Friday, July 29, 2011

Last thoughts from Brazil

YPC performs at the Candelaria Church

As much as we have been around each other on this trip already, we are joining the Youth Singers of Calgary and the Toronto Children’s Chorus for our performances. What these two world-renowned groups bring to the festival are styles of performance that we don’t have a lot of experience with and aren’t necessarily comfortable with.  The Youth Singers specialize in the choral genre of show-choir, which is something that YPC has always flirted with. The Youth Singers’ sets are always filled with medleys from Broadway shows, spirituals, and many, many pop songs. They can sing as if they were plucked from the cast of Glee in one song and shift to sounding like professional classical choir in a matter of minutes. Not to mention their choreography, which routinely astonishes us.

The Toronto Children’s Chorus takes us to an entirely different realm of choral music. Their sound is refined, piercing, and reminiscent of a bell choir. The repertoire that their director, Ms. Elise Bradley, has chosen for their performances here suits their sound perfectly, with music full of sweeping chords that bring out some of the most beautiful harmonies a children’s chorus can produce. The TCC has exposed us to a different side of the choral world, one that combines straight-tone singing with incredible musicianship to produce a truly impressive sound.

Sharing a song at the singing dinner

Being around these two fabulous organizations has been more than eye-opening to everyone in YPC, and to see the two of them flourish has shown us other ways of conveying messages through choral music. However, while our differences may bring diversity to the festival, we will eventually have to join forces to sing in the tutti section of our upcoming concerts. Learning how to blend with voices that are trained differently than ours may ultimately be our biggest challenge, but it will surely be our most rewarding outcome.

- Will, Young Men’s Chorus

Visiting the Christ the Redeemer Statue

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind of nonstop action.  Tuesday started off with a trip to the Christ the Redeemer statue.  We took a rickety train to the top of the mountain.  The sights were absolutely breathtaking; postcard perfect.  We could she the crescent shaped Copacabana beach, which was almost hidden behind the mountains.  As we went up the nine flights of stairs to the “Jesus statue,” as we call it, we broke out into harmony.  We sung our way up the steps and at the top posed with Christ the Redeemer.  Francisco wanted a group picture so he asked Nancy to take one.  Nancy put down her phone (a thing we were all told not to do) and when she turned around to get it, it was gone!  Although most of us thought it was lost for good, we went on a scavenger hunt for her phone.  Just as we thought all hope was lost we stumbled upon Oliver, a thirty-year old lawyer from the Calgary choir.  He gave us a detailed play by play about what happened to Nancy’s phone and lo and behold, after much searching, Nancy finally got it back. 

Choristers walking back from the music school in a favela
After, we hopped on the bus to a music school in a favella where Calgary, Toronto, and we performed.  One of the songs we sang, Riki Tiki Tavi, has a part where we samba.  The little Brazilian children were so excited that a few of them jumped up when we started to samba.  Another one of our songs, Tres Cantos, is a Brazilian folk song.  In the song we create a rainforest by snapping and clapping.  Francisco brought the children into it by having them create the rainforest with us.  The children, who probably have never seen a large group perform before, were so excited by our performance.  They loved creating the rainforest before.  It was wonderful to see these kids, who came in with torn clothes and sad faces, enjoying themselves so much.

Choristers ride the train back down from Corcovado Mountain
That night we went to a singing dinner with the other two choirs.  When we sat down we mixed with the other two choirs.  We all taught each other songs.  We learned Te Eee Wee Aye from the Toronto choir.  The song comes with a “trembling dance,” where you have to shake your hands.  From Calgary we learned the Hand Jive, which was a real hit.

- Jamie, Concert Chorus

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Samba School!

Choristers on just before riding a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain
Concert Chorus performs "Riki Tiki Tavi" for the Samba School
Hey, guys!  Nick here on my first YPC International trip!!  Today was our first full day in Brazil, South America and boy was it an amazing start.  We spent most of the day at the local Samba School.  It was amazing to see the incredible talent and culture Brazil has to show.  We had a chance to meet the other choirs traveling with us from Toronto and Calgary, along with the locals at the school.  The students’ event taught us how to play Samba rhythms on the percussion instruments and how to dance the Samba!  The children in Brazil were very kind and welcoming to us.  It’s amazing to see a foreign country like Brazil in action; its almost like living in a different world compared to the U.S.  When we went to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, the breath-taking sights blew me away, and then it hit me: “Wow, we’re in South America here to perform and experience such an amazing culture.”  I’m so glad this trip is off to such a great start, and I’m excited for what’s to come!!

- Nick, Young Men’s Chorus

Learning the Samba

Today we watched the Samba School perform and really enjoyed interacting with the kids. They even tried to teach us how to Samba!  We had a great time, and found ways to work around the language barrier. After, we took a cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain and got our share of sightseeing! Were all excited to see more of Brazil!

