Friday, July 24, 2009

Kobe Beef & Standing Ovations

"After the concert this afternoon in Kobe, we were told that we could do what we wanted for dinner so Nathaniel, Charlie, Will and I got a reservation at a Kobe beef restaurant recommended to us by our friendly neighborhood Sheraton concierge. Dressed in the finest clothing our suitcases had to offer, we took an overpriced cab ride into downtown Kobe. The taxi let us off at the end of what appeared to be a main drag, but the restaurant was nowhere to be seen. The concierge had given us a map, but it was all in Japanese apart from a McDonald’s logo that thankfully corresponded to one near where we were dropped off. We started walking down the street in an attempt to follow the map but after 10 or 15 minutes figured we had gone to far. We went into a nice-looking restaurant and asked for directions. After a quick conference with other waiters, one member of the staff kindly walked us two blocks back from where we had been and pointed us to the restaurant. Finally we made it upstairs and sat down.

It was better than I could have imagined. I can’t emphasize that enough. We sat around a counter where a very nice chef prepared every course of the meal in front of us. We ate our way through 4 different types of amazing appetizers and sides before we saw the beef. He brought it out in huge hunks that he began to masterfully slice and cook with uncanny precision. Every part of the meal was unreal but the steak itself was in another league. The portions were small (about 7 ounces) but the flavor and tenderness were unparalleled. I can’t even do justice to how good it tasted in this limited space. Anyway, we finished our meal, got the check, fainted, paid it, and went back to the hotel.

And now, here is the tale of how we got a standing O:

When we first got onstage in the hall today, a collective awe swept over the chorus as we looked upon what could possibly have been the most beautiful hall we have ever performed in:

The first set – the serious and more musically difficult half - went very well. Even the bamboo stick playing by the Young Men during Panta Rhei went off pretty cleanly. (I will confess, however, that during one of the hits I managed to slam my foot rather than the riser, resulting in my Herculean effort not to make a pained expression on stage.)

Going into the second half - the high-energy, movement-filled segment of the show - we were feeling pretty good. While the set ends with a lot of choreography, it starts with slower songs in four languages. The electricity in the hall was palpably building after each one and it was clear that the hall was ready to explode. When we went into our gospel and spiritual section to close out the concert, the audience erupted perfectly on cue in a way that even Hollywood would have probably rejected as too unrealistic. At the beginning of the tour, the Japanese Consul General told us that the audiences will clap politely after songs and then boisterously at the end if they liked the concert, but today he was proved wrong as cheers were audible through the applause. The concert officially ended with the conclusion of “Music Down in My Soul,” and this is where the excitement hit a new level.

As per the Consul General’s prediction, the audience clapped boisterously, but something surprising happened: scattered among the crowd, people began standing. We sang our two encore pieces as the crowd managed to somehow get even more excited. Onstage this resulted in an amazing feeling of pride and confidence. It was invigorating to know that we had elicited this type of reaction from them. After the second song we bowed another few dozen times and then excitedly went offstage.

We were too wound up to know what to do with ourselves. The clapping continued, and even intensified. Backstage, some people had already started to take their ties and scarves off when all of a sudden we were whisked back onstage…another encore! Filing back on the risers to another burst of applause, we got up and performed “Give Us Hope.” We had earned the respect of this audience enough to deserve the chance to sing another song.

There are certain moments that make all the preparation and work we do worthwhile, the end of that concert was one of them."

-Zach Denkensohn/Chorister

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nara, Japan

"Today was our second day off and we traveled to the city of Nara - famous for the deer that roam among its inhabitants. First, we went to a Buddhist temple that was enormous, awe-inspiring and beautiful. We walked around the grounds first, petting the swarms of deer and taking pictures. Then we entered the temple which was full of huge Buddha statues and colorful and ornate engravings. One large column had a hole in its base - legend says if you climb through the hole, you will reach paradise. So, one by one, all the YPCers made it through the hole with the hope of reaping this reward. Last to complete the task was Fransisco J. Nunez himself, taking a good 20 minutes and ending up covered in sweat. Everyone then made their way to the gift shop to buy souvenirs, including charms promising various aids (promotion of good health, help to achieve academic success, ensuring avoidance of traffic accidents) that had been blessed by monks.

Next, we made our way to a Shinto temple, where many of us had our fortunes told. You shook a box, revealing a number that corresponded to a fortune. The fortunes ranged from “Misfortune” to “Great Good Fortune,” with details about certain aspects of your life. I received, (not to brag, because my fortune detailed that I cannot boast if I want my fate to remain unchanged) Great Good Fortune, and was ecstatic. Some people received Misfortune but were able, as was custom, to rip up their fortune and tie it to a post. So, hopefully everyone walked away with good luck.

Tomorrow we have our sixth concert (can’t believe it!!) here in Kobe—time to get back to work!"

- Miranda Langrehr/Chorister

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nathaniel Goes to a Japanese Barber!

