recognizable names and faces of ballplayers. Outside the city, we drove past stands selling bananas in bunches and multicolored umbrellas with advertisements for Pepsi and Fanta. There are eroded ditches - very dry - and laundry hung on fences.

From the hotel roof, I can see the storms coming from far away, and the clouds stand out against the sunlight in the rest of the sky.

Favorite moment of the day: Diving into a cold pool after a long, hot bus ride.

Song of the day: "There but for Fortune"

Tomorrow: travel by flatbed truck to Vallejuelo, outreach, and a concert.

2010 Summer Tour: Miami and Fort Lauderdale

Michael Haycock '12 muses on the power of music in Miami.

The time is 1:39am. The place is room 403 in the Fort Lauderdale Holiday Inn Express. The task is to encapsulate the radiance of the Glee Club’s tour (so far) into a blog entry in a relatively coherent fashion. And then wake up to depart for the airport at 4:00am.

Bring it on.

The difficulty is alleviated by the fact that my pep talk from St. Luke’s, still bouncing around in the echo chamber of my brain, was particularly appropriate for today’s primary activity. I spoke first of the incredible bonding force Glee Club can have, forging friendships through the traumatic trial by fire of Kernis’ intricate Symphony of Meditations, the triumphant final proclamation of “Ye Shall Have a Song,” or simply series of uninterrupted hours-long bus rides.

More than these, however prominent they would be (what else but confinement in a moving vehicle for extended periods of time could inspire impromptu films where getting locked in the tiny bathroom is a routine plot device?), I believe a more significant contributor to our unity is the Glee that forms a full third of our name, in both its senses: specifically referring to old college songs, and generally to the music we cherish and congregate to create; as well as a unquenchable elevated exuberance (which I like to represent as the emoticon “:D!”). When several people coincide on contentment, the happiness becomes contagious and flows to their fellows and back with a special synergy. The YGC, being full of such ebullient people, can even transmit this excitement to its audiences; and hence our power as performers and potential for service through song. Through our own happiness, we tacitly encourage and empower others to achieve happiness.

Our dynamic can change, however, depending on the crowd for whom we perform. It is all well and good to enthusiastically gesticulate throughout the Football Medley or tenderly caress the Latin phrases of Renaissance music when at Yale: both are normal there, and truly anticipated and cheered. But what happens when we leave the quasi-reality of our bright college home for a reality often bleaker?

Today the primary event – wedged between hours on the buses once more – was a stop at Thomas Edison High School, located in Miami’s Little Haiti. Posters displayed the names of every senior accepted at a college – and it wasn’t an incredibly long list. Having been threatened with closure, the school refused to keel over and instead started a choral program as a locus of pride. Less than a year old, the choir now boasts a membership of seventy-five students, some fifty of which came on a Saturday to sing with us. Is the presence of the Glee Club, with its own endowment and tours, a pretentious mockery of the desperate condition of these teens?

By no means whatsoever. Both choirs ran through their warm-up exercises together, discovering uncanny similarities, even down to the unpopular chopping during back rub time. The YGC sang some of its tour repertoire (“Oh, there are yiks!” Ryan Harper ’10 declared of his piece, and the high schoolers thoroughly enjoyed them), greeting us with interest and eager applause. Arianne Abela, assistant conductor, shared her heartfelt story of overcoming personal adversity. Then, after a whirlwind lesson to teach the chorus parts of “Little Innocent Lamb” and performing it together, we were able to enjoy the music of our Miamian counterparts. Their “Seasons of Love” was great, and I know it touched a good number of Glee Clubbers.

When I spoke with several of Edison High’s singers afterward, it became apparent what the interaction had been, and it allayed my fears: we were not perceived as cruel mockers, but instead were providers of reciprocated musical inspiration. Through sharing this performance and workshop, we coalesced around our one love: music. We were choirs: music makers, dream dreamers, in many ways an epitome of collective aesthetic achievement. Through dots on a page translated into sound waves, we accessed the deep recesses of the heart where the bonding links of human friendship are formed and connected. We drew from the rivers of delight refreshing draughts that lift the spirits and energize us for life, a well of happiness that never fails in dark and light times alike.

It was a beautiful experience, and one that I believe will be repeated many times in the Dominican Republic over the next week. Music and concern transcend language barriers, and the Glee in the Glee Club needs no mosquito to pass it around. And just as the remembrance of the “happy golden bygone days” can sustain Yale graduates through the troubles that “cloud the blue of sunny skies”, even so can the gift of Song, unconditionally given, pierce the overcast sky like silver lances, flashing and falling, to bring gladness of heart –Glee.