Learning Samba rhythms on the drum
- Tohar, Concert Chorus

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First Impressions of Brazil

Our first day seemed like it would never end! Starting at the Y, all of us eager to get away from my parents (sorry mom for leaving you on your birthday!), to what seemed like a very short time in the airport. The flight was shorter than I expected, but I think all of us can agree that we all wanted a more comfortable sleep.  I bet we went on a fabulous bus tour… But I was sleeping. We had a fabulous dinner where we met the two other choirs, Youth Singers of Calgary and the Toronto Children’s Chorus. Both were extremely nice and friendly, and we all can’t wait to get to know them more! I’m so glad to be here with all my fellow choristers, and I know we are going to have a fabulous, unforgettable trip!

- Ariana, Concert Chorus

Pure exhaustion – these seem like the perfect words to some up what the choristers are feeling today.  It all started at 5:00 PM on Thursday when all the eager choristers waited to board the bus. Then we found ourselves at our gate for what seemed like 30 minutes, and then boarded the crowded plane. I ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours, expecting to wake up in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, I was informed that I still had 5 more hours of flying…which wasn’t very reassuring.  We landed and got onto a bus for a city tour, which was very interesting!  We got to see “favellas” (slums) from the Northern part of Rio, then we were bused to a catholic cathedral that on the outside seemed like a block of concrete, but inside beautiful stained glass filled the room with light.  We finally came to our hotel and rested for a while and then met the choristers from both Toronto and Calgary. They were very sweet and I am extremely excited to sing with them soon!

- Rose, Concert Chorus

Friday, July 22, 2011

YPC departs for the Melodia! South American Music Festival 2011!

Yesterday at around 5:00 pm, the YPC staff diligently prepared to depart for the Melodia! South American Music Festival. Choristers, parents, and YPC staff gathered at the 92nd Street Y to bid the choristers and conductors a bon voyage before their exciting trip to Rio De Janerio and Buenos Aires.

EXCITING UPDATE: Just heard word this morning, everyone arrived safely and are about to eat breakfast! Follow our blog for more exciting updates from YPC south of the equator!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Recording Session at Avatar Studios

Today at the recording session we recorded Meredith Monk's "Things" and John Corigliano's "One Sweet Morning." As always there was a lot of stress involved because we want to sound as good as we possibly could. It's always fun being in a recording studio because you get to hear the recording of yourself played back into your headphones. "One Sweet Morning" is one of our favorite songs because of how beautifully the text matches the music. However, it is an incredibly challenging piece of music because of the long phrases. "Things" is quite a different style, being tonal and capturing the essence of new music. Though some parts are melodic others are percussive. It was an incredibly fun and exhausting day and one that we will long remember.

Lucy & Gaby, Concert Choristers

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Final High Note at the Choral Music Experience at Ithaca College!

I had such an amazing time these past several days. The family hosting myself and my roommates were incredibly nice and cooked us delicious meals our entire stay. I can see why it is called a Choral Music Experience because everything was so, so memorable. Our days were long, but always fun. We were offered an amazing buffet lunch every day at Ithaca College and the Master classes were always educational and interactive. I never knew how much conductors can control the tone of the singers. My roommates and I had tons of fun going to waterfalls, spotting fireflies and buying “Ithaca is Gorges” tees. This was definitely an experience I won’t forget.

- Brianne, Cantare
While in Ithaca, I made so many special memories with my home-stay. At first, my roommates and I were nervous about rooming with a high school student, however, the second we saw Phoebe, we felt instantly comfortable and soon, we all became close friends. Her laid-back nature and sweet personality made the trip so much for fun and memorable. We also shared a love for Harry Potter and enjoyed playing fan related games every night. Some other highlights of our home-stay were watching “Mulan” (sing along version), enjoying delicious home cooked meals by Phoebe's mom, Kelly, going to the park, playing twister and catching fireflies. I loved the experiences I shared with my home-stay family and I will never forget them.

- Emma, Cantare

Spending our days and nights surrounded by choral music and people who love the process of music-making is always the highlight of my trip to Ithaca for the Choral Music Experience. This is YPC’s eighth year participating in this workshop and each time we have been graciously hosted by the families of the Ithaca Children’s Choir. I am so proud of the members of YPC who worked so hard each day in demonstration rehearsals and master classes. The closing concert on Friday afternoon was unforgettable as we performed all the pieces we had lived with for the past week. I would like to say thank you to all the teachers who worked with us; Jim Papoulis, the composer in residence; Janet Galvan, who always brings a level of expertise and joy to the rehearsal process; and most of all to the singers who worked tirelessly in every situation. I cannot wait to see where the 2011-2012 season takes us!

- Elizabeth Núñez, YPC Conductor