Day 3: 9/11 Museum and Metropolitan Opera

Greetings from NYC! Ivana here. The Groton Chamber Orchestra/Jazz Band crew had a very full tourist-y type day, not a single note of playing. We started the chilly Valentine’s day with a trip to the 9/11 memorial museum. After a bit of trudging in the muck, and the epic search for lunch, we rightfully took our places in the Metropolitan Opera house for the matinee show. This afternoon, we saw two one-act operas, Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle, both of which had spectacular singers and excellent Tchaikovsky/Bartok music played by their symphony orchestra. Although a combination of the comfy seats, the dark, and beautiful music weighed our eyelids down, the show was very impressive and super vibrant in one of the biggest auditoriums in the world. During intermission (between the two one-acts), a few of us snuck a peek at the orchestra pit. I confess their massive numbers intimidated me, compared to the Groton school ensembles.
Post-four-and-a-half-hour opera, echoes of the light, Judith, and Tchaikovsky music, we stretched out our legs, wandered Times Square, then ate our hearts away at John’s Pizzeria and my goodness, those cannolis were heavenly (I had five). And after such indulgences, we arrive back at the Hilton, to lay our heads after a long day to rest.

-Ivana Primero ‘17

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The Fellowship of Groton Musicians

Dawn graced Sunday with its rose-tinged rays, bringing life to the frozen wastelands of New Jersey as we noble young musicians awoke to meet the opportunities and challenges of warming the souls of strangers and familiar faces alike with strains of beautiful music. We trouped to the elevators and stairwells of our now-familiar Hilton Hotel, gradually individually descending towards our morning meal. The day ahead would be taxing, yet rewarding; proper nourishment would be necessary if we were to endure its stresses and strains.

Our first pursuit on that Sabbath day was to reacquaint ourselves with the wonders of the city we have come to love with all of our bountiful compassion through a guided tour of those boroughs we had not yet reconnoitered in full. A jolly, kindly, loquacious Scotch Irishman, knowledgeable in all of New York’s winding ways, joined us for the day. As our Sherpa through the frigid concrete mountain ranges of New York’s streets and avenues, he guided us through SoHo and Chinatown, bestowing upon us what little of his vast wisdom he could in the time we had. He pointed out for us great landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge with its majestic towers, each topped with the most potent symbol of our great nation, the flag of the United States of America, stars and stripes resplendent.

After our tour concluded, we were all ready for some sustenance to preserve our fragile frames through the hours ahead. Thankfully, we were offered asylum by the family of one of our companions. Joe Collins and his family were hospitable enough to offer us shelter and succor in their apartment, providing welcome refuge from the bitter cold of the sorry streets. Alas, our stay was but temporary, as our duty called us back onto the desolate highways and byways of noble New York. We thanked the Collins for their charity, bade them farewell, and continued our quest to enrich the spirits of all around us with the beauty of music.

First, however, we consulted our predecessors in artistic pursuits for inspiration, lest our creativity die unnourished in the glacial atmosphere of winter’s frost. We entered the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hoping to find our way to greater musicality and artistry through examining the works of our antecedents. Roaming through the halls, our spirits thrived, bathed in artistry and enveloped by creativity. Renewed, we departed from the museum to our evening meal.

We arrived at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle thoroughly prepared for the ordeal ahead. Bearing the tools of our musical trade to the space in which we were to prepare, we earnestly commenced to practice, determined to triumph in that which we were to do. Once all were prepared, the concert came to life. Soul Sauce, the Groton School jazz band, opened the performance with five pieces that gripped the attention of the viewer, grasping their heart and demanding not only applause, but a true emotional response. Following that tear-jerking display, the Riverside ensemble, a more select group of time-tested jazz veterans, played three pieces. Each virtuoso performance astonished the audience. Saxophone trills and drum solos echoed against the Romanesque stone walls of the church, supported by a bass backbone. It was practically transcendent.

Next, small chamber music groups, hand-picked from the Chamber Orchestra, emerged to perform. Their performances were displays of skill like little else before. Technical prowess was their watchword as fingers flew across strings and keys, while bows drew forth beauty from violins and cellos.

Finally, the Chamber Orchestra closed the night with three pieces. In that space, pieces that we had practiced many times took on an entirely different character. The incredible reverb of that space added a majestic quality to every note. Everything on the page shone forth in splendor and clarity, while final chords echoed in harmonic glory. It was a pleasure to play in such a locale; ne’er had we experienced such a chamber for our orchestra.

Though playing was a pleasure, the day exhausted the fellowship of music. After thanking everyone for coming, especially Mr. and Mrs. Maqubela, who were in Florida as of Saturday and fought a blizzard tooth and nail to make it, we departed dead tired, ready for a long night’s slumber before our return journey the next day.

