Archive for June, 2012

30
Jun
12

Day eight

Today we went and saw the Statue of Liberty. Yes indeedy, we hopped on the ferry and rocked our way over the water towards that statue that, as the recording told us, “so many immigrants pass on their way to America.” Information plates about the statue were all around the island, which had touristy sidewalks and protective railings alongside lush green grass and shady trees. We wandered in our small packs to find a better view, touristing our way around the whole place. I learned that the reason why the statue is green is because it’s made of copper and apparently that’s just the way copper oxidises over a period of years. Cool, hey?

When we got back to shore, Koala managed to get himself involved in a street performance, where the performer flipped over him, at the back of a line of about five people. It’s okay, though – we got him back in one piece!

The afternoon and evening were spent entrenched in music. We rehearsed with the other choirs taking part in the Rhythms of One World celebration, did our sound check and then finally performed. It’s much different singing in a group that large than in a group of about 35. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t know the people I was standing next to. Still, always enjoy a performance, because if you don’t enjoy it, why should the audience?

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29
Jun
12

Day seven

This morning we had an early start. We still had breakfast at the Morning Star Diner, but we left from the diner at 6:30. We walked from there all the way to The Today Show, on the Rockefeller Plaza. When there were ad breaks or segments elsewhere, the hosts were as friendly and personal as they could be to the crowd gathered, but it was easy to see how busy and pressed for time they were. We were in the background of one of their segments and got to sing briefly, but for some reason they didn’t want us singing while they were talking. Pfft. I want my rights to free speech! Then again, we did get about a 45 second segment, which was amazing to have broadcast on national television.

After standing, waiting and performing in spurts for an hour or two, we wandered down the plaza to the Rockefeller Centre, where we got to have the Top of the Rock tour, travelling up to the 70th floor. The height was somewhat dizzying, but the view was amazing.

Our workshop followed, where we looked at some Iain Grandage works, the Australian Bush Songs and Shore. It was good to hear more about the songs from Phillip – it reminded me a lot of the sort of tone that was supposed to come through in the way it was sung, and I learnt some more that I didn’t know about the songs before. Breaking down the bird sounds in Birds, the third of the Australian Bush Songs, was interesting, and Elliott spoke about the harmonics the choir uses in several of our songs. Now I have to figure out how to do it myself!

After a rehearsal at the Merkin Concert Hall, we headed back to our rooms for a short rest, before returning that evening for the performance. We sang our little hearts out, and got to perform (for my first time) my favourite song from the choir’s This Land CD, The Owl and the Pussycat. I love singing unaccompanied, as we always do, but the piano in this particular song is stunning, and was played brilliantly by Chris. Ahh, tangolicious!

All up, a success!

28
Jun
12

Day six

Our first morning in New York, we got to experience the Morning Star Diner, which we packed out. The service was quick and the drinks were plentiful, but it wasn’t long until our bus arrived to take us to the Sony Atrium. There we gathered together under some conveniently placed microphones for a quick performance and went through a handful of songs from our repertoire, including the men’s song Viva la Vida, which gave us women (hurr, I was going to write girls) a while to watch. It was good to see the Norwegian girls again, and they got to see us sing for a bit. Afterwards we swapped places and they sang. We stayed to watch a bit, one of the pieces they performed the other night, and then dispersed for some free time in the area.

Exploring the New York area was good fun, wandering around and seeing nothing in particular. Some of our members got to have lunch in Central Park, but the extent of my New York experience was visiting Trump Tower – as decadent as expected, even though we only passed through the lower floor – and witnessing some road rage where a pedestrian started punching a car.

In the afternoon we went to the Church of St Paul and St Andrew, where we met with all the other choirs in the Rhythms of One World Festival and practiced the songs we will all be singing together at the end of the festival. Gary Fry conducted us, and also taught us the choreography that will go with our singing. Many of our members have started naming the actions so we’ll remember it better. My favourite move is possibly the chicken wing. I had such a fun time learning it all. We were sitting next to one choir and in front of another, and it’d be good to get a chance to talk with people in the others a bit.

After our rehearsal, we voyaged back out onto the bus and to dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, a Forrest Gump-themed restaurant so big and ziggy-zaggy that it had signs pointing the way towards the exit in case you couldn’t find your way out in the maze of tables.

Then, we experienced our first Broadway play! Dun dun dun daah! We saw Jesus Christ Superstar and were left discussing it for ages afterward – the story, style, characterisation, lighting, choreography . . . In fact, probably everything except the costuming. It was certainly a night to remember!

27
Jun
12

Day five

We woke up bright and early this morning for an 8am start. It was time to check out of our hotel in Boston and make a move for New York, so we all piled into the bus and set on our way, sing-songing and showtuning and . . . well . . . well, really, we used a whole lot of the bus travel to rehearse some of our competition pieces. It was a good opportunity to really focus in on some key areas.

