Thursday, June 12, 2014

Basel Day 6: Auf Wiedersehen!

Sunday, our last full day in Basel, brought the close of this year's European Youth Choir Festival. Over the course of a very memorable week, YPC gave almost a dozen performances in and around Basel to audiences of thousands of people, was featured on Swiss television twice, and shared the stage with hundreds of other singers from around Europe and the world. We heard both familiar music and pieces that we had never encountered before (and that we might never hear again), and we were affirmed in our conviction that music can bring people together no matter where they come from. To top it off, we also had a wonderful time exploring Switzerland!

The culminating concert of the Festival featured every participating choir. Each ensemble shared a song that was representative of its musical traditions and culture. YPC was proud to offer Bridge Over Troubled Water for this performance.

YPC performs in the closing concert of the European Youth Choir Festival in Basel

For many choristers, one of the highlights of the trip was having the opportunity to stay with local families in Basel. Our homestays were incredibly generous, not only welcoming YPC singers into their homes but going above and beyond to make them feel like part of the family. Ikey from Young Men writes about his homestay experience below:

"Despite our cultural and linguistic differences, we managed to befriend some of the coolest Swiss people because of the homestay situation. With the teenagers, we bonded over “like eh meh-gik wind” and “uf e geile obe”! With the parents, we discussed how different family life was in America. On Sunday, after our final concert, Josh and I met our homestay family for mini-golf and ice cream, after which we went to a restaurant overlooking Basel and the Alps, where we petted horses and debated whether Swiss or American barbecue was better. As the sun set, we hiked up a small mountain, upon which there was a castle, circa 1400.

The 2014 Basel tour wasn’t only a brief foreign visit for the European Youth Choir Festival; it was an unparalleled adventure in cultural immersion. It is a tour that I find myself coming away from with a profound melancholy, rather than the typical tired happiness that comes with returning home. Although tours are often a time when YPC becomes closer as a family, on this trip we find ourselves with an extended family. Many of us have invited our homestays to our homes in New York, just as much out of verified inclination than out of gratitude."

--Ikey, 18 years old

Thank you to our wonderful hosts, the Festival staff and organizers, and everyone who contributed to making this trip possible! It is one that YPC will always remember!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Basel Day 5: Taking it to the Streets!

By Saturday morning, it was hard to believe that our time in Basel was approaching its close. The previous days had been so full of great music and cultural exchange that they had just flown by. Fortunately, we were able to put off the inevitable return to the airport for a bit longer because Saturday was to be YPC's busiest day of the entire trip: four performances in one day!

YPC singers take a break in between performances for a photo op!

Our first stop of the day was beautiful Martinskirche (St. Martin's Church), where YPC rehearsed for the evening performance. The Church is situated up above the Rhine and features a lovely and intricate wooden interior as well as a gorgeous acoustic. With each new venue that we sang in, we discovered more and more just how many beautiful spaces there are in Basel!

YPC prepares for an evening performance in Basel's Martinskirche

The Festival garners tremendous support from the community of Basel. At no point in our visit was this more clear than on Saturday afternoon, when YPC joined with other participating choirs in a series of outdoor concerts in several plazas in the central part of the city. The experience of walking from place to place, hearing music from many different ensembles in the air wherever you went, was thrilling. In all of the three outdoor concerts we sang there were people filling every inch of each plaza.

Part of the audience for YPC's first outdoor performance in Basel's Theaterplatz

Having the opportunity to perform in many of the public spaces that we had explored throughout the week was a fun treat. There were even some audience members that walked with YPC from performance to performance to hear us sing two or even three times!

YPC performs a medley of selections from West Side Story at an outdoor performance in Barfüsserplatz

Monday, June 9, 2014

Basel Day 4: Singing Boys

Friday was a day that all of the choristers had been looking forward to for quite some time. One of the most prominent features of the European Youth Choir Festival of Basel for this year was a special focus on "Singing Boys" from around the world. YPC's Young Men division would join the all-male Knabenkantorei Basel, the Estonian National Opera Boys' Choir and the Choristers of Jesus College Cambridge, England in a headlining performance in the gorgeous Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Before that evening concert, however, the full complement of YPC singers gave a lunchtime concert in the Church. As in the previous days, the house was completely full and the energy from the audience was electric.

YPC sings Bridge Over Troubled Water in Basel's Peterskirche

Though May is often a very rainy month in the Basel area, we were fortunate to have beautiful blue skies for nearly all of our tour. On Friday afternoon, YPC choristers relaxed alongside singers from all of the other participating choirs for a special boat tour along the Rhine river. Nick from the Young Men's division describes this special sightseeing venture:

"One part of Basel that I love most is its location. The fact that this city is located minutes away from France and Germany brings a lot of cultural exchange. For example, on a boat ride along the Rhine of Basel, we met a bunch of choirs from around Switzerland, but each one of them has a different background. One may speak French, while the other speaks German, and another one Italian! I love seeing so much diversity coming to the city, partly because it reminds me of YPC itself. We all come from such different cultures and areas of the city, yet we all share this common passion of performing (and being New Yorkers, of course!). I can't wait to see what else Basel, Switzerland has in store for us next."

