Orchestra Trip to South Africa

By Sowon Lee ’15

Let’s face it: no matter how awesome the destination, any trip is instantly ten times better when you are with friends, and the more the merrier. This is exactly why you should be jealous: this summer, the orchestra, led by Mr. Terranella and Ms. Lanier, went on a trip to South Africa for an incredible life-changing experience (sort of like Eat Pray Love, except better). Our travels took us via London to Cape Town, then Pretoria. On the trip, we not only performed at concerts, but went on safaris (more details to come), and incorporated service into the schedule as well.

On the evening of Saturday June 16, 2012, the orchestra boarded the plane and the adventure began. We landed in London on Sunday morning and took the opportunity to tour the city: we achieved this by eating overpriced fish and chips, buying overpriced but cool souvenirs, and posing for pictures literally every thirty seconds – as tourists tend to do. On Monday morning, we arrived in Cape Town and were greeted at the airport by the orchestra of Durbanville High School, a school located in a suburb of Cape Town. We stayed with host families from Durbanville High, who welcomed us on the first night with a “braai”, or barbeque. On the following days at Durbanville, we performed at three concerts; two were at concert halls, and one was at the Gugulethu township, a black community with a budding music program. As for sightseeing, the highlights were Table Mountain and penguins. Table Mountain is gorgeous, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world; the penguins were adorable and lived on the beach in the Cape of Good Hope.

On Saturday, it was time to go. We left for Pretoria and met our host, the Waterkloof High School. In Pretoria, we performed with the Waterkloof orchestra and played a Michael Jackson medley at a botanical park in front of hundreds of people. We also played at Soweto, another black township. Again, sightseeing was incredible. The safari was actually a resort that deserved at least four stars. There were many noteworthy episodes, but the most memorable one occurred when one of the jeeps was approached by a curious elephant and the tour guide drove away before the elephant could make up its mind to trample the puny humans in the jeep.

South Africa was indeed an eye-opening place. Anita Xu, a violinist, commented that “South Africa wasn’t as different as I thought it would be. The kids talk and act like us, and the cities could be cities in America.” It’s true – there were no lions roaming the streets as I half expected. Another shocking observation: the boys can really dance! They showed off some pretty amazing breakdancing moves at the house parties they invited us to.

The trip was a success in every way – we learned about the culture, performed some great pieces, and most importantly, had a great, if not the best ever, summer. Now that the trip is over, then are a few questions. Do we have any future plans with Durbanville and Waterkloof? Where is the orchestra headed next? Ms. Lanier explained that, “As of now, there are no definite plans, but we hope Waterkloof can visit us at Groton in the future!” The next orchestra trip is in 2015, and again, there are no set plans. “We’re considering Estonia, or perhaps Spain. Both countries are great options, as they have rich musical backgrounds,” Ms. Lanier mused. Extra incentive to join orchestra!

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