Arriving in New York, we were split into two groups. Most of the guys are staying at the Pod Hotel, while the girls and the left over guys are at Beekman Tower Hotel. We had time to put our gear into our rooms and freshen up a little before rushing down to the lobby, realising we were behind schedule already (how did that happen?).

Just a few blocks away, we attended the Orientation for The Rhythms of One World 2012 International Choral Festival along with the Signal Hill Alumni Choir, from the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. Both choirs then travelled to Merkin Hall where we saw the Norwegian Girls Choir perform their concert, “Ro-Uro”. As we waiting in the foyer, we spoke with our PR co-ordinator about going on The Today Show. Turns out we may be doing that. Wow. So tune in, everyone! We’ll be there Wednesday morning, performing a song or two, but I’m not sure what that means about when it goes to air. I assume from the title of the show it’ll be the same day, but that may depend on how well we perform.

Then came the time to watch the Norwegian Girls Choir. I have to say, as an alto, I was blown away by how well their altos substituted for the deep notes we get from our basses. It is impossible to adequately convey how amazing the choir’s performance was, especially of the last piece, Ro-Uro, which was written specifically for them.

From there we went to dinner at the Hard Rock Café, where we met all the choirs participating in the Rhythms of One World concert. Each choir performed one piece during dinner – ours was Waltzing Matilda, with choralography.

There is not much else I can say about the quality of the other choirs than “wow”. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from them, and although I think my favourite is still the Norwegian Girls Choir, the others aren’t far behind.

So yes, readers, we are now seasoned performers of the Hard Rock Café. The ride home was filled with glee, tiredness, and surprise when a pedestrian on a crossing stepped out in front of a police car that had its sirens going so it could get through traffic. Took him a while to get out of the way, and the coach driver told us, “That’s New York for you.” All I can say is I’m glad my job here is to do the singing and not the driving.

26
Jun
12

Day four

Today, our last day in Boston, after our performance at the Regent Theatre in Arlington people split into groups. Some went back to the hotel to rest and pack before the morning, while others had some free time in Boston before dinner. For the blog, then, I’ve decided to bring you some different accounts of what people did, and an interview with one of our choir members.

Steph’s free time:

We ran across most of the city to try to catch a duck tour and but we didn’t get there in time, so we sat and had some lunch instead, looking out on the water. Then we went to the park, did some yoga and saw some ducks. We sat on the grass for a while. This was after we walked back from trying to get to the duck tour, so it was much nicer to be able to sit in the park on the way back rather than just run through it.

Anthea’s free time:

We went to Harvard again, and wandered around the Uni. Then we had our first subway experience. It was interesting trying to purchasing a ticket –they had these cards and it was very confusing . . . We eventually got some help and caught a train through the subway, then, when we got off we changed to something like a tram but still in the subway. After we got out we walked through The Common to Newbury St, a shopping strip. Liz and Grace went to Georgetown Cupcakes, which is such a famous cupcake place that they sell shirts about the shop. The queue was about 20 deep out the shop, and we bought Lachlan’s birthday cupcake there. Then we went to dinner with the rest of the choir at Fajita’s and Rita’s.

Now come on down and meet one of our choir members!

Today we’ll be meeting Kyle Williams, one of our basses.

Q. Firstly first, how long have you been in the University of Newcastle Chamber Choir?

A. I was a member of the choir from 1999 to 2004, then returned last year. And there were a few concerts in between.

Q. Why did you join the choir?

A. I was originally a piano major, but I always loved singing. I was too shy and timid in high school, though. [It must be noted that here the interviewer scoffed before pausing to recollect what the average highschool experience is like and realising it may indeed have been possible.] My piano teacher encouraged me to audition, so I did!

Q. What was your best time with the choir before the USA tour?

A. I’d say the 2000 tour to England, Scotland and Wales – the first tour. We sang in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Liverpool Catholic Cathedral and various other cathedrals and churches. Also, singing with the choir in their first entry to the McDonald’s Eisteddfod where we won every section and the Gold. [This year called the John Lamble Foundation Australasian Open Choral Championship, which we also won.]

Q. And your best time so far in the USA?

A. Definitely getting to know everyone. Some people I already know from previous tours – Paul Tenorio, Morgan, Jess, George – but it’s especially been good getting to know some of the newbies. Connecting with the others has benefitted my singing and I’m sure the singing of the choir as a whole.

