Sunday, March 18, 2012

HAWAI'I PART 2: Waikiki

On Wednesday, the Glee Club drove back across the island to Honolulu, stopping along the way to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial and to sing with the high school students at the Waldorf School. Before we knew it, we were wearing fuschia leis at a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Daniel Olson '12 writes about the remainder of our trip. Photos courtesy of Connor Kenaston.

When it rains in Hawai’I, what is the glee club to do? For many of us, it meant walking up the mountains outside of Honolulu into a rain cloud. The Kuliouou Ridge trail usually offers striking views of both sides of the island. Last Thursday, the trail was covered in mud! Though many a glee clubber lost his or her shoes to the muddy trek, the haunting performance of Sarah Hopkins’ “Past Life Melodies” at the top definitely made up for the losses.

Some of us (including me) decided to stay in the dryer environs of Waikiki. Exploring one of the most famous strands of beach in the entire world was pretty exciting. Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts, just a few blocks from the water, had a collection of over 14,000 Hawaiian shirts. The inside of the store was packed with everything from vintage 1950s rayon shirts costing thousands of dollars apiece to more contemporary cotton shirts that were just 20 bucks. Adam Fishman and I couldn’t leave without buying souvenirs!

What would a trip to Waikiki be like without checking out the beach itself? Fortunately, it was warm and dry enough to swim pretty far out into the ocean. It was a struggle avoiding all the surfers though! We had our own fun playing freeze tag and chicken in the water, but soon it was time to shower and change for the glee club banquet.

Posing at our banquet on Magic Island
Cynthia and Peter could not have picked a more beautiful spot in Honolulu. We sat underneath a Banyan tree on Magic Island, with magical views of the sun setting over the Pacific. We were treated to excellent food and excellent comedy from committee, which gave us all a chance to revisit our funniest tour memories (so far).

The next morning we left for a visit to the University of Hawai’I Manoa. We spent time with their choirs and their director Dr. Miguel Felipe (who made the right choice moving to Hawai’I from a certain school in Cambridge…). We so appreciated their hospitality and enjoyed learning a little more about Hawaiian pronunciation. The ‘okina (the glottal stop) is one of the eight consonants in Hawaiian and must be sung like any other consonant.

We left the university for Cathedral Church of Saint Andrews in downtown Honolulu. Just a block away from the capitol, this beautiful space houses the largest pipe organ in the Pacific. Before the concert, we heard beautiful words from fellow glee club seniors Sam Sanders and Claire Paulson about both the special meanings of Aloha and Glee. It definitely got us in the mood for a great concert, which was packed!  It was a privilege to sing John McCreary’s (the long-time organist at St. Andrews and great uncle of our very own Helen!) beautiful Hawaiian piece as an encore.

We had one more day to explore Waikiki and the weather finally cooperated! It was sunny and hot all day and everyone enjoyed spending some final hours swimming, tanning, eating, and drinking in Waikiki. We sang “Bright College Years” each time we lost a group of people at airports, up until a final rendition in New Haven Sunday afternoon, just as the St. Patrick’s day parade was ending. We all appreciated the opportunity to experience a slice of paradise and are all so grateful to Peter, Cynthia, Jeff, Sean, all our hosts, and all the others who made this trip possible! Now, more Mozart!


Monday, 6am. Sitting on the floor of the LAX terminal, venti coffee in hand, staring blankly at the Bananagrams tiles scattered across the stained carpet.

2 time zones ahead, 2 pm, Honolulu. Jamba Juice at the Ala Moana Center. Birds, beaches, and green seem to be everywhere. We learn the one Hawaiian word we must know, Mahalo. Apparently two consonants never exist in a row in the Hawaiian language. (I spent the rest of the trip searching for exceptions, to no avail.)

3:15 pm. No time to lose! We hike up Diamond Head Volcano. There is nothing quite like looking over miles and miles of beach, mountains, trees, water with no end that fuses into sky with no beginning. Triumphantly yoiking the mountain wind is only natural at this moment. And when it starts pouring on our decline, frolicking across the hills in the rain is deemed necessary.

6:15 pm. A bit overwhelmed and still quite wet, wandering around a large room filled with colorful clothing and colorful food. Hana hou, encore, is our word. The hosts for our homestay, a small woman and her widely-smiling daughter find us and greet us for a potluck dinner. The Windward Choral Society sings a Hawaiian song to welcome us to Kailua.

