January 25, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 8

Sadly, our time in California is almost up, and many of us are certainly not looking forward to returning to the snow. There is no other way, however, to bring our tour to a close with a trip to Disneyland! Before traveling to happiest place on earth, we visited Mount San Antonio College, fondly nicknamed Mt. SAC, where we met Professor Bruce Rogers and the Mt. SAC choir--one of the best in the country. We were verklempt and impressed when they sang for us. Although they have not touched their fall repertoire in a while, Mt. SAC performed with such conviction and beauty, all of us were blown away. It made us reconsider our approach to music and our relationship with it. In fact, we spontaneously memorized all of our songs to better perform them; it must have worked, because Mt. SAC's singers seemed impressed with us as well.

Professor Bruce Rogers and the Mt. SAC choir
After a quick lunch break at In-n-Out after our exchange with Mt. SAC, we drove all the way to Anaheim where we spent the rest of the day riding roller coasters and eating ridiculously overpriced foods at Disneyland.  Check out our YouTube channel for a video of our adventures throughout California!

January 21, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 7

One of the special aspects of this year’s tour is that we have visited various choral programs across California. Though we spend the school year learning and performing a variety of music, it is a treat to see what other choirs are up to. This morning—after a particularly harrowing journey through Los Angeles traffic—we visited Harvard-Westlake, one of the most prestigious and academically rigorous high schools in the state, and one that offers nine different choirs to its students.

Upon arrival, Director Rodger Guerrero greeted us with a warm welcome; after all, he was one of Dr. Graham’s classmates in graduate school.

Dr. Graham and Rodger Guerrero
In the school's chapel, we performed for three of Harvard-Westlake's nine choirs and answered some of their questions pertaining to college. These three groups also sang for us, which we thoroughly enjoyed!

Harvard-Westlake's all women's choir
The Wellesley College Choir
Thanks to the hospitality of the high school, we also enjoyed a lovely lunch. Apparently, Harvard-Westlake's catering service found Wellesley blue table clothes for the incredible spread!

Lunch break!
After our time at Harvard-Westlake, we crossed Los Angeles to Venice Beach where we met with another bunch of high schoolers. 

Some background information. Tonight, the purpose of our concert in Beverly Hills was to benefit the Neighborhood Youth Association, a community organization that works tirelessly to support and help under-privileged, at-risk students.

The Neighborhood Youth Association's hand-made sign for us
Therefore, this afternoon the choir visited the organization's headquarters in Venice and spoke with some of the students and youth leaders, a cadre of the NYA's own students with leadership positions in the organization. Not surprisingly, the director of the group told us that the majority of youth leaders are girls. We had a pleasure answering these young ladies' questions about college; hopefully, some of them will apply to Wellesley College!

All Saints' Episcopal Church
Knowing that our performance would help some of these incredible girls certainly made it special, but the fact that this is our last concert had us giving our all. Los Angeles certainly received us warmly; it was such a fun performance! Afterwards, we and our alumnae gathered for a reception full of conversation and cookies.

January 20, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 6

There is a common thread on this tour, and it is that we wake up early. For good reason too. Most days, we are driving long distances, and the sooner we get going, the more likely we are to beat traffic and travel quickly. Today, however, we had to face Los Angeles traffic--the worst of them all. From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, we drove by mountains and blue sky, while stuck in three hours worth of traffic.

Our gorgeous view from the bus
 Luckily, Dr. Graham factored in breathing room in our schedule, so when we finally arrived in Santa Monica, the choir bees had some down time to get lunch together and hang out on one of the most famous and idyllic beaches in the world. At about three in the afternoon, we got on the bus to visit Dr. Graham's old stomping grounds, USC, where she completed her thesis on music that originated in the Holocaust and received her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts Degrees.

The Santa Monica Pier
After another stint in traffic, we eventually made it to Dr. Graham's alma mater, where we met esteemed members of the USC Thornton School of Music's faculty. In particular, we worked closely with Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe for hours to hone our consonants and our ability to sustain long lines throughout the songs with which we have been traveling. Needless to say, he was fantastic to work with, as he meticulously helped us improve. We are all are so thankful to Dr. Graham for giving us this opportunity!

The Choir at USC's chapel

January 19, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 5

As many of you are aware of, California is in the middle of a debilitating drought; however, today certainly did not feel like it. From the moment we woke up early in the morning, it did not stop raining. Of course, given the fact that New England is frozen over, we cannot and did not complain. In fact, once we got on the bus for the 6 hour drive to Santa Barbara, many of us slept or talked the whole way. 

After a quick lunch break on State Street in beautiful, but sopping wet Santa Barbara, we traveled to Westmont College, which is located about half an hour from the city. There, we met one of the college's choirs; the one we performed for is specifically constructed of first years. After a quick warm up with director Grey Brothers, we performed some of the pieces we have taken on the road for the other choir. We were quickly back on the road, however, as we had a very important date at the Cate School. At the request of a Wellesley alumna, Linda Sommers, who teaches at this boarding high school, the Choir visited for an incredible performance in Cate's beautiful chapel.