Song of the Day: "Seasons of Love"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Orlando

Rachel Glodo '12 reconnects with the YGC tour in Orlando

This is probably the first blog entry written by a YGC member not on tour. As a student taking the spring semester off, I waited impatiently for my darling Glee Club to arrive in my home city of Orlando, Florida.

The story is (according to people actually on tour) that the Yale Glee Club spent a good portion of their free time today in Downtown Disney, an area that locals judiciously and invariably avoid at all costs. Pros: Downtown Disney allows you to buy some truly remarkable Legos and get your picture taken with an 8-foot Mr. Potato-head. Cons: DtD refuses to off anything but over-priced food of horrendous quality and over-priced souvenirs and t-shirts, which you will regret buying immediately upon crossing the state line. Fortunately, most Glee Clubbers managed to sustain themselves on $10 spinach and artichoke dip appetizers and waited out the typical Florida thunderstorm in safety.

Tonight’s concert was at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in downtown Orlando. Orlando is a small city with vibrant arts, culture, and nightlife scenes, and tonight was especially busy as the Amway Arena filled up for the Magic-Celtics game (the result of which, I will note, was a tragedy).

However, the impending basketball game did little to diminish the turnout at the concert. St. Luke’s is known for sponsoring very fine musical performances and the YGC concert supported that tradition with style.

My first interaction with my fellow Glee members occurred in the fellowship hall where I was greeted with lots of hugs and kisses (aren’t Glee clubbers dear?). I was also diverted by Kaley Sullivan’s pep-talk, which consisted of the following five premises and conclusion:
1: Consider three types of swimming animals: fish, manatees, and dolphins.
2: Fish follow their school, never make their own decisions, and inevitably get eaten alive by larger creatures.
3: Manatees are fairly self-sustainable, but they lack initiative and creativity, preferring to lounge about the Florida waters in a sweet, but unexciting stupor.
4: Dolphins are intelligent, independent, aware, and creative creatures.
5: The above descriptions are a metaphor for singers in a choir (you figure it out).
Conclusion: Don’t be a fish or a manatee; be a dolphin!

With that in mind, the YGC ran into the sanctuary (losing a few select shoes along the way) and began a delightful and memorable concert.

It is very different to listen to a choir in which you usually sing. First of all, I rarely get to appreciate how large the group is, and how much sound they can produce at the appropriate times. I was also pleased to realize how little the group abuses its noise-producing capabilities; most of the songs (excepting the traditional Yale songs!) were sung with great sensitivity and attention to detail. (The only downside of being an audience member was that I couldn’t see Jeff’s face while he conducted, but the quality of the program made up for this lack.)

Song of the day: “The Road Home ” because it was sung at my home!

I also had the pleasure of hosting 3 lovely glee girls which we squeezed into the backseat of our car (kudos to my 13 year-old brother for letting me squish him in the corner). After a lingering meal of vegetable soup, cantaloupe, mango, and brownies, we retired. The next morning we ate a lovely breakfast outside on the lanai to the sounds of Floridian birds (and yes, there was grapefruit).

There really is no place like Florida. The Glee Club has seen several of Florida’s personalities (Sarasota, filled with ancients, and Downtown Disney, filled with over-spending tourists with small, screaming children). But the best part of the state is easily where locals live, like the city of Orlando or my suburb of Winter Park. The air is warm and embracing and thunderstorms come every summer afternoon at 4:30. Sego palms, philodendron, live oaks, and Spanish moss line each street. Floridians welcome visitors as their own, sharing the beauty and resources of their Sunshine State.

I am ridiculously proud to introduce my home to the Glee Club, and the Glee Club to Florida. Thank you for the friendship, the “’Neath the Palms” t-shirt, and, most of all, the music: it’s even better than Disney magic.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Sarasota

Dylan Morris '11 describes Day 4

The Yale Glee Club reconvened early Thursday morning at St. Edward's School for the three-hour drive to Sarasota. Glee Clubbers always find novel ways to amuse themselves on tour bus rides. On this ride, a group of YGCers led by aspiring filmmaker Julia Myers '12 used a point-and-shoot digital camera to make a three-and-a-half-minute film that was as silly as it was short.