-Alaric Krapf and Peter Nam

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Day Two-Part Two: Dianne Reeves

After listening to and playing for an amazing performance at the Dwight-Englewood School (alma mater of my formmate Kasumi Quinlan ’15!), the Jazz Band and Orchestra crossed the Hudson and made our way into the heart of Manhattan. Our first stop was the Metropolitan Opera. To enter the building, we used an underground entrance usually reserved for the Met’s musicians, singers, actors, and dancers. Once inside we received a special presentation from Stefan Ragnar Hoskuldsson, principal flautist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and a few theater employees. It was quite an interesting session. We saw pictures documenting a day’s events at the Met (which can only be described as hectic), learned a bit more about the life a professional musician, watched a short clip showing the Met’s unique three stage system in action, and listened to Arete Warren, widow of 1952 Groton alumnus Bill Warren who was very involved in New York’s opera scene.

We also learned a bit about the two operas we were going to see. Iolanta is a Russian opera detailing the life and love of a blind girl whose father works hard to prevent her from finding out that she is blind. Bluebeard’s Castle is a scary, more thrilling opera focusing on the mystery of a man and the contents of his seven locked doors.

Before making our way back down to the reserved entrance, Michael You and I sneaked a peek of ground level in the Met’s auditorium. We walked right up to the stage and got to see the stagehands in action. The speed and precision with which they moved made for an amazing sight.

The next event on our schedule was a historical tour of the Lincoln Center. We visited the homes of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, New York City Ballet, and Julliard School. Each group had its own performance space and a unique history behind its architecture and design. During our tour we stumbled upon a ballet rehearsal in David H. Koch Theater. It was something that I had never seen before and beautiful thing to watch.

After our tour, the group split up to get dinner. A few students and I ate at a small hole-in-the-wall a couple of blocks off Broadway. Hanami Japanese Restaurant didn’t look like much, but its salmon teriyaki bento box was pretty good. We didn’t want to get too full, though, because we were going to a concert soon after.

That night Dianne Reeves performed in Rose Theater of Jazz at the Lincoln Center. I can honestly say that was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Dianne Reeves won her fifth Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance with her latest album Beautiful Life last Sunday. She came to New York to celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend and make a centennial tribute to famed jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. Dianne Reeves brought everything to her show last night. The band was dynamic and interactive. Dianne invited the audience to sing, clap, and dance along with her. There was upbeat Latin music, a piece from Sarah Vaughan, and songs from several of Dianne’s albums. Dianne engaged the audience and taught us all a little bit about herself and the music that influenced her. My favorite song of the night was Nine. It described my childhood experience to a tee and gave seventeen-year-old me a chill of wistful nostalgia.

I tried to hang around after the performance to get an autographed CD from Dianne Reeves, but it was nearing eleven o’clock and the rest of the group was waiting for me. I ran back to the bus and rode to the hotel in preparation for another busy day. It was already past 11 pm by the time we arrived at the hotel.

Malik Jabati

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New York-Day 2

Day 2-Part One

The day began at 12:01 AM with Ms. Ginsberg on a heroic journey to retrieve her instrument and Alex Taber’s bow. With a bassoon in one hand and a bass bow in the other, she flew through the night under the glistening moon. “Half” of the musicians were scheduled to have breakfast at 8 am, although it seemed like some may have decided to sleep in. After breakfast, we made a punctual departure at 9:30 heading over to Dwight-Englewood School, which runs from K to 12. We started our time there with some rehearsal, and then we wandered over to the dining hall for a nice surprise. Dwight-Englewood is also catered by Flik dining; it was like we never left Groton. Afterwards was the concert. They claimed we were playing “with” them; however, it seemed more like we were playing against them. We performed Battle of the Bands style, with Groton Orchestra playing one piece, and their orchestra playing another. Both orchestras were amazing, and after the orchestras played Jazz Band rocked the house. The only downside of the day was that the musicians did not get to mingle. As one member of the Dwight-Englewood orchestra so eloquently put it after the concert, “They were awesome, wait, don’t we get to mingle?”

-Alex Taber ’16 and Candace Tong-Li ‘16

Day 2-Part Two Coming Soon
We are all floating on cloud nine after seeing a performance by the amazing Dianne Reeves and her band in the Rose Theater of Jazz at Lincoln Center!

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New York Trip Day One

New York trip day one:

Hey guys we are just about to go to bed here in Ridgefield, New Jersey. This morning after a final few classes we departed promptly despite having to shovel the bus out of a snowbank. Around 3:30 in the afternoon we arrived in New York City. Arriving earlier than planned, we stopped at Columbia University for a tour given by three Groton alumni Charlotte Davies ’11, Max Lindemann ’11, and Yowana Wamala’14. After the tour we went to Carmine’s for a group dinner, before heading to our hotel, where we spent our evening relaxing in the pool and other hotel facilities. Tomorrow we will go to a private day school to do some music exchange with students there, and go to hear jazz musician Dianna Reeves, who has recently won the Grammy’s Jazz Album of the Year. We are all in high spirits and can’t wait to play. So far, our trip has been a bundle of fun and we are really looking forward to spending the rest of our long weekend here.

Michael and Jenna

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Coming Soon: Our Music Trip Blog!

Stay tuned!

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