Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tour Memories from our 154th Season

SPAIN

This past spring, the 154th Yale Glee Club spent a whirlwind ten days in Spain, bringing concert masterpieces and Yale favorites to audiences across the Iberian Peninsula. Glee Clubbers were able to take a five hour head-start on Spring Recess as we boarded the buses to head for JFK International Airport and our first stop, Barcelona! With only a few mishaps along the way, we finished our day of travel with Flamenco and tapas at our welcome dinner. The spectacle was mesmerizing and jaws dropped as proud women and swashbuckling men performed the traditional, Andalusian dance, which to my untrained eye looked a lot like a Spanish version of tap dancing with extra flare. Following a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, we joined the Cor Jove Amics de Granollers, a local choir of college-age students, at the church in Castello d’Empuries. As we would learn throughout the trip, nearly every small town in Spain has a magnificent, medieval church, and Castello d’Empuries was no different. Though a bit chilly in the venue, the beautiful music and magical scene more than made up for it. Jeff Douma made a few last-minute changes to our concert selection, highlighting the Renaissance polyphony in our repertoire, which sounded particularly gorgeous in the setting for which it was originally intended: gothic cathedrals. 

We were also able to enjoy a walking tour of Barcelona, ending at the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudi. YGC Business Manager T Sean Maher knew from the moment we left JFK that visiting the Sagrada Familia would be the highlight of his time in Spain. I was more skeptical. From the outside, the stone of the facade looked to be melting (I just didn’t get it), but the interior was absolutely breathtaking. We all strained towards the ceiling and roundels of stained glass, marveling at the pillars supporting the edifice, which were so thin and elegant that they seemed more decorative than structural, almost resembling trees holding up the colorful canopy of the ceiling. And as if the day couldn’t get any better, that evening, we rehearsed Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with the University of Barcelona Orchestra and local choir at the Paranimf of the University. A beautiful piece of music in a beautiful concert hall in a beautiful country. Tour was well under way!
                                                                                                                                                                                             
The next two days were given over to daylong excursions as the Glee Club visited the famous monastery and boys’ school at Montserrat and relaxed on the beach at Sitges, a small town on the Golden Coast. The windy mountain roads were a trial for many, but luckily our guide Iris was able to indulge her bus in a short history of Spain from its geological beginnings to the present day in order to keep our minds off the steep cliffs and sharp turns. We were lucky enough to be able to visit the famous boys’ school which educates the choir boys who sing mass at the monastery, and listen to el Virolai, a hymn to the Virgin of Montserrat, whose statue is housed in the adjoining chapel. The trip to Sitges was a much needed day of rest for the Glee Clubbers, following a long winter in New Haven. We played Frisbee on the beach and ran into the refreshing Mediterranean waters to cool off afterwards. That evening, we performed the Brahms Requiem in front of a large audience in the Paranimf. It was a special opportunity to be able to perform the Requiem twice this year, the first time in Barcelona and a second time in New Haven after Spring Recess. The performance was a fantastic capstone to our stay in Barcelona.

We followed our time in Barcelona with a few days in Madrid, marked by our performance with the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and by continued discoveries about the Spanish culture. There is no better way to appreciate a city than by strolling through it, and we learned a lot about the history of the area and the city on our walking tour which ended with a visit to the Royal Palace. The palace was beautiful and ornate, with intricate plaster ceilings and gaudily decorated and themed rooms. The main staircase was flanked by a pair of lions meant to be imposing, yet a number of Glee Clubbers, led by Mary Petzke (BR 2018) and Emma Hathaway (SM 2017), recognized that they were more distraught than fierce, and easily imitated for a funny photo. From the Royal Palace we journeyed to Cuenca, a small town on the outskirts of Madrid famous for its hanging houses. The town was quaint, but as with all small Spanish towns, it would seem, graced with a beautiful gothic church. The musical portion of our international tour ended that night with our solo concert at Cuenca. Though we gained so much from our musical collaborations throughout the tour, we were glad to have the stage to ourselves that night to share the beautiful music and our hard work with each other and the audience. And of course, we had to share the football medley with the Spanish. Though perhaps the audience missed a few of the subtleties, they certainly knew that there is not, and there never shall be, hope for Harvard. 

Following a final day of free time and a trip to Toledo, all of the Glee Clubbers joined together for the customary, end-of-tour banquet. At this tapas style cocktail party, Glee Clubbers mingled for a few hours, reminiscing over the best memories of the past ten days before sitting down for a roast put on by the Tour Committee. Committee, selected in secret by the President, is responsible for cataloguing the best one-liners, mishaps and funny stories to happen on tour and for weaving every Glee Clubber and their respective hilarities into one (at least somewhat) coherent storyline. Rachel Protacio (PC 2015) selected this year’s committee, and they did not disappoint. Dan Rubins (PC 2016) was the mastermind and narrator, accompanied by over twenty other Glee Clubbers who were each an integral part of the ensuing hilarity. Paul “the sly-stinging” Styslinger (as played by Jeb Roberts (ES 2015)) brought the most laughs by far.

The banquet is a time to reminisce about the great memories of the past ten days and relish the many friendships that have grown stronger or just begun. All in all, it was a bittersweet time. We loved Spain, but we would soon be leaving. We grew so close, especially with the Class of 2015, and yet they would graduate in only two months. The feelings of the moment were perfectly captured in the song “Raise Your Voices,” and when we wrapped our arms around each other and started singing, there was hardly a dry eye.

Time passes quickly here, everything new
Childhood behind us now, fading from view
Our bright college years endure as memories within
But always the song rings out, once more begin
To raise your voices with me for a time
And in the weaving yours will lift the sound of mine

That, in a nutshell, is what tour is all about. We bring music to other communities so that together we can be lifted. Recognizing that time passes quickly, we strive to make memories together in our short time that will last a lifetime. Yes childhood is fading, yes our college years will come to a close, but we will always be a part of the fellowship of singers and friends that is the Yale Glee Club, and when we return for the 200th Anniversary Celebration, shared memories of our trip to Spain will help fuel the reunion of old friends.

MONTREAL & BURLINGTON

The Yale Glee Club’s Minitour was a frosty, yet tremendous success! We kicked off our tour in Montreal, giving a concert with the McGill University Chorus, led by Francois Ouimet. We sang parts of the Brahms Requiem with our peers at McGill, and finished the program with our standard tour repertoire, featuring works from the 16th century to the present, including premieres of new compositions, folk songs, spirituals, and Yale songs (old and new)!

The remainder of our time in Montreal was spent in wintry fun: ice skating, trudging through snow covered streets, eating maple products, and appreciating the beautiful architecture of Old Montreal.

From Montreal, we headed down to Burlington, Vermont for a concert at St. Michael’s College, supported by St. Michael’s Choral Director and YGC Alumn Nat Lew.  We performed for an audience that was spilling out into the aisles – literally! Luckily, the mayor of Burlington was there to welcome us (and lend us immunity for our clear fire code violations!). While in Burlington, we “moo”-ved through the Ben and Jerry’s factory, delighted in delicious ice-cream samples, and explored Burlington’s picturesque city center.

We returned to New Haven excited to begin semester two with wonderful memories of concerts and time together, and with a deeper appreciation for New Haven’s now seemingly mild winter climate.