Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Final Destination: Istanbul

Marisa Karchin ’14, on our Istanbul concert and how she cries every time we sing the Vaughan Williams

“This is the place where East meets West, old meets new. What better way to have old meet new than for YAC and the Glee Club to be singing together?” spoke Mark Dollhopf at the Yale Alumni Chorus/ Yale Glee Club welcome dinner our first night in Istanbul. We sat in the hotel restaurant, all approximately 300 of us, exchanging stories, sharing our excitement for our joint concert, hissing at the mention of Harvard, and, of course, singing old favorites. Istanbul was the last stop of the YGC tour, but the first stop for the YAC, who’s also performing in Georgia and Armenia.

On our first full day together, we took a ferry to the Princes Islands, crossing the very black waters from Europe to Asia, where we had our first joint rehearsal. We barely all fit in the room in the Anadolu Club, but singing in such a massive chorus was more empowering than intimidating. Jeff warned us, “The potential for greatness is vast and so is the potential for mayhem. Luckily you’re veering toward greatness.”

We spent the next two days between rehearsals and sightseeing. We went on guided tours of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque. We learned about religious customs and heard the call to prayer resounding across the city; we heard stories about Turkish marriage rituals (when a man is ready to start looking for a wife, he can perform a certain task, such a stabbing rice with a spoon over dinner, or stealing a horse, depending on the region); we saw the inside of the Sultan’s Harem, covered in elegant blue tile. We navigated the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar, developed various methods of bargaining (and heard some interesting pick-up lines in the process), and naturally, ate copious amounts of Turkish Delight and kebab.

(Photo: Cynthia Deng '14 and Claire Donnelley '14 outside the Hagia Sophia)

And then it was time for the concert. This was a strange concert for us musically, in that we were not singing any of our tour rep, but were bringing back the Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem we had sung with the YSO at Carnegie Hall. We were also singing a few new pieces- a Turkish folk song we all came to love, along with Yale School of Music grad Colin Britt’s “A Dream and a Song,” Khachaturian’s “Song About Peoples’ Friendship,” and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide.

The concert itself was exhilarating. The Vaughan Williams especially was the perfect work for the occasion. In his speech a few nights earlier, Mark Dollhopf talked about how this year is not only the 150th anniversary of the Glee Club, but also that of the Civil War. The Civil War memorial in Woolsey Hall, our usual performance venue, is special to our community in that it is one of the few in the U.S. that memorializes both the North and the South. It is a place of pure reconciliation and reuniting. He continued, “It’s about what the power of a community like Yale can do.” By performing together and singing works like Dona Nobis Pacem, the Glee Club and YAC “suggest there could be, through the power of our song, healing.”

(Photo: Singing Dinner with YAC at the Elif Gonul Davet Salonu)

Three months had passed since we’d last sung the Dona Nobis, and this time it was in an entirely different context. Three months ago we were in Carnegie Hall, in New York, just the 85 of us. This time we were in Istanbul, a city many of us never dreamed of visiting, singing with 200 other singers and the Tekfen Orchestra, comprised of players from 23 different countries. Because of the new ensemble, the interpretation of the piece changed significantly. I was surprised at our first rehearsal to hear the movements sung at different tempos, with a different timbre, and different phrasing than I had remembered. But the intrinsic beauty of the music and Whitman text, and the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of musicians and former glee clubbers, brought me to tears once again as the soprano part floated over the chorus singing the hauntingly simple melody in “Reconciliation.” Between these two performances we’d seen the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, the newly restored churches and buildings in Dresden, heard personal stories about the fall of the Berlin Wall and seen the international artwork painted on the broken pieces of the wall. And now we were in Istanbul, historically a city of much turmoil as the center of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, as well as the connection between the eastern and western spheres. Our understanding of the world has changed, and we could feel this propelling our performance at this concert. I could not have imagined a more meaningful way to end our tour.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paris, June 14th

Neena Satija '11 writes about our concert at the Sorbonne.