Cate School's Camarata
Photo provided by the Cate School
 Before we sang for the high schoolers, Cate's chamber group, the Camarata, gave us a small taste of what they were up to. Since coming to college, we have not had the opportunity to hear high school choirs, so we thoroughly enjoyed their performance, especially the Camarata's rendition of "Grace Kelly." It was soon our turn to rise to the occasion, which we certainly did. From what we gather, we were performing to a group of teenagers who had never heard a live all women's choir. They were impressed with us to say the least. At the cookie and tea reception afterwards, many of the students came up to us  to give us compliments before our kind hosts came to pick us up. 

The Wellesley College Choir (but you already knew that)
Photo provided by the Cate School

January 18, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 4

To observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the choir is taking today off! We would like to remind you that tonight at 9 P.M. ET, GetTV will air a special episode of The Perry Como Show featuring yours truly! As this episode is network debut of the Wellesley College Choir of 1965, it is an incredible piece of the College's and the Choir's histories. Please don't miss it!

While we are all excited that the 1965 Choir will get air time on TV, we set off on our day of fun early in the morning. From Palo Alto, we departed bright and early for our first stop, Santa Cruz, where we got some shopping done at the sock shop and grabbed a bite to eat. Some of us were able to locate the beach. After all, it is California. While a few choir bees were there, they left this note in the sand:

After our pit stop in sleepy Santa Cruz, in a few hours, we were in the beautiful little town of Carmel, a prime tourist destination in the northern part of California. As Carmel is built on a dramatically sloping hill leading to our second beach of the day, many of us rushed down to the crashing waves to dip our bus-weary feet in the water. 

Choir bees by the sea!

Our President found an interesting souvenir
Season's greetings from Dr. Graham and some of the officers!

As per Dr. Graham's recommendations, we worked our way back up the hill to this adorable sweet shop. At first, we did not notice it; from a distance, it looked like one of the many ocean-side cottages lining the street.

 However, as we approached the cottage, one look at the display window told us we found everything we could have ever wanted: fudge, chocolate, salt water taffy, etc, etc, etc. The danger and blessing of being a college student with expendable income is that we WILL spend it on what we want, be it candy. Sufficiently jazzed on sugar, we got on the bus for the ride to Monterrey, where we all checked into our hotel for the night. 

We don't get tired of the beaches! 
Dr. Graham spending quality time with first year choir bees
 Before dinner, many of us trekked the five minutes from the hotel to water to relax on our third beach of the day. Tonight, we dined as a group, chatting and laughing over tacos. Tomorrow, we're off to Santa Barbara!

January 17, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 3

One of the incredible parts of touring is the relationships that we form on the road, especially those that we form with our host families. As today was our last day in San Francisco, it was time to say adieu to these good people who had us in their homes for two nights. As we were dropped off in front of Grace Cathedral for the 11:00 AM service, hugs and emails and promises to keep in touch were exchanged before we hurried in to get ready for our performance.

One of our many gracious hosts and her guests

            It is hard to describe how serenely beautiful the space is. Hopefully these pictures are worth more than a thousand words to convey just how breathtaking the vaulted arches, the façade, and the stain glass windows are. 
Grace Cathedral's façade
As we were all getting dropped off in front of the Cathedral one by one, we were awe struck by the massive edifice. Needless to say, we were all humbled to be standing there, singing for the members of the congregation.

Intricate stain glass windows
Today was also special in that we were lucky enough to have met Vance George, the Grammy Award winning Director Emeritus of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. As we were warming up before our performance at Grace Cathedral, he paid us a visit to give us helpful tips on our repertoire.

Warming up!
The Choir...
plus Vance George
Afterwards, he treated all of us to a delicious lunch in Chinatown, where we had some time to look at the adorable shops and drink boba tea before heading off to Palo Alto.

In Palo Alto, we performed our second official concert of the tour at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, which we jokingly dubbed "St. Mark's Part II." Although it was a much smaller space than the cathedral where we had performed in the morning, we had an incredible time singing to the full church!

St. Mark's Episcopal Church

January 16, 2016

"California Girls" Tour: Day 2

Hello, again! Fully refreshed, the choir regrouped at the Ferry Building in the famous Embarcadero district. As this is the first time many of us have visited San Francisco, we made a pit stop at the Golden Gate Bridge to snap some pictures at this breathtaking landmark rising out of the mist.

Choir bees at the Golden Gate Bridge!

At the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, native Californians often stopped to ask us where we are from. Invariably, when we tell them that we go to school in Massachusetts, they apologize for the “crappy” weather. And we smile at them because this fog veiling San Francisco is quite manageable compared to the winters we are accustomed to. Much like yesterday, we were unleashed upon San Francisco, with plenty of free time to shop, eat, and see the sights. 

WCC on the beach

The marina!

We reconvened at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, where we met Susan McMane, an accomplished conductor, and an ensemble of twelve girls from the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco, whom we were teaming up with for our concert tonight. 

St. Mark's Lutheran Church

They were phenomenal to perform alongside with; all of us were blown away by the unity and maturity of their sound as an ensemble. We were also incredibly grateful to have the chance to sing “Duo Seraphim” with Susan and her girls. Before we dove into our set for the night, Dr. Graham conducted the ensemble from the Young Women’s Chorus and us through a collaborative “Personent Hodie.” We had so much fun working with and learning from these young women! Especially since this concert went so well, I wonder what our next performance will be like?