Tuesday morning. Severe flooding and pouring rain. Luckily our hosts drive us straight to a delicious acai smoothie breakfast. Salvation army is the destination for most glee-clubbers. (I prefer “Bead-it!” and take refuge in a coffee shop).

2:30 pm. We meet for a rehearsal at the Windward United Church of Christ, where we adapt to singing against the consistent downpour of rain, and are overjoyed that we no longer need to simulate the sound of the wind blowing in the middle section of Zephyr Rounds. After a wonderful dinner with our hosts of vegetables and pork and the-most-delicious-pineapple-I’ll-probably-ever-eat-in-my-life, the weather finally calms and our concert begins.
7 pm. The completely packed church unfortunately makes it difficult to carry out our traditional sprint down the aisles, but it is exciting to perform and engage with such an enthusiastic audience. It’s such a pleasure to sing Na Ke Akua Oe E Kia'i, a song written by John McCreary, with the Windward Chorale. My favorite concerts are those with an intimate feel, where we stand close enough to make eye contact with audience members, and the rare occasions in which we get to sing in a chorus twice our size are always mind-blowing.

That night. Returning to our homestay for the second night to find 4 bags of Hawaiian coffee and chocolate-covered macademia nuts resting on our suitcases, and then chatting with our hosts for the last time. According to the Hawaiian law of Aloha, “Aloha means mutual regard and affection, and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return,” and it means "to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable.” Between the hospitality of the wonderful people we met and the natural beauty and mystique of the island, I think we’re finally beginning to grasp the meaning of the Aloha spirit. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sightseeing in CA

Before we continue on to the Hawai'i portion of our trip, Goh Wee Shian reminisces about our California activities. 

The long awaited spring tour has finally arrived! High in spirits, the glee club set off on Friday to their first stop at California.

San Diego was refreshing in many aspects. Aside from the wonderful weather, San Diego also boasts some incredibly beautiful spots. For example, we visited the Garden of the Self-Realization Fellowship located in San Diego County. Taking a stroll in the gardens definitely gave me a sense of serenity. Moreover, the garden was situated on top of a hill and offered a magnificent view of the beach. The ebb and flow of the waves, together with the occasional breeze that brushed across my cheek, were inexplicably therapeutic, casting all my worries out of my mind momentarily.

Next, we visited the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island. This edifice counts ex-presidents, royalties and head of states as amongst its many distinguished and important guests. Thereafter, we wasted no time in hurrying to the beach, where we then promptly removed our shoes and stepped into the water. Before long, many of us were climbing the rocks along the coast. The more daring ones went further out and perched themselves precariously on some of the more irregular-shaped rocks. It was interesting to observe the incredibly rich array of marine life and community that existed among the rocks, including sea urchins and clams.

Thereafter, we performed our first tour concert at the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego. It was immensely gratifying to perform to a strong turnout at the concert.

The Yale Whiffenpoofs also joined us in the performance. They captured the hearts of the audiences with their incredibly captivating voices and choreography. After the concert, I finally met my host, who had so kindly offered her place for me to stay for that night. The homestay was in my opinion the mainstay of the spring tour experience, because we had the opportunity to interact with the host families on such a personal level. The house was sprawling and located atop a hill within an affluent community. More importantly, my host family was extremely generous and hospitable, and even went out of the way to ensure that we feel at home. For example, she prepared food bags before we left, knowing that we would be hungry while travelling on the bus. We were really fortunate to have met such an incredible host family.

On the second day, we performed at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. All of us could not stop marveling at the exquisite and breathtakingly beautiful interior. Thereafter, we left for Hollywood! It was surreal to finally come into encounter with this world-famous district! We had a great meal at In-N-Out Burger, followed by a casual walk around the district. I particularly enjoyed my time at the Chinese Theater, where I managed to take some photographs with the handprints and footprints of famous movie stars, including that of George Clooney!

California seems to me like paradise on Earth. With its distinctive laidback culture, its wonderful fun-loving and warm-hearted people, its amazing weather, and its beautiful beaches, it definitely counts as one of my ideal places to live in the future!

SPRING TOUR Stop 2: Los Angeles

After spending the night in wonderful homestays in San Diego (after the concert our host family took us immediately to In N Out Burger, on which this post will elaborate...), we drove right back to LA for our second concert. Jacob Metrick '13 writes about some things that particularly stood out. 

