Monday, September 12, 2011

I Want to Be a Part of It

I wrote briefly about our trip to New York City to sing as part of a choir commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/2001. I was so disoriented by our long trek to the big city I published the post late Thursday, which is why it appears under Thursday (Really.). Just mentally change Thursday to Friday and you'll have it.

Singing "Memorial" by Rene Clausen was such an incredibly deep and moving experience I will need to devote several posts about it. Today I will try to give you a context for the experience by writing about what Becky and I did. In other posts I will talk about the piece, "Memorial" itself. There are no links to the piece, but you can buy a CD of it as the Concordia College Choir website at I hope you will. It is a remarkable piece.

I have noted some of these events on Facebook and in emails, but I wanted to draw them all together in one place. The concert was sponsored by Distinguished Concerts International New York or DCINY, the same group that sponsored the concert in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Shawnee Press at Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago that we participated in.  It's a kind of pay to play system. You pay, you get to be in the choir. The choirs are generally directed by the big names in choral music today: Joseph Martin, Greg Gilpin, Rene Clausen. People from all around the country come to be part of a large choir. We had 22 people from Chorale participate in this event with several spouses also coming.

We arrived Thursday evening about 8 PM after ten and a half hours on the road because of accidents, congestion and roadwork at the Holiday Inn Midtown at West 57th Street. The desk clerk recommended the Puttanesca Restaurant as a good Italian place around the corner on Ninth Avenue. It was good and we enjoyed the meal. That evening news of a serious terrorist threat to New York and Washington came out.  We also heard of flooding in Northern Virginia.

Thursday evening we used a method Becky evolved at conferences of buying breakfast foods at little grocery stores and thus avoiding the high price of breakfast in hotels.

We ate our breakfast the next morning (Friday) and poked round in the morning, noticing the police had all but one lane of the six-lane avenues blocked off and were checking every truck and using explosive sniffing dogs. We ate lunch at a Subway and had our first rehearsal at Calvary Baptist Church on West 57th Street. The group was so large (250 singers) it was necessary to have different rehearsals at different places We couldn't use the church the next day, for example, because there was a wedding there. Rene Clausen both rehearsed the group and shared with us the process by which the piece came to be written, section by section. We were supposed to go until 5 PM but finished about 4. We began to have a sense that this group of singers was good.

We took the subway to the theater district, got tickets from the TKTS booth for Jersey Boys and ate at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company in Times Square. I was a fan of the Four Seasons in high school and enjoyed the music and the story although they were more pathetic with their self-made problems than tragic.  And they cussed. A lot.  If you don't like cussing, see something else.

Saturday morning, another rehearsal, another venue, this time the Ethical Society (I don't know what it is, either) on West 62nd Street. We made more progress on the song.  Becky and I had lunch at the Cafe Europa (a very good local chain) at West 57th and Seventh Avenue after stopping at the Steinway House and its interesting gift shop. After lunch, we ended up walking down Sixth to the subway at Rockefeller Center because the F Station at Sixth Avenue and 57th Street did not have trains going downtown because of construction.  We made our way to the Tenement Museum. The tour was interesting and engaging and the gift shop filled with unique gifts.

We went back to hotel briefly and then had dinner at the Puttanesca again and went to the Theater District to see How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying with Daniel Radcliffe and John Larouquette. We found out  Harry Potter is short but can really dance and sing and that Larouquette is  a comic genius

The next morning we had a big breakfast at the Europa Restaurant. Since we were leaving that evening we had to check out before dress and left our suitcases in some friends' room who were staying another night so we could change from our concert attire and put on travel clothes. The  dress went well and soon we were back in the dressing rooms preparing for the performance.  I should add that Avery Fischer Hall is incredibly beautiful. Then it was time for the concert. The orchestra played "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber and then we sang our piece.  I noticed the audience was very still which meant they were listening closely. We were seated in the third tier during intermission.The choir which did the second part of the concert was not well prepared and the music, which used some powerful and beautiful words from poetry and other important sources, was dreadful--repetitious and less than tuneful. Some of the college kids in our choir fell asleep and were snoring until they were startled awake by an all too frequent slamdown on the timpani.  By the time the torture ended we realized we would not be able to make the reception and make our train.  We changed back at the hotel and took a taxi to Penn Station. We had some pizza for dinner and found the waiting room filled with Giant fans who were on their way to a game in the Meadowlands. They stayed on the train until the Secaucus stop where they all got off.  We changed trains at Newark Station and barely made the one bound for Somerville. We retrieved the car, took the interstates back and ran into some heavy rains on the way.  We used the interstate route rather than one recommended as most direct by Google Maps or GPS. Our total time back was about seven hours. Quite a difference.

We were back at the church to allow our riders to retrieve their rides by 1:30 and then home and to bed by 2.

Tomorrow, some insights into "Memorial."

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