Arriving in Sarasota, we grabbed lunch before rehearsing in the Church of the Redeemer's beautiful sanctuary. We had a visitor at the rehearsal—Daniel Moe, the resident composer at the church and the former longtime director of the Oberlin Conservatory Choir. After hearing us sing Anton Bruckner's "Os Justi," ­­he told us that it was one of his all-time favorite pieces and praised our rendition of it.

After rehearsal and a tasty dinner prepared for us by parishioners at the church, we had a free hour. Glee Clubbers stretched out on the church lawn, read on benches in its gardens, and sat in circles playing guitar and singing folk songs.

Soon, though, it was time for the concert. Arden Rogow-Bales '10 prepared us with a thoughtful pep talk. Drawing upon his experience as an actor, he encouraged us not merely to sing the music but to express and mean it. "When eighty people mean something together," he told us, "it can be almost too powerful."

As we prepared to run onstage for our first set, we saw that the church was packed—our first full house of tour, and a very enthusiastic audience. “Weep You No More,” “Little Innocent Lamb,” and the Chamber Singers’ rendition of “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal” seemed particularly popular.

At intermission, Sarah Evans '10 encouraged us to enjoy the "giddy" feeling that singing can give. It was easy to feel giddy as we received a standing ovation for the Yale Football Medley, performed "Bright College Years," and ran out offstage to applause and ringing church-bells. Outside, YGCers jumped in the air, hugged one another, and danced to the bells.

As I write this, we are on the bus on Friday morning, on our way from Sarasota to Orlando. As we were about to pull away from the curb, Daniel Moe came aboard our bus for one last goodbye: "Thank you for your energy and excitement and your commitment to choral music." Coming from him, the words reinforce themselves.

Favorite moment of the day: Daniel Moe’s comments on the Bruckner and our singing.

Song of the day: In his honor, “Os Justi.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: Vero Beach and first concert

Rachel Wilf, 2010-2011 YGC manager, reflects on Day 2.
Manatee sketch by Julia Myers '12.

You know you’re in Florida when you start your day with an ocean swim, a walk on Vero Beach, a viewing of Michael Haycock’s sand-shark, and a breakfast accompanied by fresh-squeezed orange juice. This is the life.

Our big expedition this morning was to the Manatee Observation center in nearby Fort Pierce. Sadly, manatees were in short supply. We did get to see seahorses and turtles, though, and we found out from Molly that the gestational period of a manatee equals the amount of time that she and Emily have been planning this tour (13 months). Stuffed manatee toys in hand, we walked into Fort Pierce for lunch. I ate with seven other YGCers, and our waitress first thought we were professional singers and then that we were all trying out for American Idol. She was gracious enough not to appear too disappointed when we turned out to be regular old Yalies.

The day only got better when we headed back to the St. Edward’s School for a short performance in front of the middle and high schoolers, followed by a rehearsal and our first concert of tour! St. Edward’s is a beautiful place (lots of open courtyards and red-tiled roofs) and their performing arts center is stunning. The St. Edwards staff was also incredibly welcoming; we were all shocked when we walked into the gym for dinner and found a dinner buffet and tables decorated with flower-filled vases.

The concert itself was a promising start to tour. O Quam Gloriosum and Ye Shall Have a Song are two of my favorite pieces this year, and I though they were particularly beautiful at our concert. The Football Medley also had a great momentum, and the audience got involved in the cheering (of Yale) and the booing (of Harvard). Onstage, we struggled to keep from laughing at Casey Klippel’s unique ode to Harvard—a blaring off-key note blown on a borrowed trumpet after we sang “Goodnight, Poor Harvard.”

There’s a rhythm to these days and nights of traveling and singing together that makes each tour a special part of the Glee Club year. If today is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to during the remainder of our stay in Florida and the DR.

Song of the day: "Round Round Get Around" by the Beach Boys

Favorite moment: When students from Daniel Koh’s choir at St. Edwards joined us onstage to sing The Road Home (which they sang last week at their senior baccalaureate).

Tomorrow, 5/27: Sarasota, concert at Church of the Redeemer at 7:30 pm

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2010 Summer Tour: 'Neath the Palms

Rising senior Mari Oye describes the first day's journey from New Haven to Vero Beach.

Louder yet the chorus raise,
Friendship lasts when youth must fail;
Jolly jolly are the days
'Neath the elms of dear old Yale!

So goes the last verse of 'Neath the Elms, a Yale songbook favorite dating from 1871. This year, the Glee Club is exchanging elms for palms, and will spend twelve days in Florida and the Dominican Republic. Our schedule includes concerts with the national chorus of the Dominican Republic (advertised here), extensive outreach, set up in part through the efforts of the Association of Yale Alumni, and, tomorrow, a chance to see manatees.