--Nick, 18 years old

View of the bank of the Rhine from YPC's boat cruise

Back on land, the Young Men eagerly awaited the "Singing Boys" concert. This was a special moment for YPC because it was the first time that this division had been featured by itself in a showcase performance of this type. In the end, the concert was a wonderful success, and the singers left feeling that an important milestone had been achieved. Of course, there were still many Festival performances ahead to look forward to as well!

YPC's Young Men perform Ride the Chariot, arr. W.H. Smith

Friday, June 6, 2014

Basel Day 3: Day Trip to Riehen

In the first two days of our trip to Basel, YPC had many wonderful opportunities to meet and interact with singers in other choirs from around Europe as well as our homestay families. Thursday was a special day because we had the chance to visit with other members of the community in and around Basel. In the afternoon, we took the tram through scenic countryside to Riehen, a small community about half an hour outside of the city.

Beautiful Swiss countryside!

In Riehen, we were treated to a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, but it wasn't just any restaurant: this one had a theater attached to it, where we would perform that evening.

YPC singers enjoying lunch in Riehen

After lunch, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and setting and moved outside for a rehearsal in preparation for the evening.

Relaxing in Riehen before rehearsal

Like all of the other performances at the Festival, YPC sang to a completely full and very enthusiastic audience in Riehen. After the concert, choristers enjoyed spending some time visiting with local fans and learning about life in Switzerland.

Visiting with audience members after the Riehen concert

For dinner, the Festival welcomed all of the visiting choirs for a dinner party at a beautiful park in Basel. Members of YPC shared a favorite chorus tradition with singers from other ensembles. Samantha from Concert Chorus describes the experience:

"As a long time chorister, I learned the 'original' Run Run Run, My Baby game a long time ago. When a group of choristers and I got together to teach members of the other choirs the game, I was once again reminded of why we play it. Music is a truly universal language and everyone just had a good time singing and playing together!"

--Samantha, 17 years old

YPC singers after a successful performance in Riehen

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Basel Day 2: The Festival Begins!

SRF Tagesschau, a Basel news station, featured YPC in its coverage of the European Youth Choir Festival in Basel. Enjoy the footage below, including clips from Wednesday night's performance and interviews with YPC Artistic Director and Founder Francisco J. Núñez and members of the chorus:

After a warm welcome and a good night's rest with our homestay families, YPC rose bright and early on Wednesday, ready for the opening day of the Festival. The first stop was the Gymnasium Muttenz, a high school in a suburb of Basel, where YPC met with several other choirs participating in the Festival. Concert Chorus member McKinny describes meeting and rehearsing with these choirs:

"Today was especially interesting because we got to work with some of the other choirs here at the Festival. Both in the morning and after lunch we split up and the Young Men went with the girls from the Mädchenchor Hannover, while the Concert Chorus girls went to rehearse with the Little Singers of Armenia. It was really cool to be able to have a rehearsal with the Armenian girls and see the way they work with each other and with their conductor. I found that our rehearsals went so smoothly due to how amazing these singers were. They were so clear, both in their tone and their musical intentions, that it became very easy for us to see the way their folk songs were supposed to be sung. They are so invested in everything that they sing, it's hard not to match their energy and focus. It was really amazing being able to sing alongside this world renowned choir and to do as they do, and also to have them sing our music and to mix into our rehearsal atmosphere."

--McKinny, 17 years old

Members of Young Men warm up before an exciting day of musical exchange with other choirs at the Festival

The choirs shared a few songs for one another at the high school in our very first performance of the Festival. But there was still more performing to be done! That evening, YPC participated in the opening gala performance for the Festival at the Basel Stadt-Casino alongside choirs from Ireland, Israel, England, and many other countries. Greg from Young Men writes:

"Today was a very exciting day! First, the Young Men sang a selection from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman with members of the Mädchenchor Hannover. We also sang Can You Hear? with that choir and I was highly impressed by the near perfect English many, if not all, of the girls spoke and sang in. At the end, all the choirs came together to sing the festival song Music Is Everywhere. According to my homestay, it was adorable. I would say that today was a great first day of the Festival!"

--Greg, 16 years old

YPC performs to a sold-out house at the opening gala concert of the Festival

The final measures of Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down, arr. P. Caldwell and S. Ivory