Sunday, May 30, 2010

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"