Saturday, March 4, 2017

Israel Choral Performance Tour December 2016

On December 26, 2016, I flew from New Orleans through Rome to Jerusalem to join Dr. Larry Wyatt (my choral mentor) and friends in his professional ensemble Colla Voce, for a choral performance tour of Israel. It was a VERY lucky trip I was able to join and I used airline miles and hotel points to tack on a vacation after the performance portion of the trip.
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I'd been asked to join the tour because I helped premiere the composition Annelies, a striking, poignant, and beautiful work by the amazing James Whitbourn in Prague the year before and I knew the music! The work is on the life of Anne Frank, in her own words.
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I waited four hours or so at the Tel-Aviv Yafo airport and met up with one of the incoming groups. We then took a train to Haifa where we were staying. 
The next day was in Haifa and was full of rehearsals from 9 AM until the early evening at which point we were about to go crazy with exhaustion and restlessness. We had a good dinner and rested. The next day held some sight-seeing and a concert at the University of Haifa. 
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From here, we had another concert and were set up with host families. It's been a very LONG time since I've been on a choir tour and in host houses, but it was wonderful! One of my favorite experiences was going to the weekly Shabbat dinner at my family's grandmother's house and observing the final day of Channukah. They gathered around a table where there were several menorahs and lit them while singing several traditional songs. It was such a sweet and joyful time being with them and sure enough, all stereotypes about Jewish grandmothers making you eat - eat- EAT are TRUE!
Here are a few of my FB posts to give you some flavor of the trip:

- YAY! Macchiato because we're between rehearsals! THREE rehearsals for today! Whew! 🎶 It's so nice to sing with this group: a combination of the Colla Voce professional ensemble, six former DMA conducting students, and a few MMs too.

- HAPPY NEW YEAR from the future (from Israel), while watching Russian TV (hence, the Russian below!)

- A few words about 2016: While I know it had its horrific moments, losses, and issues, it was also a year for which I'm especially grateful. I am alive, well, and still in awe and excitement that I'm a postulant for priesthood in The Episcopal Church and am able to pursue this calling with the support of so many! It blows my mind that I'm attending a dream school, Sewanee! I give thanks for the sixcouples I know who married the loves of their lives this year. I'm happy for all the new babies (human or furry or feathered.) Look at all the cool space exploration that happened this year, too. I made new friends in Israel, Pakistan, Qatar, and in school. I finally had a major surgery I desperately needed and while I gained some pounds from doing nothing but binge watching Game of Thrones, I had the extravagant opportunity to do so. I got to hang out with my friends and spend valuable time with those who fill my life with joy. I enjoyed freedom, education, good health and plenty of bad puns

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So much good happened this year for me. I'm extremely fortunate and blessed. I hope and pray that 2017 will be filled with hope and increase in blessings for all that haven't been so fortunate and especially for those who suffered loss, war, and strife. I continue to hope for things like world peace and discovering more life out there in our universe. Like these candles, may your flame burn brightly and even be challenged, yet stand the windy night with graceful beauty.I wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(It's 4:46 here and soon we will leave for tonight's concert!) More later

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We explored Nazareth, Caesarea maritima, Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and my host family took me to the city of Acre (Akko, will expound in a separate post). In six days, we gave four concerts and sang with three of Tommer Hessig's choirs. He is doing a FABULOUS job promoting the choral art in his area of Israel. Tommer is involving lots of artistic organizations, training young singers, educating communities, composing, and making beautiful music! It was super nice to catch up with (and meet some) fellow DMA students from USC, hang out with my first mentor, and sing. Ariana Wyatt was out soloist for Annelies, as she was in Prague, and she is extraordinary. Not only a beautifull and demonstrative singer, she is kind, friendly, and brilliant as well as having a good sense of humor.
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Caesarea Maritima
Here is the link to my entire photo album for this trip (in case you want to see a few more!)
One of the things I've always admired about choir trips is that they represent a microcosm of the greater community in which you exist almost outside of time. It's almost a shock to me when a tour, even a short one, is over. You get to know people deeply. One of my favorite thinfs to do is to stay awake on the bus whilst everyone is napping or asleep from sheer exhaustion, and stare out the window watching the landscape go by. You learn so much about a country by passing and seeing the everyday occurrences, often overlooked by group sight-seeing treks or overshadowed by people-watching in a touristy area (which can also be amazing). You see the dogs, the trash-lined sidewalk, the beauty of sun setting on a corn field, children playing in yards, birds, diners, street vendors, erosion, construction, fences, and so much more. It's part of that difference between being a tourist and really getting to know a place.
* Acre and Egypt posts coming soon!
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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