Chorister Nathaniel Janis had a unique experience getting a haircut in Japan last week:

"I was more than a little anxious when the first thing Francisco told me after touching down in Japan was that my hair was too long and unkempt, and I would likely have to get it cut before our first performance. I tried gelling it back, but the combination of hair product and sweat brought about during our sound-check on Tuesday coagulated into a sort of gooey mess, so that plan was out the window.

Which brings us to this morning: I awoke with a strong feeling of unease because I knew this could be the last day for a long time that I would look like myself. Fortunately, fellow chorister and Japanese-speaker Haru Zenda was able to locate a barbershop with a supposedly good reputation. So with Haru and a group of cheerful supporters behind me, I left the hotel feeling a little more confident.

That feeling disappeared as soon as we entered the salon. After stepping out of the elevator I was directed by two women to a sort of waiting-room area, at which time I was presented with catalogs where I assume I was supposed to select the hairstyle that I wanted. One thing I noticed quickly about these catalogs were that they were all of women, so I had Haru check to see if this place actually cut men’s hair. He asked one of the women, which caused her to immediately start waving her arms frantically and quickly directed another woman to rummage up a catalog with pictures of men. Browsing through this didn’t make me feel too much better. Eventually I just had Haru translate to one of the barbers what it was that I wanted, and apparently he was able to understand vaguely what I was talking about.

I followed the barber into the main area of the salon, where he sat me down in a swivel chair and began to wash my hair. Our early attempts at conversation were scintillating:

Barber: Erm, you speak Japanese?

Me: Uh, no, not really.


Me: Um, do you speak English?

Barber: Erm, no.

Clearly things were getting off to a good start. Eventually we started to bond by shouting the names of random Japanese sports stars at each other:

Me: So, do you know Ichiro?

Barber: Hai! Ichiro! Erm, Hideki Matsui? Yankees?

Me: Hai! Me gusta Yankees!

(At the time I was convinced he would understand me better if I spoke Spanish.)

Now that we were best friends and my hair was nice and clean, he led me over to the actual barber’s chair. What followed was largely uneventful—he was painstakingly precise with every action, snipping the smallest possible amounts of hair at a time. About 45 minutes in, he decided we wanted to blow-dry my hair and cut the rest of it dry. The blow-drying itself took about half-an-hour, making the whole thing about a 90-minute ordeal.


Later that afternoon, while we were rehearsing in the lobby of the concert hall where we were going to perform, someone impressively spotted my barber walking along the sidewalk right outside, so I called out to him and he waved back. I wanted to invite him inside to let him hear us rehearse and maybe get him a ticket for our show, but the lobby door was locked and no one seemed to be able to get it open. Oh well."

- Nathanial Janis/Chorister

More from Japan...

Well the trip is quite interesting so far. Things are indeed very different. The people are always bowing, nodding, and/or smiling. Their styles are so experimental which is something I don’t see everyday. The weather is steamy. Finding the balance between working mode and free time isn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but it comes easier with time. I’m expecting this trip to only get better with time.

- Lenice Wells/Chorister

Above: Lenice Wells & Joshua Batista looking for a snack at the airport

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two More Choristers Share Their Japan Experiences

Nihon has definitely been an exciting and unique experience so far. It is day six and already I think of 80 degrees as a relatively cool temperature. Right now, as I sit waiting for my laundry in a sauna of a Laundromat, Walking outside into the 80 degrees feels like heaven. Anyway, besides having a new idea of what is actually a hot temperature, Japan 2009 has been quite an experience. The culture is so different and interesting to me. I have never been treated so well in my life. Min‐on has done so much to make us feel comfortable here in such a different environment. Nijyuni (22) days left and I can’t wait to learn and experience more here in Nihon!!

‐ Lindsey Feldman/Chorister

It is day 6, we are currently in Nagoya and so far the trip is going well. We have had 2 performances. The first performance went well. The second performance was even better and I think the more we perform the easier all of this will be for us and everything will just become natural. On the other hand Japan is such a beautiful place, the culture is so much more different from ours. The people here are so kind and generous. We get a lot of looks in the street, usually smiles. It makes me feel so welcome and makes me feel good.

- Andrea Bonaparte/Chorister

Japan Chorister Update!

We are currently sitting in a tiny hole-in-the-wall coin Laundromat in the city of Nagoya. It feels like 110 degrees and it is extremely muggy, but despite the hot weather, Japan has been wonderful so far. We are seeing such interesting cities and getting such great traveling experiences. One of my favorite things about this trip is how foreign everything is. I have found Japan to be such a homogeneous place, that everyone is so surprised and excited to see a big group of American teenagers. The people here are all so sweet and run up to us in movie theaters, after concerts, in stores, and on streets, asking us for pictures and trying to indulge in conversations about where we are from and how old we are. While the culture has taken some time to get used to, it is such a friendly, welcoming one that we are all feeling completely comfortable.