Three facts:

1. The Glee Club is freakin’ good at singing. Well, at least according to the completely unbiased cousins (and parent) of mine, we’ve never sounded better.

We started out with two of my personal favorite pieces: Sanctus from Martin’s requiem, and four movements (I, II, V, and VI) from Howells’ requiem. The Sanctus is extremely powerful in its emotional range: it has sections like the end which seem to evoke more passion and fire than any other piece, which is contrasted by the intensity of the quieter sections. I could talk all day about Howells requiem, but the best thing I could say is that the piece is downright beautiful. Every moment of it is meaningful and touching.

Later in the concert, our rendition of Past Life Melodies in particular seemed to capture the audiences’ attention. It is supposed to evoke Tibetan chant, Australian Aboriginie songs and Mongolian throat singing, all wrapped up into one truly unique experience. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never heard anything like that.

One final note: singing those old-school Yale songs is hella fun and tradition-y.

Four In N Out Burger Double-Doubles pictured in
"Protein Style" 
2. In LA, In N Out Burger is king. In fact, it may be king of other places too. You can’t beat the value of a Double-Double for $2.79, and the patties are never frozen. That’s why they aren’t found outside the West Coast; every In N Out location must be within one day’s drive of its only distribution center in Baldwin Park, CA. Gotta love the nostalgic red-palm d├ęcor and paper hats. I won’t go so far as to say it’s the best burger.

3. LA is filled with beautiful. I’ve already mentioned the beautiful singing and beautiful burgers. But there are also beautiful views, which we got to see on our drive back from San Diego today, as we skirted the coast north, seeing the ocean as we overtook hill after hill. Of course, the weather we had was beautiful. I heard that the weather broke record highs, with temperatures around 80 degrees. If you live in almost anywhere else, I probably just made you jealous. Sorry I’m not sorry.

The organ at the First Congregational
Church of Los Angeles
Not least of all was the beautiful church we got to sing in today. It may have been a little serpentine in its layout (at times, it seems like I ended up everywhere except where I wanted to be), but man was this place nice. There were beautiful stained glass windows all over the place. It was made totally of stone, which doesn’t mean much until you consider the moody lighting in there (they got it pretty dark) which kinda made it feel like we were singing in the middle ages, or in some movie. What about the organ, you ask? That was movie like too, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


The first stop on our tour was to sunny San Diego! We drove there after a night in LA, stopping on the way to reflect in the breathtaking Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens in Encinitas, and then to sink our toes into the sand for the first time at Coronado Island. Ashby Cogan '14 writes about our first concert of tour: 

After a couple hours soaking up the sun and ensuring a prosperous quarter for the MooTime Creamery, the Glee Club boarded the buses to the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego for rehearsal and joint concert with the Whiffenpoofs.

We speedily rehearsed our program, which included many pieces we had not sung in a while. Among them, terrifyingly, was a 24-part canon we had not performed since December. With fewer than fifteen minutes to review it we ironed out our missed entrances and proceeded through the program.

Pre-concert energy levels varied—personally I felt like the jetlag monster had just scraped me off the bottom of its shoe—but as we got ready to go on and sing the first concert of our spring tour, the excitement was contagious. Being one of the last to go onstage, I listened to the audience applauding for a good sixty seconds; it was a full house.

Pensive glee clubbers in the Self-Realization Gardens
After singing the Yale song "Gaudeamus," we began our program with the Sanctus from Frank Martin's Mass for double choir. From its opening that evokes ringing church bells all the way through our first set—the 24-voice canon went smoothly!—the Glee Club's focus felt almost palpable to me. The intensity with which everyone committed to making beautiful, thought-provoking music was so exciting!

After intermission we enjoyed the Whiffs' set and patiently endured their ridicule of our eclectic program. Who could blame them for being a little insecure? Did any of their pieces begin with the tenors interrupting the director's address to the audience mid-sentence by breaking into pitched screams? Didn't think so.

In the second half we invited the Whiffs onstage again for "Raise Your Voices," which Jeff wrote for the Glee Club's 150th anniversary season last year, and the Football Medley. We closed, according to custom, with our alma mater, "Bright College Years." The alums in the audience stood along with us for the final handkerchief salute.

We headed off to our homestays full of post-concert glow. I couldn't believe how wonderfully everything had come together for an awesome concert—and I couldn't wait to do it again in LA!