I'm writing to you from a deck near the water in Vero Beach, FL. It's hard to believe that around 5:30 this morning we were all huddled amid suitcases (too many), pillows (too few) and boxes of equipment on the steps of Hendrie Hall. A bus ride and a few hours' flight later, we arrived at the airport in Orlando. Starving tenors rushed straight for the local delicacies: Chick-Fil-A and a dozen Krispy Kremes, consumed in no time. I'll fast forward through the next bus ride to Vero Beach, since I spent most of it asleep (along with the rest of the YGC).

I can't get over the fact that we are in the presence of actual palm trees. The Californians among us are homesick. I'm from Massachusetts, and I keep expecting the palms to be of the plastic variety. But no, they're real - and so is the beach, a few steps from the hotel, where we all rushed to wash the travel dust right out of our hair.

Around six, we arrived at the St. Edwards school, where we'll be giving a concert tomorrow, and rehearsed for several hours. The choir at St. Edwards is directed by Daniel Koh, a beloved former assistant director of the Glee Club. At Yale, he somehow acquired the nickname "Kohbra," which YGC seniors are eager to revive down here in Florida.

Favorite moment of the day: YGC director Jeff Douma and a small red and brown lizard face off on a brick wall near our buses.

Song of the day, chosen by tour managers Emily Howell '11 and Molly Perkins '10 for "obvious reasons": "Leaving on a Jet Plane."

Tomorrow: the Manatee Observation Center, or MOC, and concert at St. Edwards School, which has already merited an article in the Hometown News of Vero Beach.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Notes on Mini-Tour

Junior Rachel Wilf describes our January weekend tour to Philadelphia.

I have to admit, when I heard that Glee Club wasn’t having a winter tour I was disconsolate. Glee Club tours have given me some of my favorite memories of Yale. How could a “minitour” possibly live up to past trips? For all my reservations, our minitour to Philadelphia completely won me over. For those of you who didn’t get the chance to join us, here were some of the highlights from our time in the City of Brotherly Love:

On Saturday morning we had free time to wander around our hotel in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. I took a walk to Rittenhouse Square, while others visited some of the many downtown museums. Groups went to the Franklin Institute of Science, the Academy of Fine Arts, and to the Mutter Museum. The group that went to the Mutter museum came back with the best stories, since the museum features all things human and odd (if you ever want to see over 2,000 items that have been “swallowed and removed” from the human body, this is the place for you).

In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have a workshop with students at the Settlement Music School. The Music School is in an airy, beautiful building and draws students from the Philadelphia area and New Jersey. We had a chance to listen to the students perform and to spend some time talking with them about college, music, and where to get the best Philly cheese steak.

The definite highlight of the trip for me was our concert at The Microsoft High School of the Future, a charter school in West Philadelphia. The Glee Club performed alongside two Yale a cappella groups, Red Hot & Blue and The New Blue, and the fantastic St. Thomas More Gospel Choir. I can’t quite describe the sound of the gospel choir except to say that they had the entire auditorium clapping by the end of their set. During our performance we got the chance to return to some of our most beautiful music from the fall semester, including “Weep You No More” and “Ye Shall Have a Song.”

Saturday night we were welcomed into the homes of Yale alumni in the Philadelphia area. My hosts took us out for delicious Japanese food in a futuristic restaurant called “Pod,” where colored buttons on the walls allowed you to change the mood lighting in the room. My host was a Glee Club alum who told us stories about singing on the stage of Carnegie Hall in the 1980s.

After a restful night we reconvened in the morning in the historic district of Old Philadelphia for a morning of (somewhat rainy) sightseeing. After a brief stop at the Liberty Bell and a final Philly cheese steak for lunch, we got back on the buses to head home to Hendrie Hall.

During our weekend in Philly we had time for bus games and sightseeing, for workshops, concerts, and homestays. Most importantly, we had the chance to spend time with each other. I got to talk with Glee Clubbers I already know and love as well as many of our (fantastic) new members. Here’s to a great start to the semester!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking Back: Symphony of Meditations

This past November, the Glee Club, along with the Yale Philharmonia, the Camerata, and the Schola Cantorum, performed the East Coast premiere of School of Music professor Aaron Jay Kernis's "Symphony of Meditations." The new work was incredibly complex to learn and to perform, but after months of hard work and preparation, the performance was beautiful and the intricate, fascinating music was brought to life in front of a huge audience as the centerpiece of the 2009 National Choral Collegiate Organization's conference. Here, Michael Haycock '12 shares his own reflections on the piece and its meaning.