Yesterday, I had an interesting experience while touring around Nagoya. A group of us were walking down a small street when all of a sudden I started to feel a stinging feeling under my shirt. In a matter of seconds, I had four strange bug bites that were extremely painful. My walking group and I started to get a little bit concerned considering the possibilities of what type of bugs could have flown into my shirt. After an unsuccessful trek to 7‐ Eleven, we finally found a Japanese drug store. With the bug bites getting worse, we desperately asked if anyone spoke English. A very friendly woman offered to translate, and after explaining to the people at the counter that I had painful bites, they asked to see them. Without going into detail, this was one of the funnier experiences I have had here in Japan. After learning how extremely modest the Japanese culture is, and after being instructed to always keep covered, I found myself standing in the middle of a big Japanese drug store in just a tank top, with five Japanese people inspecting my bug bites. In spite of the confusion and pain, it ended up being very funny. Because I kept pointing to my chest to show the bites, they were under the impression that I was I having serious heart pain, so on top of everything, Sydney frantically trying to explain that I was in fact, not having a heart attack.

You might have had to be there to understand how funny it was, but in the end I ended up getting a tube of medicine that was entirely in Japanese and the only familiar thing were pictures of bugs and the letters EX. It ended up working really well and everything was fine, but it was nonetheless a funny memory and we even got some new fans out of it because we ended up inviting the entire drug store to our Nagoya concert and they were so excited.

‐Hadley Maya

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Concerts Down, 16 More to Go!

We have received phone updates in the last day from staff on the Japan Tour, but internet access has been intermittent at the hotel where they have been staying so we haven't been able to receive any new blog updates from the choristers themselves.

There have been two concerts so far and both have gone well! The chorus was in Sendai on Tuesday and Wednesday, is in Aomori today (well, actually it's nighttime for them there already), and will depart tomorrow for Nagoya where they have their next concert on July 19th.

We will continue to keep you updated as we hear from them. There will be new blog posts from the chorus soon too!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Live from Japan!

Hi Parents!
Today was the first day of our adventure! We are all very tired and all trying to work as hard as we can without screaming. Even though we all all very stressed, we are enjoying ourselves and trying to keep it all together for tomorrow's concert. We all talk about how we miss our parents and personally, I know that i miss my parents a lot. I have called them already two times but I want you parents to know that we are all enjoying ourselves. We love you guys all SO much and we want you to know that we are well.

-Moraima Avalos/Chorister

Greetings from Japan!
Everything is just dandy in the land of the rising sun. We have been working really hard but also enjoying each other's company and this new and exciting experience. The concert hall we have been singing in is beautiful and very large (supposedly it's one of the smaller venues which makes you wonder at what the large ones must be like!). Other than screaming my lungs out today trying to produce a sound (were still getting used to the new sound of the hall), my most notable experience of today took place in a bathroom. This sounds silly but many of the concert choristers had their first "eastern" toilet experience today. Its pretty much an underground toilet but a little puzzling. Although there was the option on the western toilet so it was okay. Another notable experience from today was being exposed to many people who did not speak any english. Japanese has no romantic route (with the exception of words that are english used within the language) so we are completely lost. This is why we are very lucky to have people helping us and working with us that speak the language- without them it would be utter chaos. Rest assured we are/will have a lot of fun on this trip, whilst working hard of course, and we will always be kept busy so we will never be bored.

-Hannah Chinn/Chorister

Monday, July 13, 2009

YPC is in Japan!

The choristers have officially arrived in Japan! Stay tuned for updates directly from the chorus starting tomorrow!

YPC had a busy week last week making final preparations for the trip. It was filled with rehearsals, Japanese lessons, more rehearsals, a meeting at the Japanese Consulate General's residence in NY, and even a day-long filming on Thursday for Good Morning Japan!

Below is a group picture at the Japanese Consulate General's residence. YPC spent Thursday morning there learning about Japanese culture, performing and finishing off with a delicious Japanese lunch. It was a wonderful kick-off event for the tour!

Next stop after the meeting at the Consulate General's was the filming for Good Morning Japan (Ohayoo Nippon) with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation. It was a long shoot but was worth all the hard work. The director and crew were so nice and took really good care of the YPC. The two live segments that aired were amazing. Look out for them to be posted on the blog in the next couple of days!

The picture below is Ms.Udou, the host of the NY Style segment of Good Morning Japan:

Here's a shot of the film crew in action:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Japan Tour Rehearsals Continue

YPC heads to Japan in less than two weeks! Today's rehearsal was the third day in a row that the chorus has been working with the choreographer. Things seem to be really coming together. Check out the picture of some dancing in-action!

Mrs. Onoyama was there for more Japanese language lessons as was the crew from the Japanese broadcast company, NHK. They were prepping for the filming they will be doing at next Thursday's rehearsal to be broadcast live on Good Morning Japan! They are doing a special segment about YPC and the Japan tour. The newscaster and the producer had the chance to ask some of the choristers questions about why the chorus is important to them and what opportunities it has given them. It will be exciting to see the segment air next week (even though it will be in Japanese, so must of us won't be able to understand it!).