Saturday, May 28, 2011

From New Haven they say you are going

Publicity chair emeritus Mari Oye ’11 on Yale Commencement and commencing tour.

“There’s the family you’re born into,” said YGC President Emily Howell, “and the family Jeff [Douma] chooses for you.” That was ten days ago, as the Glee Club, stranded in San Francisco by an American Airlines flight cancellation, gave an impromptu concert for the rest of the travelers stuck in line. “Raise Your Voices,” “Abendlied,” and that other classic, “Baby You’re Not Alone,” all graced SFO. Given an extra day downtown, a quartet of stray Glee Clubbers sang “Dover Beach” on the beach by the Golden Gate bridge.

Ten days later, we find ourselves in another airport – this time, JFK, bound for Sweden via Paris. In between, though, we’ve been busy. The Glee Club collectively sang three baccalaureate services, two Class Day hymns, and our own Commencement Concert in Sprague Hall (above, shenanigans during the football medley). Gleeniors wore white roses with blue ribbons and a spray of baby’s breath, and cried – for real – during “Eli Yale,” at the line “the saddest tale we have to tell is when we bid Old Yale farewell.”

The baccalaureates take place in Woolsey Hall. Each year, we sing Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia” from the second balcony. My own baccalaureate was the eighth I’ve attended, but it’s different when you’re the one graduating. We could hear the “Alleluia” drifting down from the balcony, and be in two places at once – up there mentally singing it with the rest of the YGC, and down in the seats by the stage, gown on, cap in hand, listening.

Later we seniors stepped into Old Campus and “smoked our pipes and sang our glees,” according to Yale tradition. Graduates receive a clay pipe to smoke and then break. (If you see any shards in the Vandy courtyard, you can blame Derek Tam, Jasmine Dyba, and me).

I guess I’m now an alumna of Yale College, but until this Glee Club tour ends, I stubbornly refuse to leave. I’ve even started to take this joy and craziness for granted. Right now, some tenors are teaching Jeff how to juggle by Gate 5. Max Blum MUS ’11 appears to be conducting along with the “Fast and the Furious” arcade game. He’s interrupted by an announcement: “Attendez-vous!” We’re headed for Uppsala, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Paris, and Istanbul. Sunset is at 10 pm, our first concert is at 11 am in Uppsala Cathedral, and there are 23 days of tour to go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

YGC Goes to San Francisco!

Publicity Chair Marisa Karchin '14, on our anti-bullying benefit concert this past weekend.

On Saturday night, the YGC sang at the Yale Glee Club and Glee's Darren Criss Gala Benefit to End Bullying. After spending the morning exploring sunny San Francisco, we arrived at the Marines Memorial Theater in time for our rehearsal. We walked up ten flights of stairs to get to our dressing room, and then began our sound check. We were so fortunate to be singing with the lovely San Francisco Girls’ Choir, the Duke’s Men of Yale, and of course, Glee’s Darren Criss. Before the concert started, we got the chance to explore the hotel, and look at the library and museum of U.S. Military and Veterans memorabilia.

The concert began with the Alumni Chorus of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, who sang three selections, including a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The Dukes’ Men belted out a few of their classics, and then sang (and danced) backup for Darren Criss in Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. The Glee Club sang our set, which included some of our favorite pieces- Red River Valley, Weep You No More (Gilbertson), Raise Your Voices (Douma), My Soul's Been Anchored (Hogan), along with a few traditional Yale songs. Darren Criss was up next, singing and accompanying himself on the piano. His soothing, lightly gruff voice flowed effortlessly as he riffed around the vocal lines, impressing the audience (including several teens shrieking “Marry me Darren!”) with his musicality, skill and charm.

Meanwhile, the YGC, waiting backstage, was invited into a party in the next room, which was being held for the Cal Veterans Association. We danced the night away, and sang Shenandoah for the veterans and their families, until we were called for our next entrance. We then returned to the stage for the grand finale of the concert. Darren Criss performed his song “Not Alone,” with the YGC, SFG, and the Duke’s Men all on stage and scattered throughout the aisles singing the soulful backup arrangement (for which the stage manager repeatedly told us to “Be Fabulous”)

We walked backstage after the concert to find Darren Criss and Jeff Douma reminiscing about their days at the University of Michigan (and snapped a few photos, of course.)

photo credit: Stephanie Tubiolo

Then YGC Blog got the chance to talk to Darren ourselves. He pulled us into the corner of the room backstage to talk privately before he was hounded by fans, and was brimming with excitement from the momentum of the concert. When asked why he got involved in this benefit, he responded, laughing, “I was asked.” But his devotion to the issue was obvious; he continued, “It seems like a no-brainer... It’s nice to be in a position where you can not only do something you love, but help out with something you care about.” The conversation moved from the benefit concert to his years at Michigan, where he briefly joined an a capella group, then left to work on his own musical projects. He didn’t do much choral singing, but he enthusiastically told us about some of his favorite pop arrangements- Robin Wiley’s arrangement of “I Thought She Knew,” and “O Holy Night,” sung by N’SYNC. He also said he was going to apply to Yale if he hadn’t been able to get work by the time he was 25 (oh well), “Just for Pepe’s!”

Even in the midst of the concert excitement, it was impossible to forget the real reason we were all singing at this benefit. Whether it was recalling the latest episode of Glee, in which Darren Criss’ character stands up to heartbreakingly cruel bullying, or being surrounded by memorials to the Marines and a crowd of returning veterans, or standing on stage, singing with over a hundred other young singers who all shared the same love for music, the same devotion to creating music that leads to changes in thought and in action, we all felt a sense of community, security, and mutual support for this universal cause. Backstage before the concert, Jeff said to us, “I’d go out on a limb and say that everyone here’s been bullied, because, well most people are, and we sing in choirs.” This may be true, but we’re so lucky to be able to use choral singing to raise awareness for the cause. To quote Jeff Douma one more time, “It’s all about the love.”