Even though my undergraduate career technically ended in May, I'd like to think that this tour extends it by a few precious weeks. So, tonight I sang my final concert as an undergraduate member of the Yale Glee Club - and I couldn't have imagined a better send-off than this.

The Sorbonne Amphitheatre is a breathtaking space to sing in. It's large enough for a sizeable audience, but not so large that singers onstage can't connect with members of the audience by looking into their faces. We were watched over on all sides by statues of great French thinkers, including Richelieu, Descartes, and Lavoisier (who sports a particularly solemn look, but was probably looking at us with the most intensity out of all of our stone spectators). The house was nearly full. And we all sang with the acute awareness that we were singing many songs for the last time -- songs that had been near and dear to some of us for more than four years. It was especially emotional for me to sing Robert Vuichard's "Zephyr Rounds", which we had learned for the first time during my freshman year, as well as Glee Club favorites like "Shenandoah." But perhaps the hardest song to sing without shedding some tears was "Red River Valley," a beautiful arrangement by our very own director that I heard for the first time when I visited Yale during Bulldog Days.

Jeff has always warned us that audiences on tours are hit-or-miss; it's hard to tell who will show up and how enthusiastic they will be. But he's also always told us that if we can make an impact on just ten people, that would be far more valuable than sending away 500 people who'll forget the concert as soon as they leave. Tonight, though, I'd say we got the best of both worlds - a large audience that was clearly appreciative. As we left the stage, they stood and clapped for so long that Jeff and Emily ran back onstage quite a few times; we'd actually sung our entire tour repertoire, so an encore was hard to come by. But finally, Jeff decided on the old Glee Club favorite "Little Lamb." I've rarely seen a more excited audience.

I'm thrilled that our tour isn't over yet, but it really hit me tonight that I'll never spend time like this with the Glee Club again. Well, we'll always have Paris.

Photos: Awesome shot of the Eiffel Tower, courtesy of Peter Thompson '12, and a restaurant called "Gaudeamus."


Jess Moore '13, on beer, pretzels, and a YGC guy:

Well, the Glee Club survived Munich! True, the (locally brewed) beer flowed freely and we learned just how loud 80 people can get, but at least we know how to have a good time. Our brief tryst with the city of Munich began with a rehearsal at LMU, which in my mind stands for Large Munich University, with the Harvard Radcliffe Collegium. Afterward, we were led through the English Gardens to a beer garden. There was a large clearing filled with picnic tables and a low-lying building where beer and “portions” of food (one “portion” or ribs was an entire pig, as a Harvard tablemate found out the hard way) were sold. We were taught the etiquette of beer gardens:

  • You may bring your own food, in a picnic style, but there is often food to buy as well
  • You may NOT bring your own beverages, not even water, as this is where the brewery makes its money
  • The breweries making money is important because they pay for the beer garden.

The next day, we took a bus tour around the city and learned a bit about it. We were shown the BMW headquarters that is shaped like four cylinders, the adjacent BMW world where your new car comes down in a glass elevator, Olympic Park from the last summer Olympics held here, and then disembarked at Nymphenburg. Nymphenburg, or Palace of Nymphs, was the summer palace of the Bavarian monarchy from the 1600s through the end of the monarchy in 1918, and it was beautiful. We frolicked on the grass surrounding the canal and harassed the domesticated swans. Our tour then continued through the city; we learned about everything from Ludwig II’s obsession with Wagner to the history of Oktoberfest. The city definitely offers a diverse array of entertainment possibilities. In the words of Andrea, our local guide, “We sell ourselves as if nobody is working here; we are all dancing and yodeling in leiderhosen!”

