Monday, November 5, 2012

Adventures in Normandy

Sunday. November 4

Hard to believe this is our last day in France.  It’s been such an incredible learning experience.  We’re not ready to leave, yet we’re anxious to return to our families still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

We’re giving a concert this afternoon in the Chapelle de I’Institut d’Agneaux with 400 seats and extraordinary acoustics.  We understand that this concert is the first sold-out concert of the Polyfollia Festival in this particular venue.   The choristers are excited, proud, and ready to give the performance of their lives.


Saturday, November 3

Everyone was up early this morning for a 10 a.m. Polyfollia workshop for choral conductor/teachers given by Francisco Núñez with musical demonstrations by the chorus at the Institut Universitaire de Technologie in Saint Lô.  The classroom was packed with teachers filling every seat and standing two deep against the walls.  The subject of the workshop was Rhythm in America and how music is being transformed in America and all over the world. Francisco put those teachers through their paces by having them sight-read with help from the choristers “Gloria” from Leonard Bernstein’s 1960 work “Mass” and Michael Gordon’s “Exalted,” written in 2010.

After a little nap and lunch, it was back on the bus to the quaint little village of Les Pieux on the coast of France, five miles from the English Channel, for the chorus’s fourth of five Polyfollia concerts, this time in the intimate, but beautiful 140-seat concert hall in the Ecole de musique. We had some time before the tech rehearsal to walk through the cobble-stoned streets of the town filled with lovely shops and bakeries with the most exquisite pastries, tarts, and huge meringues on display. 

Word of mouth once again resulted in a concert that was filled to capacity and some of the attendees were music conductors who had attended the morning’s workshop.  The choristers put on a show no one in this town will soon forget.  Following the concert, the choristers still in their costumes and euphoric from the incredible concert they just gave, lined the exit hallway chatting in their beginners French with the audience members, giving autographs, and accepting thanks from all of the men, women and many children who, it seemed, did not want the evening to end. 

Friday, November 2

The day began in a very poignant way for all of us from New York, with a visit to the Caen-Normandie Cité de l’Histoire Pour La Paix Memorial, a museum with displays, artifacts, and films recounting the events leading to the horrendous destruction and deaths during the worldwide conflicts during World War II, and its aftermath, including the event that began the collapse of the Nazi occupation: the American participation in the June 6, 1944, invasion on the beaches of Normandy, where over 10 million soldiers died. 

From Caen that afternoon, the bus carried the YPC choristers to Louvigny and the Salle des fetes, where Friday’s concert took place. YPC’s 90-minute program with spoken interludes in French by YPC choristers charmed the SRO Louvigny audience.  And when YPC ended this program with “Oye,” there was pandemonium with the whole audience—moms, dads, grandparents, and children—on their feet dancing, clapping, singing, and matching the energy and enthusiasm of the choristers.

It was a bittersweet moment, as reminder once again of how we hoped our loved ones could be with us here, rather than dealing with the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Thursday, November 1

With very little access to the Internet, we’ve not been able to get much information from New York about Hurricane Sandy.  While we here are all safe and enjoying new experiences in a different part of the world, all of us are very worried and concerned about our families back home.  At our concerts we have expressed our concern to the audiences, and they all with us in our apprehension about what we will find when we return home on Monday.  We are working very hard on our tour, but our friends and families are still foremost on our minds. 

November 1 was a holiday in France, but not for the YPC choristers.  Wednesday night’s gala at Beaufils Hall in Saint Lô, featured YPC and the Leios Kantika Korala children’s choir from Spain and was a huge success.  This gala concert was for all the professionals at Polyfollia—the Polyfollia artistic committee, the artists, managers, and those from festivals and concert series worldwide seeking out the best of the best to bring to their own audiences. There was an incredible buzz about YPC. Unfortunately, Beaufils Hall was not big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.  However, anyone who missed YPC’s performance on Wednesday, will have another chance on Sunday for YPC’s final Polyfollia concert at the Chapelle de I’Institut d’ Agneaux back in Saint Lô.

On the day following the gala, rehearsals preceded a long bus trip through the beautiful French countryside, under the watchful eye of our Polyfollia chaperone Dilette, as we headed for the charming little village of Athis de l’Orne, one of 16 villages in the area.  As we neared the town, a spectacular rainbow was YPC’s first welcome.  When the YPC travelers arrived, they received a second welcome from their hosts, who included the mayors of two of the 16 villages—Alain Lange, the mayor of Athis de l’Orne, and Yanic Soubien, the mayor of Taillebois.  Our hosts were so happy to have us there.  They provided us with a wonderful dinner, including fresh soup made from ingredients from the region and luscious homemade cakes and pastries.

Back row center Francisco, Mayor Soubien, Young Men chorister Ta'Sean, and Mayor Lange
The concert for the whole community was held that evening in the church of Saint Vigor, which was built of granite from the area with an interior of limestone, and the acoustics were gorgeous.  YPC put on an extraordinary show, and the audience responded with standing ovations and incessant clapping that wouldn’t stop, even after three encores.