Aaron Jay Kernis’ Symphony of Meditations begins with an Invocation in which the soloist, preceding the chorus’ thunderous acclamation of divine almight, ponders searchingly, “What could the heart and tongue compose, or spirit’s strength within me to suit you?” The answer, unspoken, is given in its absence, and turning from suiting something to the Lord, Gabirol’s poet observes submissively, “but song soothes you, and so I’ll give praise to your being as long as your breath-in-me lives.” Even in this statement he sees that without the Lord he worships he would not have the song to offer: the words breath and spirit in Hebrew are one and the same, and it was God who breathed in Adam’s nostrils the breath of life.

But amid the towering chords of the chorus and the soaring melodies of instrumental solos throughout the piece that move the heart to contemplate the greatness of God, there are also sections of what may seem manic frenzy, or even violence, abject fear, trembling anger minimally resembling reverence. (Perhaps the spurting of spittle with each plosive and sibilant suggested that sensation in my case.) Why does Gabirol write of his “abominable acts,” being “a spider’s poison,” and all the horrendous vicissitudes and evils of a world and a man “uncut” for their Lord? Why the presence of the crazed and wrenching parts of the work?

Certainly earlier Hebrew harpists had similar motifs – the songs registered in the Biblical book of Psalms bear witness to this with utter clarity. Nevertheless, this song, according to Kernis’ arrangement of Gabirol’s words, is supposed to “soothe” the Lord of heavens and earth. How can this reminder of human cruelty and imperfection in the slightest comfort exactingly just Deity?

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, and I believe he might extend an answer. In theAinulindalë, a part of his Silmarillion, he relates the story of Creation of Middle-Earth (which, in his mind, is none but our own world, in forgotten past times). “There was Eru, the One,” it begins, introducing the Judeo-Christian God in nomenclature not unfamiliar, and the Ainur, who are to be understood as the angels. The most striking image of this story is not visual, however; it is strictly auditory, and Eru “spoke to [the Ainur], propounding to them themes of music,” on which they elaborate with their stunning orchestral array of voices and tonalities: “a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and the heights.” This flawless music is not left unmarred, for “it came into the heart of Melkor [Tolkien’s Satan stand-in] to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with” Eru’s theme, his music being “loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated” whilst Eru’s was “deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came.” The contention of Melkor with Eru continues, but the later weaves the former’s attempts at dominance masterfully and comprehensively into the great work.

Then comes the revelation, and the Ainur are given sight, and perceive the Earth, and that the singing of each contributed to its creation. Eru addresses Melkor, and explains that

“no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.”

Melkor’s striving to destroy with cold and heat, by turning once liquid water into snow, hail, clouds, and rain, simply augments the physical beauty of the world. The omniscience and overwhelming supremacy of God, who comprehends all to a degree unknown to all, is capable of finding peace in discord, solace in dissonance, and ultimately a greater beauty in what is apparently repulsive.

Indeed, the primary intended function of reminders of one’s sin is to cause one to sink into the abysmal depths of humility before one’s Creator and acknowledge one’s “utter weakness and failing.” The grace of the Almighty and His astounding magnanimity is amplified by his longsuffering of man so helpless that he pleads to be sheltered if only by His “shadow.” Just as impractical as Stravinsky’s dismissing any bassoonist that could play the beginning notes ofThe Rite of Spring confidently, the intentionally high B in a baritone solo and the strain of that section of the work are brilliant vocal representations of soul-rending agony. The speechlessness of man before God is apparent in the last pages of the work, where after praising the Lord and His incomparability, the only words that can be expressed are “The Lord is God” and “The Lord is one” – and that in a language estranged, perhaps elevated, from the rest of the piece. The final remnants of human artistic expression meant to soothe the Lord eventually are exhausted, and the yielding last word is spoken and not sung.

The purpose of the work is to represent Man before God. It is not a self-defense, nor a whitewashed worship. The sins strike contrast with perfect righteousness. However, even in the depiction of the evil and cacophony man causes when he has “gone against [the Lord’] teaching and held [His] commandments in scorn”, God is still uplifted and praised, and – seemingly paradoxically – in his prostration man is forgiven and “cleansed with the light” of the Lord’s countenance, renewing the world and birthing something greater than mortal ever conceived and of more beauty than ever envisioned.