Speaking of leiderhosen, we saw a lot of it later that night at our concert. The LMU students in their choir, though not singing with us, showed up to our concert in various types of traditional dress in an attempt to convince us (successfully) that this was a normal thing to wear on any occasion. Well played, LMU. You really had us going there. Of course, our own Sam Sanders turned the joke on them when she bought her own traditional garb and rocked it. Pranks aside, our concert was a great success. The concert hall was beautiful, with a golden mosaic reminiscent of the Gold Room in Sweden where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held that we saw earlier on tour. The Harvard Radcliffe Collegium performed their set first, followed by our set. The concert ended with two joint pieces all ~100 of us crowded together on the steps.

The real star of that night, however, was Jacob Levine. The one-time winner of Best Pep Talk Ever Created, here he is to tell you about the night in his own words:

(to the tune of "American Pie")

A long, long time ago,

Back in mid-September,

I was trying to fight the senior blues.

I wanted my last year at Yale

To be the best one without fail,

But I had no idea what to do.

I told my friends of my intentions

And they came back with great suggestions:

Some said I should start thinking

‘Bout 7-day-a-week drinking.

But the words that made most sense to me

Came from my best friends in TD:

They told me to join YGC.

The rest is history.

Oh my, my, I’m a Yale Glee Club guy.

I’m in love with Jeffrey Douma and think Sean’s pretty fly.

Though my time is short, I swear I’ll try not to cry

When it’s time to say my final goodbyes…

Time to say my final goodbyes.

Did you know that Yale Glee Club

Is an institution filled with love?

No lie, at first I didn’t see.

But then we finally went on winter tour

And it wasn’t long at all before

This little glee club felt a lot like family.

Well, Chicago was a total ball

Though, what I did I can’t quite recall.

But one thing’s crystal clear:

Someone was belting Cs in my ear.


And I was singing…

My, my, I’m a Yale Glee Club guy.

I’m in love with Jeffrey Douma and think Sean’s pretty fly.

Though my time is short, I swear I’ll try not to cry

When it’s time to say my final goodbyes…

Time to say my final goodbyes.

Now the past 6 months have been so much fun!

We tore up Carnegie with blazin’ guns

And Vaughn Williams we enacted flawlessly.

And though “Partition” made me wanna die

I finally saw the beauty deep inside,

Though I’m still haunted by the words: “not so easy.”

Oh, reunion was a blast, of course.

Alumni showed up with such force

The halls of Woolsey rang

When City Song we sang.

And who could forget YGC outreach?

We raised our voices for Tony Leach

As New Haven kids he tried to teach

That day in history.

And we were singing…

My, my, I’m a Yale Glee Club guy.

I’m in love with Jeffrey Douma and think Sean’s pretty fly.

Though my time is short, I swear I’ll try not to cry

When it’s time to say my final goodbyes…

Time to say my final goodbyes.

I guess that brings us to summer tour,

Where I’ve learned so much I never knew before,

Like bears in Sweden love a crowd.

In Germany we drank cheap beer

And shared our laughter and good cheer,

Though often we were just a touch too loud.

In Prague we toured the local bars

While some of us checked out ERs.

Now France and Turkey beckon.

The ending’s near, I reckon.

And the two men I admire most,

To them I raise this final toast:

To say we’re lucky is no boast.

You’ll go down in history.

We’ll be singing…

My, my, I’m a Yale Glee Club guy.

I’m in love with Jeffrey Douma and think Sean’s pretty fly.

Though my time is short, I swear I’ll try not to cry

When it’s time to say my final goodbyes…

And bid farewell with BCY.

Prague Blog

Ellen Ray '11 writes about our time in Prague. This would have been posted sooner had the Czech keyboards been easier to decipher. Photos courtesy of Monica Qiu and Mari Oye '11.

The Glee Club's stay in Prague consisted of much wandering on streets with names we were unable to pronounce. Luckily, with the help of a local guide, we were able to glean some sense of the city's history and architecture. Our tour the first morning took us to the astronomical center of the city, an incredibly large clock with a fanfare at noon each day. We joined in the streets with crowds of other tourists, equally confused, but also impressed by the ritual and history in this city square. I spent most of my own time in Prague trying to orient myself in relationship to this landmark and others. For example, our tour also went past Wenceslas Square, named after a member of Czech royalty who gained enough notoriety in English that even American tourists (us, for example) understood the hilarity of this connection. Wenceslas Square was also an important landmark for our time in Prague, as most of us could at least pronounce it.