25
Jun
12

Day three

After a quick meeting between the altos this morning, we boarded the bus and went to visit the Cambridge area, where Harvard University is. The grounds were beautiful – great quadrangles with thick green grass and good pathways, intersected by public streets. It was much more public than our good ol’ University, but also not as open. Many of the buildings required Harvard ID to enter, but we (Micah, Lachlan and I) managed after much confusion to find the Peabody Museum, which held a great body of American history relics – things left by the Native Americans, like headdresses, paintings, bows and arrows, and things from the Ancient Mayan civilisation, like carvings and great statues.

Adjoining the Peabody Museum was the Harvard Museum of Natural History, where I would have loved to have an extra hour to explore. We walked through a room of minerals that had grown in huge formations. Most were roughly the size I’d expect a T-Rex egg to be (talking in scientific terms, of course), but one as tall as a person was off to the side of the room, smooth spikes bursting out in all directions. There was another example so fibrous that it looked like a fuzzy green carpet. I’m terrible with remembering their names, but I do recall one we saw called Crocoite that was found in Australia (hurr hurr, aren’t scientists great?).

As we proceeded through the museum we found information about the evolution of the earth, and just past that the skeletons started. One on my left! One on my right! At first it was just things I’d seen before – human skeleton and ape skeleton to compare the similarities, kangaroo skeleton and other small-hopping-creature skeletons with more comparison, then all of a sudden, woah, what’s that!? It’s a giant land sloth! And some huge tortoise! And another thing that’s way bigger than it should be! And then . . . truly my favourite, the Kronosaurus skeleton. It was huge. About the height of a person, and the whole length of the room. That’s something like ten metres, I think. Maybe more. And best yet? The skeleton was found in Queensland.

By that time I was getting antsy – half an hour before it was time to meet back at the square and we hadn’t eaten, eek! – so we rushed off via the gift shop, where I noticed a dodo skeleton on display, and found some food.

Our next activity was at Concord Bridge, where we got to hear some American Revolution history from a ranger and look around an old battlefield. There was a nice, rambling path over the bridge and around the field that some people followed around while others looked at the length and how little of it was in the shade (yes, another hot, humid day – must be to make up for how miserable the Australian summer was this year), and decided to visit the old house nearby instead. It must be said before anything else that Concord Bridge was for a few of us the first sighting of a chipmunk. Yes, Australians, they aren’t just a concocted by cartoons and taxidermy, but real little creatures.

When everyone finally gathered back together, we hopped onto the coach and went to the Emerson Umbrella, to rehearse for a performance tonight alongside the Sounds of Concord Choir. There was food before we performed – some sandwiches and three giiiiiant subs sliced for ease(?) of eating. Rob figured out that if you ate the top piece of bread first, you could almost fit the rest of it into your mouth, and that was the most successful form of eating the subs that I witnessed.

The performances following were amazing. The Sounds of Concord is a barbershop choir. In fact, at one point between all of the members there were 42 different barbershop quartets. All joined together they are fantastic performers, and we got to see two of the quartets perform separate to the choir. I did not realise before this how funny barbershop quartets could be, but suddenly everything became about energy and involving the audience and we were rapt.

I’m not sure what to say about our performance. It went well? I know I certainly enjoyed it; we ended with our choreographed songs which felt very plain in comparison to the amazing visual effects of the Sounds of Concord’s choreography, (think Magic Eye puzzles), but our moves added energy into our performance and – dare I say it? – pizzazz. Hurrah! There’s something about overacting a performance that makes it twice as enjoyable.

When the concert ended around 10:30, we were taken out to dinner with the other choir and got a chance to chat with them a bit before we coached our way back to the hotel by 12:30, well and truly ready for bed!

23
Jun
12

Day two

Breakfast this morning was a great way to mingle with the other occupants of the hotel. I met some lovely people from Chicago who were in town to see family. It was with their well wishes ringing in my ears that we boarded the bus at 11 o’clock to our morning activity: walking the Freedom Trail.

Our choir was split between two guides. I would highly recommend my guide, Emily Kovatch, who portrayed the part of Mehitible Dawes, wife of William Dawes. A talented historian and entertainer, she regaled us with stories of the founding fathers, the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s tendency to pop up everywhere in Boston’s 18th century history. Her passion for the job was admirable, but I don’t envy the layers of clothing she was wearing, especially in the heat and humidity we experienced.

When the tour concluded in mid-afternoon, we were set loose upon the Boston area for a few hours, with a time and place to meet back for dinner. I wandered around with Ben and saw one-and-a-half amazing street performances. The charisma and skill of the performers was stunning, perhaps an indication of what we will need to bring to the World Choir Games. Surely someone in our group can do one-handed flips and leap over four people? But I jest. There’s a great measure of confidence required to perform and it’s good to see it in use.

We ended the day with dinner at Durgin Park restaurant and a performance of Waltzing Matilda for the other patrons. Then it was back to the hotel amidst organisations of sectional practices with each of us ready for bed.