The vlog is more than a travel log

We started out travel on June 9.

Things were smooth and going fine.


We landed on the morning of June 10

We needed to figure out where to go and when.


We stayed in the Hotel Florida Norte

And let me say, food was not their forte.


However, we did smile with glee

when we were told: “Sí, hay WiFi!”


The next day was at the Royal Palace

Sparkling and shining bright like a chalice.


After that was a masterclass

Where we learned to play with emotion and sass.


Then was a performance at the conservatory

Where Señor Fernandez interpreted our story.


The following day was seeing the sights

Looking at sculptures and buildings of great heights.


We went to see art at the famous Prado:

Goya and Velázquez deserve a big “Bravo!”


After that included the Crystal Palace

Filled with such beauty there’s no room for malice.


Then we went to a concert hall

But what we saw was not a concert at all.


It was Carmina Burana acted out crude:

Cranes, drums, singers in a very festive mood.


After that interaction with Carmina Burana

we took a trip out to Salamanca.


On arrival, however, people’s attitudes were not cool

Because the government had just come and closed down the pool.


Now without a pool, what they’d do we’d have to see

Because, unfortunately, we got terrible WiFi.


The next day was learning music and dance of tradition

We all joined together in a Groton coalition.


The weather in Salamanca, I will say I do adore

Plus cathedrals, gardens, restaurants, and the Plaza Mayor.


On Saturday the 15th, we had our Salamanca show,

That was certainly the best and that I know.


The venue was amazing.

The acoustics made great sound

We had people coming in from all around.


With good location and time of day, the crowd was quite large

Take that, Handel’s water music on a barge.


With all of our articulations and all of our runs,

We even attracted some cloistered nuns.


The trip to Seville was the very next day

And its total of 6 hours took all our time away.


However, the next day was quite filled

Concerts performed, a church-mosque visited, and good meals billed.


Despite the lack of internet, the Seville Hotel was the best

Its aesthetics have a standard to put others to the test.


For our outdoor performance, the wind decided to play a part

I guess performing outside is a different type of art.


With pages flying about, it was not advised,

But I’m certainly glad we had some music memorized.


The next day was Córdoba, which was quite hot

It had a weather scheme which the other places did not.


Later that night was the final dinner show

It was flamenco dancing that was anything but slow.


After that was the final sleep before we headed back,

Time to face the Jet-lag and get back on track.


Shout out to Luigi from World Cultural Tours.

He certainly made my week as I hope he did yours.


So now that we’re back, be sure to check out the vlog

It will show you much more than a written travel log.


Good luck to the seniors, we bid you farewell

We hope you had fun and we hope you do well.


Mr. T, the cellos worked out, until…

They got stuck at the airport in Seville


However, I’m sure that they’ll wind up in the States

I certainly think that they have that in their fates.


Through your direction, we managed to shine,

I hope I have the opportunity to do this another time


Ms. Lanier, huge respect for getting this done

It was at times a challenge, but it certainly was fun.


If we were all a trailer, Señor Fernandez was the truck

If it hadn’t been for him, we would have been stuck.


Nancy, thank you for coming along.

We appreciate your applause after every single song.


So, Hooyah, Orchestra, we’re finished at last.

It was quite the experience and certainly a blast.


Overall, this year has been quite fine;

I look forward to seeing what next year has in line.


And with that, it looks like this Groton Year is done

So, enjoy your summer, rest up and have fun.





In the morning, we arrived at the center of the city. There the Cathedral and the Alcazar stood facing towards each other, creating a space full of historical and cultural depth. From there we embarked on a tour in the Cathedral, viewing the inside of the biggest Gothic Catholic Church in the world. Inside, the ceilings seemed far from our reach embellished with carvings from different centuries. The Cathedral contained an impressive amount of sacred artwork by numerous artists famous at the time. After a tiring journey of walking up 35 ramps, we reached our final destination, the top of the bell tower. From there the whole city of Sevilla was within our view, colorful buildings gleaming under the sun and towers that seemed impressive on the ground now nothing but a little speck. We felt like the kings of the world.

After a brief but refreshing lunch break, we continued our trip to the Alcazar, a leisure palace for ancient royalties. Delicate ceramics pattern on the walls and complex decorations on the ceilings marked the prosperity of a distant age. Various elegant courtyards provided the palace gleams of sunlight and fresh breeze. We entered the Alcazar right after noon, which is the hottest hour in Spain. The soothing coolness of shades and ceramics inside the palace not only offered us a shelter from the overwhelming heat (108 degrees Fahrenheit!), but also showed the crafty intelligence of ancient Spanish people (mostly of Arabic descent), as they figured out how to prevent burning up without the presence of air conditioner! To our surprise, the Alcazar is one of the shooting scenes of the well-known TV series Game of Thrones. As we entered its lively central garden, the exotic and mysterious kingdom of Done appeared before our eyes.