Photographs by Christopher Hall

Friday, November 2, 2012

From Paris to Normandy

October 30

Busy day.  At the morning rehearsal a newspaper journalist from Ouest France came by, shot some pictures and video of the choristers singing, and did a few interviews.  The story is set to appear this week, and the video will be shown on the Ouest France Web site at  Take a look.

Lunch quickly followed, and in the afternoon we took a great bus trip to the famous Mont-Saint Michel, a village built on a rock standing in the middle of a bay topped by a Gothic abbey church.  The abbey houses an order of monks and nuns and is said to be a place of pilgrimage for the Western world.      

All had fun exploring and visiting the shops at Mont-Saint Michel and in the town itself.  It was a nice respite before we all returned to dinner and more rehearsal for the big gala tomorrow night.

October 29, 2012

The first YPC tour I went on was to Sweden six months ago.  It was the first time I traveled internationally, and it was a rewarding experience.  I have been so excited about France, a country I have always wanted to visit and have been looking forward to approaching this tour with the experience of Sweden under my belt. 

I can truly say that this tour has been amazing so far.  We have had no concerts yet, but it’s been wonderful to have free time to experience Paris.  We stayed at beautiful hotel, sang a song at the Eiffel Tower, and had the freedom to explore the city in groups.  The boulangeries (bakeries) are every bit as numerous and wonderful as they are rumored to be.  Today, we took a bus to a region of Normandy,  the town of Saint Lô.  The hard work of being on tour began tonight with rehearsals by section after dinner, and over the next six days we will give five concerts.  I know this will be very challenging and demanding week, but when I look back on this trip in the years to come, I know I will have given it my all.  I am so thankful to Francisco and Elizabeth and the rest of the office staff.  They will not accept mediocrity and it pushes me not to accept less from myself.  I can’t wait to see where this week takes us.

Lindsey, 15, Concert Chorus


October 29

The YPC choristers spent their last few hours in Paris on Monday morning continuing to sightsee and shop, while Francisco, Rose (our intrepid French translator), and Chris (who is taking all of these great pictures) taxied to the Radio France studio to be interviewed on the hour-long French radio show “Traverses du Temp” with host, producer, and YPC friend Marcel Quillèvère.

We will all get to hear the entire interview, which includes lots of YPC music on the program, on November 9 at 1 p.m. streamed from the Radio France Web site.  More details to come.

Right now we have just arrived in Normandy for the big reason we are here:  to show the music world who we are and what we can do!

October 28, 2012

A good night’s sleep produced a miraculous recovery from that first l-o-o-o-ng day in France and began 1½ days of not only intensive rehearsals, but also some intensive sightseeing. 

I hadn’t gotten to hear YPC’s whole program, but I DID get to hear a new YPC piece that the Polyfollia audiences are going to go crazy for—“Douce France”—with some incredible accompaniment that includes Elizabeth on trumpet and Eddie on ukelele.  So fabulous!  I’m even hearing it in my sleep.

The sights in Paris were also pretty fabulous.  First stop—where else?—the Eiffel Tower.  So familiar and so impressive in person!

The choristers were so inspired, there was only one thing to do—sing “Douce France.”

From there the choristers broke up into small groups and headed out on their separate ways.  They scoured the city, not wanting to miss seeing at least some of Paris’s storied landmarks:  walks along the Seine, L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Champs-Elysées, and one funny moment when a few of the girls spotted a beautiful, ornate palace with hundreds of people waiting in long, roped-off lines outside.  As the girls got closer, this magnificent palace turned out to be an Abercrombie & Fitch.  Who knew?

The choristers mastered the Paris subway system and savored Parisian waffles, fresh crepes, and even French pizza.

Angela Duryea, YPC Staff

Photographs and video by Christopher Hall

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bienvenue à Paris!


We’re so excited to be in Paris on our way to Normandy on Monday.

Traveling with YPC is like moving the troops. So many people, so many instruments, and boxes and boxes of everything necessary to make every trip successful.  At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, selected YPC choristers began gathering at the 92nd Street Y to begin the process for their latest trip, this time to France for the Polyfollia Choral Music Showcase.  The check-in process was set up like a bucket brigade. First Sophia checked the choristers’ passports.  Kerry double-checked that every part of each chorister’s uniform had been packed.  All pieces of luggage and every box were weighed to avoid any penalties, and after music binders were passed out and the bus loaded, YPC was on it's way.

The flight from JFK to Paris was picture perfect.  However, we were in for a surprise after we had picked up about half of our luggage.   Oh no!  Luggage handlers and air traffic controllers went on a sudden strike protesting job cuts.  Some of our luggage was still on the plane, and the airport was locked down.

The dispute was resolved fairly quickly, and we arrived at our hotel to another surprise:  waiting to greet us were two former choristers now living and working in Europe:  Dena and Celeste!

Rehearsals for our Normandy concerts are going very well, and we’re all looking forward to sightseeing here in Paris tomorrow.