Near both of these landmarks was the Communist Museum of Prague. Located between a McDonald's and a casino, one can only find this museum by glimpsing it through the columns dividing the McDonald's and the casino. Large posters which say "The Communist Museum is Here!"are the ultimate giveaway. However, the true treasures rest inside. In every corner, there were statues of Stalin or Lenin or even occasionally Engels.

The content of the museum focused on Czechoslovakia's relationship with this model. Much attention was given to the Velvet Revolution, the student and intellectual movement which accompanied the collapse of Czechoslovakia's Communist state. Large photographs of youth were paired alongside a bust of Vaclav Havel. Pictures of youth storming Wenceslas Square, or simply sitting on stages were labeled with captions which proudly described the actions of these young revolutionary heroes.

While it's easy to peg Prague for its kitsch, or its excessive amounts of Art Nouveau, our guides pointed us toward places which display the literary and musical traditions of this country. Some members of the Glee Club went to the Kafka Museum. Luckily, none were transformed into giant insects.

Our concert was in a wing of the National Museum, the Nordoni, which featured an exhibit on Antonín Dvořák. The concert was sold out, and it was a pleasure to perform for such a large audience in a building which celebrates the country's musical heritage. A few members of the audience were even spotted crying during our performance of Red River Valley.

Though confused in terms of navigation, the Yale Glee Club enjoyed its time in Prague. This meandering with other members of YGC led to some of my most enjoyable afternoons on tour, even if I won't be able to pronounce the names of anything I saw.

Top: Ryan Dailey '12, Helen McCreary '13, and Katie Dryden '11 by St. Vitus Cathedral
Right, middle: Lennon vs Lenin!
Below: Our Prague concert venue

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Days 9-11: Berlin

Daniel Olson '12 writes about Berlin.

We’re packing up for Prague this evening and continuing the behind-the-iron-curtain leg of our
European Tour. It’s incredible how much this part of the world has changed in the past 25 years! That change is certainly on display in Berlin, where the glee club has spent the last few days.

We arrived on Saturday evening, with just enough time to change quickly at our hotel before taking off for a Vespers service at Berliner Dom (Photo at left: Daniel Cruse, Daniel Thompson, and Daniel Olson in front of the Dom). The Church is spectacular. Badly damaged during World War II, it was restored in 1993 and is a major site in Berlin, very close to the center of the former East Berlin. The glee club sang for the majority of the service, but it was really cool to hear the minister repeat the words “bleib bei uns” during his sermon, the opening words of Rheinburger’s Abendlied, which we had just sung!

After a group dinner, we had time to check out some of Berlin’s legendary nightlife. One group went to a bright red space-themed bar in the former East Berlin and one dance club housed in a former train repair warehouse had a beer garden, two dance floors, and a rock wall!

The next day began with a bus tour of Berlin. I think the entire glee club was moved by the tragedies that occurred in this city in the 20th century and how contemporary Berlin has confronted them. At Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most famous border crossings between East and West Berlin, an exhibit explained the history of the wall and of the people who were killed trying to cross it. The East Side Gallery features the longest remaining portion of the wall that is now covered in murals painted by international artists.

At the Holocaust memorial (or the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) concrete Stele stand in a wave-like field right in the center of Berlin. There, the glee club contemplated this utterly horrifying genocide. The memorial has no didactic message. Our guides explained that it was the architect’s (Peter Eisenman) intention to leave interpretations up to the people who walk through the stele and experience the memorial themselves. We also spent time in the museum downstairs, learning both about the lives of Jewish families in Europe before the Holocaust and about their inhumane treatment and murder at the hands of the Nazis.

