Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Tour 2011: Strathmore and D.C.

YGC Manager Rachel Wilf '11 on our Domestic Tour's grand finale 

In Chicago, on our second day of tour, Jeff announced that our last tour concert at the Strathmore Music Center had sold out. We had sold seventeen hundred tickets! The excitement about the concert built up over the week as YGC was abuzz with requests for spare tickets. My favorite request was one posted on Craigslist: “SAVE MY MARRIAGE. Was supposed to buy tickets, but didn't. PLEASE LET ME PURCHASE 2 OF YOUR EXTRA TICKETS!”

When we arrived in the D.C. area on Thursday night we had a brief rehearsal with the Yale alumni chorus and met up with our hosts for the night. On Friday morning they brought us to the White House, where we put our pre-concert jitters aside to take a guided tour. We didn’t see the Obamas, but Jennie Witthuhn ’12 did catch a glimpse of Bo getting walked on the lawn. We saved the rest of our D.C. sightseeing for Saturday and left the White House for lunch in Silver Spring, MD and a workshop at the nearby Piney Branch Elementary school. We worked in small groups with the students in the fourth and fifth grade choir and taught them the chorus to Eli Yale. The students seemed to really enjoy performing the song with us for the rest of their classmates (they were especially excited by the crying motions we make in the last verse).

After the workshop we traveled to Bethesda to our concert site, the Strathmore Music Center. The Glee Club fell silent when we first walked onto the stage for rehearsal. Strathmore is a stunningly beautiful space (see photo above). The entire center is newly built with honey-blond wood, boxes lining the walls of the concert hall, and seemingly endless tiers of seats. (I won’t comment on the Committee’s suggestion that the hall resembles the Space Federation building from Star Wars. Strathmore certainly has better acoustics).

As the concert began we looked out on the filled hall from the choir boxes above the stage. From there we watched the opening performances of the concert by pianist (and Yale graduate) John Eaton and Yale’s two senior a cappella groups, Whim’n’Rhythm and the Whiffenpoofs. When we took the stage after the intermission, we sang pieces with the familiarity gained from hours of rehearsal and concerts on tour. Nemo te Condemnavit and Dover Beach came together especially well and the quartet in Zephyr Rounds seemed to float out into the auditorium.

Red River Valley seemed especially relevant last night because of the presence of so many YGC alumni in the audience (for the past two years it has been the YGC Senior Song performed at Commencement). Nicholas Clemm, Anna Swan, Andrew Tschirhart, and Virginia Calkins, graduates from the class of 2010 who have taken jobs in the D.C. area, and Michael Dziuban, the President of the YGC my freshman year, were all in the audience. The recent alums sat together and I found myself grinning in their direction after almost every song. As of last night we also have a new YGC alumnus: Strathmore was Jamie Van Dyck’s last concert as an undergraduate member of the Glee Club.

Recent alumni weren’t the only alums present at the concert. YGC alumni of all ages performed a short set (including Switzer Boy, a classic known for its yodels) and joined with the current YGC in singing Fenno Heath’s arrangement of Shenandoah and the Yale Football Medley. As YGCA president Clay Kaufman pointed out on Thursday night, when we are all on stage together we span over 70 years of the Glee Club. I was glad that we could share the stage with so many committed YGC alums. And we hardly had to say goodbye—we’ll be seeing each other again at the reunion!

Photos: Mari Oye '11. Top, the Glee Club rehearses at Strathmore. Left, we stow our instruments (ourselves) backstage.