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.