Later that afternoon, the glee club confronted history head-on, with our performance at Zwinglikirche, a church in the former East Berlin. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, this church was abandoned during the rule of the GDR. Because being a member of a religious organization meant serious consequences (like not being able to go to free university), people simply stopped coming. Since reunification, an organization called KultuRaum Zwinglikirche has tried to bring culture back into the church through concerts, lectures, and other cultural events.

It was an honor for us to be included in this series, especially because of how amazing a space it is both historically and physically. It had an amazing acoustic. It was resonant, but we could also hear each other very well. Everything seemed to click during this concert. We were also encouraged by the enthusiastic audience, who burst into thunderous applause after almost every piece. I think it’s fair to say that this was one of our most memorable concerts on the trip so far. What made it even better was the reception afterwards featuring beverages and German pretzels!

The next day we had for ourselves in Berlin. Glee club members explored the city in so many ways! Some biked around Potsdam, a city on the outskirts of Berlin, home to the great Prussian summer palaces. Many visited the Pergamon Museum, on Berlin’s incredible Museum Island. Inside are monumental and huge treasures from the ancient world, including the entire Pergamon altar and the blue Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Thanks to the minister at the Berliner Dom, the glee club was given free admission to the roof of the Cathedral in the afternoon. We ended the night with a festive German dinner at a local restaurant all together.

Berlin is such a dynamic city in so many ways; it certainly is one the favorite cities I’ve been to. It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the halfway point of tour, but we’re all very much looking forward to being in the medieval city of Prague. It will be quite the contrast to contemporary Berlin.

Days 7-8: Denmark

Markus Boesl '14 on our concert in Copenhagen. Photo credit: Monica Qiu '11

Copenhagen, with its strategic location in the Baltic sea, has historically been an important point of contact between northern europe (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) and the rest of Europe. It was for us, as well, a point of contact, sharing the stage with the Yale Spizzwinks in a beautiful concert at the Vor Freisers Kirke. Founded in 1914, the Spizzwinks are America’s oldest underclassmen a cappella group, performing hundreds of concerts around the world and delighting audiences with a repertoire that extends from popular numbers to spirituals to traditional Yale songs.

The resounding final notes of pieces echoed above Jeff’s outstretched hands as he waited for the reverberations to die down, not wasting a second.

But there was a far more interesting and exciting reason that this joint concert with the Spizzwinks was important. There are currently 7 Spizzwinks in the Glee Club. This concert was not only a wonderful celebration of cooperation among Yale groups, but the point at which Spizzwink tour ended and those seven joined the Glee Club for the rest of tour. The concert itself was a wonderful success, with the audience even demanding an encore (‘Neath the Elms, which we did from the back of the auditorium)

That evening, many Glee Clubbers went into the town to experience the unique music festival/street dance party/riot called “Distortion.” The streets were filled with blocks upon blocks of people and dozens of Deejays laying down some pretty rocking beats. All in all, Copenhagen was a blast, and not only because of the things lit on fire in the streets.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Europe Tour Days 5-6

Publicity chair Marisa Karchin '14 on the YGC in Stockholm, Sweden. Photos: Monica Qiu and Mari Oye.

Day 5: After a luxurious breakfast at the hotel, we traveled into the city center of Stockholm, where we were given a guided tour of City Hall. A few highlights included the largest organ in Scandinavia (although it has 1000 fewer pipes than the Woolsey organ), the conference room with a massive Viking boat suspended from the ceiling, the 'Oval' in which Swedes can marry and/or divorce in under 5 minutes, and the Golden Hall, covered in over 18 million gold and glass mosaic pieces. We were then driven to a restaurant for dinner, where many of us were introduced to another new dish, reindeer (see left). Stuffed with delicious meat and chocolate cake, we rehearsed for our concert in the Adolf Frederik kyrka. A few hours later we performed in the beautiful gold and white church for an enthusiastic crowd (Emily once again sang her verses of Eli Yale in Swedish, and I have yet to figure out what she's been saying...). After the concert most of us stayed in the city to explore and experience Stockholm nightlife! A few YGC members even got to walk the 7-mile journey back to the hotel.