- Sheldon Ogbourne, Conducting Fellow

Photos by Christopher Hall

Friday, October 19, 2012

YPC Boy's Weekend Retreat

I had a great time at Camp Mason a couple of weeks ago.  It was good to see all my friends in Cantare and the ones that have moved to other divisions.  The bus ride was really fast and we got to camp in no time.  When we arrived, we all went to our cabins and unpacked our stuff.  We went to lunch and started all of the activities.  I really loved the rock climbing.  This time, it was a little challenging because I picked the most difficult climb and I had hiking boots on. I wished I had my sneakers.  It took a little longer, but I made it all the way up and felt like the king of the hill! The other activities I liked were in the low ropes course.  It was neat how everyone helped each other out in the course.  The moving net was tricky but really a lot of fun. Felipe from Intermezzo was the fastest one through it.  My friend Raphael from Young Men gave me tips on canoeing and together we were as fast as a speedboat.  Now I am ready to challenge my Papi to a race! 
The camp was really a lot of fun.  I got to meet other kids from all over the city.  You can stay up to 11pm and get up early to play basketball.  You have time to talk, play and joke around, and get to know everyone so much better before going back to weekly rehearsals.  I can’t wait till next year again.  Thanks YPC!                                                                               
-          Howell John, 11, Cantare

The outdoorsy environment of YMCA Camp Mason was very different from the city environment we are all used to but it was also a key part of what made the trip such a good experience. The secluded spacious environment pushed us to be active. It also allowed us to bond with the younger kids, our peers, and the staff of YPC. We connected over activities like the low ropes course, Capture the Flag, kickball (otherwise known as “Kick it in the Thicket”) and canoeing, which I did for the first time. We also bonded over the campfire as we roasted marshmallows and made our own s'mores, and enjoyed the talent show where we got to showcase our talents from singing to impersonations to card tricks. My personal favorite activity was the Scavenger Hunt. The YPC staff did an amazing job putting together this year’s trip. I am very glad to say that I was there to experience it!
-          Jamil, 16, Young Men

This year's YPC Boys Retreat, September 29 - 30, was held at Camp Mason in New Jersey. When we arrived we split into teams, each team had a color and a flag. We were given strips of fabric of our color to make crazy costumes and decorations for ourselves.
We played many games and the winner would be awarded points for their team. Archery, the Low Ropes, Kick it in the Thicket (also known as kickball) and a great adventurous Scavenger Hunt... these are just a few of the great games we played.
At mealtime there were plenty of fabulous choices- baked ziti, pizza, salad, soup, Peanut Butter and Jelly and other great choices. We roasted marshmallows during the bonfire and just had a blast.
Overall the YPC Boys Retreat was awesome!  It was a great experience and it gave me a chance to meet many new and old choristers. Next year I hope that we can have another one just as fun.
-          Adam, 9, Prelude

Our great and energetic weekend at Camp Mason was full of unity, and good old fashioned American fun. This weekend has brought all the boys in each division closer to their younger and older peers.  We were divided into four teams: the blue team, the green team, the yellow team, and the red team. During our talent show, we were treated to a variety of performances by some of our fellow choristers. The performances ranged from that of the Chinese yoyo called the Diablo, to songs by Adele sung karaoke style, the sweet tune of “Hotel California” being played on acoustic guitar, the staff of YPC singing “Chili Con Carne”, and the older boys singing “This Little Light of Mine” with Francisco and the audience.

            The activities were things that most of us don’t normally do, such as canoeing, archery, and rock climbing. While canoeing, we worked in pairs to paddle the boat. In the woods, we took part in a low ropes course which included things such as swinging from one platform to another using a rope. Rock climbing was an all-around YPC team effort, in which teammates, chaperones, and camp’s staff cheered climbing choristers on, with camp staff holding the rope on the ground as we climbed away to get to the top. Two activities that we all really enjoyed were kickball and capture the flag because it took the whole team to make a strategy and carry it out. The green team learned Francisco’s secret techniques and strategies to win, while the blue team had Johnny to help them with his skill and speed. One of the best events was the campfire, where we bonded around the fire while making and eating s’mores.

                The Scavenger Hunt was a main event where the teams ran all around the camp to find clues and answer questions on what we have learned during YPC rehearsals. The part during the scavenger hunt that I really liked was when the older kids ran back for the younger kids since they were getting tired, also when the older kids carried the younger kids on their backs and held them on their shoulders. This trip also taught us responsibility because we had to keep our cabins tidy, clean up after ourselves during meals, and not litter around the camp. Lastly, I would like to give a special thanks to the YPC staff, the parent chaperones, and to the Camp Mason staff.                                                                                
-  Cameron, 15, Young Men

The camping trip was fun in so many ways. It was great to be with all of the friends I’ve already made from YPC.  One of the best parts about the retreat was to make new friends with the boys and young men in the chorus. It was a congenial atmosphere with all of the age groups. There were great meals, some fun rehearsals, and lots of activities. My favorite activity was probably archery because I was so good that I got to use the compound bow. Everyone got split into 4 teams - red, green, blue and yellow. I was on the yellow team and we won Kickball, Capture the Flag, and the Scavenger Hunt. The camping trip changed the way I look at coming to rehearsal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Now I know everyone and feel that I can call everyone my friends.
-          Lucas, 13, Amani