It's not a strange feeling on YGC tour to suddenly find yourself preparing for banquet after what seems like no time has passed since tour started. Yale students are all too familiar to how time seems to slow down in a struggle period and have it speed right past you when things finally relax. But banquet comes at the perfect time in our tours. Wrapping up the tail end of our domestic tour, banquet is the time to reminisce over newly formed memories, catch up on the last bit of craziness before heading home, and express the much deserved thanks to the many people who really made the tour possible. Oh, and I can't forget the singing too! We revisit old songs from past years, sing current pieces, and for some sight-reading pieces that were beloved from classes before. I hope you enjoy the snippets of video I managed to catch of our banquet at the Hotel Nacional. It was just as fun as it looks!
On our last day in Cuba, we were first treated to a behind the scenes look of a Cuban cigar factory and learned how each handmade cigar was made from individual tobacco leaves to the richly aromatic cigars often coveted around the world. Unfortunately, we were unable to take any pictures or videos within the factory, however I can attest that the process is meticulous, organized, and remarkably productive. If I remember correctly, each day the factory can produce up to 20,000 (or 200,000?) cigars. Impressive, huh?
We later visited the Carolina choral groups, including the incredible Scola Cantorum Coralina, for a cultural exchange and informal concert. Among the performances, we were treated to an adorable children's choir, a mixed choir with members ranging from elementary school to high school, a high school choir, and, of course, the ridiculously amazing Schola Cantorum Carolina. Check out the videos below to see why!
On Thursday, our fourth day in Cuba, we performed our last concert in Old Havana in the Basilica Menor del Convento de San Francisco de Asis. The venue is a gorgeous space with high stone arches that really amped up the acoustics. We performed alongside Coro Entrevoces led by the delightful Digna Guerra. Their repertoire was a great amalgamation of challenging pieces, but what really stole the spotlight was an amazing rendition of a gospel piece led by a soloist who definitely hit a high E at the end! The video posted is the choir singing a Spanish piece we sang together at the end of their concert. They capture it's sweetness so perfectly and made it such a delight to sing with them during our concert :)
Classical Movements, the company that worked with us in planning this trip (as well as the trip to China last summer), has been essential in making this trip both as smooth and enjoyable as possible. They even arranged a surprise for us after our concert by arranging a ride in Old Havana in amazing retro cars for the entire glee club! It's probably one of my favorite moments of this tour - not only is the Habana nightlife stunningly beautiful, but I also think that's the only time I will ever dare to be in a speeding convertible with no seatbelt anywhere near my person. I know, I'm such a risk taker.
Still alive and kicking,
Our fourth day in Cuba brought us back again to Habana after a blissful time in Matanzas, and on this day we visited the Escuela NAcional de Musica, a high school devoted to young musicians from all over Cuba to train them and prepare them for future studies and occupations as Cuba's finest musicians. Their presented a fantastic showcase for us, including a cello quartet, a clarinet ensemble, a jazz jam session, and girl's choir led by an extremely talented high school student. We, in return, performed for them a few pieces from our repertoire. On our last piece, El Guayaboso, many of the students joined us in a joint performance together. I can't have wished for a better unifying cultural exchange that this!
On our third day in Cuba, we travelled to the city of Matanzas, which took about 2 hours to get to via bus. But the YGC wasn't complaining. In Matanzas, what we had waiting was well worth the travel. Not only did we spend a blissful hour in crystal clear blue waters of Varadero, but we were hosted by the Theoligical Seminary, which gave us a large and delicious homecooked meal. Later, we rehearsed and participate in a choral master class with Conductor Jose Antonio Mendez, who helped us on our rhythmic feel in El Guayaboso.
Later, at the concert, despite the extremely brutal conditions of being a full concert attire in the heat and humidity, we were lucky to hear the Coro de Camara de Matanzas perform beautiful renditions of their repertoire and perform in an amazing space. This might have been my favorite day of the entire tour, and hopefully you can see why down below!
"...And on the third day, the Yale Glee Club arrived in Cuba, and it was good." - Jeff Douma (not really, but you can totally see him saying that, right?)
After the shortest international flight I have ever ridden (45 minutes!), we left Miami and arrived in Habana, Cuba! Thankfully, because of TSean's impeccable ability to cover all our bases, we were allowed into Cuba with ne'er a hitch.
After meeting our amazing tour guides, we ate a fantastic dinner and arrived at out hotel, Hotel Capri, which used to be a former mafia hotel. The following day, we were given a walking tour of old Habana, and at our lunch (which was again delicious), some lucky members of the glee club got to dance with the local dancing duo at the restaurant. Let's just say things got pretty crazy once the whole glee club decided to join in. Watch out for Dayrin, our YGC dancing star, handling his own in a dance battle with the sultry female salsa dancer!
What's great about domestic tour is that we get the amazing opportunity to meet new people through our homestay experiences. We are so grateful to all our homestays as they volunteer to welcome us into their homes (and their fridges), and often we get to have the most interesting conversations with them! Often, most homestays are either Yale alumni or members of the hosting organization. YGC members tend to have the best of times with homestays as each small group of students gets a unique experience, and our homestays in Miami were no exception. Notably, we had students stay at beachhouses, modern suburban houses, and even an estate on a private island! The video below is just one example of the many incredible experiences the YGC has with each homestay opportunity.
We cannot express our appreciate and gratitude enough for our homestays' kindness and generosity. We love getting to know you all, even if it's only for a few hours in the late evening over a bowl of icecream and a glass of white wine!
(yes...I said "condiment" instead of condominium. It was early.)
The YGC thanked the weather gods the day we landed in Miami. Not only was it in the low 70s when we arrived in Florida, but we were lucky to spend a good two hours roaming the sandy beaches of Miami. Unfortunately for some of us, sunburns also happened to catch us by surprise. Here is just a short video of our first moments on the beach!
Thank you for being so patient with the blog. I know it's been a bit radio-silent for a while, but rest assured many many videos from our past tour to Florida and Cuba will be arriving!
So much has happened in such a short time during our Spring Break. We've finally been able to break out the shorts after a bitter New Haven winter, subsequently got extremely sunburned, safely made it in and out of Cuba without the FBI storming in, and even came up with a new hashtag - #paKIN (if you listen closely to the soprano section in El Guayaboso, you'll get the reference). Just want to give a shout out to all the amazing work our manager TSean, our tour managers Rachel and Ellie, and Jeff have put into making this tour an absolute gem in YGC tour history. Cuba wouldn't have been the same without you guys!