Day 6: The next day was a free day to explore Stockholm. We started off at the Vasa Museum exhibiting the ship, Vasa, which was built in 1626 and then sunk immediately in the Stockholm Harbor. It was recovered about 300 years later- we got to see the enormous restored ship and preserved bones of those who died in the accident, and learn about its history and restoration. YGCers also spent the day observing bears, reindeer, and owls at Skansen, and canoeing/kayaking/paddleboating on the rivers (Lauren and Aria pedaled while Henry conducted our paddleboat with a twig baton, Mari and Helen apparently 'beat' the Connors at canoeing, Markus and Dylan had a smooth ride until the last minute when one of them may or may not have ended up in the water).

We were also graced by the presence of party trucks filled with dancing and cheering college grads parading around the city. From our unofficial poll, we extrapolated that at least 50% of Swedes are blond. 100% are beautiful, friendly and at least somewhat fluent in English (for which we are immensely grateful). We're sad to be leaving this dreamlike country, so full of sunlight, lilacs, and unreal beauty, but we're excited to exchange our Swedish kronor into Danish kroner and continue onto Copenhagen!

Europe Tour Days 1-4

Monica Qiu '11 on our time in Uppsala, Sweden.

Hej from Sweden! The first stop on YGC's 150th international tour was in Uppsala, Sweden, a small university town that is the fourth largest city in Sweden at 200,000 people. We arrived bleary-eyed to our hostel on Day 2 (Day 1 and the better part of Day 2 were spent traveling) and then on Day 3, May 29th, we sang at 11AM Swedish time (but 5AM EST) the Sunday mass at Uppsala Cathedral, the largest cathedral in all of Scandinavia (pictured at left). The Swedes take pride in this cathedral, and the kings and queens of the country are crowned there. The majority of YGC experienced their first Swedish church service and also watched two adorable Swedish children with white-blond hair be baptized.

After the service, Stefan Parkman, the musical director of the Uppsala Akademiska Kammarkor with whom we would be singing with later, led us to the main building of Uppsala University where we were served smorgastarta, which consisted of the ingredients of a smorgasbord but layered into cake form (photo below). YGC was then set free to explore the city, with many taking walks along the river, traversing the hills to see Gamla Uppsala Slott, and shopping and preparing meals in the hostel kitchen with ingredients purchased from the supermarket.

Day 4, we had a free morning that some used to explore the city more and others used to sleep. We then had a group lunch at the restaurant above the hostel where we were served Swedish meatballs with potatoes and lingonberry sauce. Rehearsal was once again at the Uppsala Cathedral where we rehearsed for our evening concert. YGC then had a joint concert with several notable musical ensembles: the organist Andrew Canning opened with a Processional March by Harold Nutt followed by selections played by the Kungliga Akademiska kapellet, the Uppsala University Jazz Orchestra and its trio of singers. Funny thing about Swedish concerts that one would often not find in American concerts- they have sing alongs! The program was broken up with four "allsangs" and YGC did its best to sing along in our vague knowledge of Swedish pronunciation.

Our day then continued with our concert at the Cathedral after we devoured some "American" sandwiches (roast beef with potato salad in a baguette). We sang a large portion of our tour rep to a large audience, some of which were from Minnesota, including one man who knew the lyrics to two of our songs! We performed two songs, "Sommerpsalm" and "Red River Valley," together with the Akademiska Kammarkor, and apparently this time our Swedish pronunciation was great! Emily, our president, during "Eli Yale," was evermore funny with her written verses this time in Swedish (ask her later about what those lyrics actually were). After a photoshoot in front of the cathedral, YGC got on a bus and took off to Stockholm where our next adventures begin! Hope to see you at a future concert along this tour!

Hej da!