In the evening we prepared for our final concert of the trip at the Conservatorio Superior de Sevilla. For our graduated seniors, this was their last concert with the Groton Orchestra. Although we played the same repertoire, it was somewhat different from the other two times. In the outside forum, during the “golden hour” we played alongside with the gentle breeze in the heat of summer accompanied by chirping birds. As Señor Fernadez said, “Music is a universal language”, the audiences took the words to heart. Although we did not speak the same language, we connected with the audience through the music we played and the energy we put forth. With the last concert of the tour, the seniors and us performed our best completing the tour on a high note. The end of the concert was filled with tender moments as the seniors creating their final memories with their friends and the orchestra.


The orchestra rehearsing before the arrival of the audience at Conservatorio Superior de Sevilla


Darkness gradually covered the city of Sevilla and the sizzling night life had just started. With alleys lighted up and echoed with loud laughter, we made a relaxing excursion in search of a filling meal. Chatting with joy, we walked pass crowded plazas full of young people swing dancing to upbeat folk music, old men singing dated tunes with mild guitar strokes and thriving tabernas filled with clanking of bottles. The orchestra dispersed into various local restaurants in the area, and we ordered ourselves a delicious treat after the busy day.



Notes from a member of the audience.

(Salamanca, June 15th, 2019)

It was 9pm and a soft light was still pouring in through the windows of the church Purísima Concepción. The Spanish superlative “purísima” means “very pure.” The task at hand was simple, yet extremely challenging: could Groton’s Orchestra be as superlative as the sacred place that was hosting it? Could the music be “purísima”?

.  (Iglesia de la Purísima Concepción, built in the 17th century)

The first piece of the recital was Mozart’s Magic Flute and by the time it was over, the sun had finally set, and the church had filled up with people. It is not a small temple, but a majestic baroque building, with marble brought from Italy and a mesmerizing painting of the virgin Inmaculada Concepción that embraced our entire orchestra composed of 27 talented musicians. It was time for magic, time to show that music has no borders, no limitations, no nationalities.

(Painting of Immaculate Virgen)

The Italian painting of the Immaculate Conception exudes a powerful light that seems to come from within the virgin and the surrounding angels. I only mention this because the orchestra was now playing Beethoven and every note seemed to turn the light on the painting even brighter, broader, pristine. The people from the audience were leaning on the edge of their seats, lured into the altar by the music that rippled out of the instruments. Perhaps they were leaning forward on their seats because Allison Jiang was also leaning at the edge of hers, carried by who knows what supernatural powers. Julien Lee Heberling, the first violin, was leading with brio: no hesitation, but pure serenity, all charisma. Mr. Terranella, the orchestra conductor, had found a way to make the audience dive into the music. It all seemed like a powerful dream made of some strange substance that exceeds the power of light. Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture had produced such complex emotions that it was difficult to even find a name for them. The audience was enraptured.

The String Quartet played Antonin Dvořák and when Gloria Hui initiated the first notes of the Lento, I came to the discovery that, perhaps, humans are also made of strings, strings that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but that can be sensed through music. As I heard Montanna play the cello it became clear that our insides are deeper than we think. Some of the notes, especially the bass notes a cello can play -if played well- reveal that we have as many secret chambers and caves as oceans do. It is in those caves that unpredictable emotions are hidden, and music can certainly bring them up to the surface.

(String Quartet)

The most magical moment of the evening was yet to come with Bizet’s Arlésienne, the last piece the Groton Orchestra played. It is energetic, festive, joyful. Wind instruments -especially flutes- play an important role as also does the tambourine. The music was fizzy and spread around the church like colorful fireworks. It was then that I noticed three blurred images behind a smoked glass to the left of the orchestra: cloistered nuns! They had come to listen to immaculate music. It was 10:15pm when the musicians played their last note. There was a standing ovation and many “Bravos!” bounced off the church’s portentous pillars. The locals were ecstatic. They knew that if their magnificent temple could speak, it would produce the kind of music the Groton Orchestra had played that evening, for it was a voice that was very pure, “purísima.”

 (Cloistered nuns listening to the music)

An Astronaut in Medieval Salamanca

Today we ventured into the city of Salamanca once more, bright and early for our master class. At the DaCapo School, with the guidance of our instructor Mara, we learned common traditional Spanish folk music and the instruments used, most of which displayed creativity and resourcefulness among agricultural areas. Traditional Spanish music falls into three main categories: pasacalles, jota, and charrada. Once we grew comfortable with the rhythms, we formed our band of Spanish folk music with an arsenal of spoons, castanets, tambourines, glass bottles, mortars and pestles, pandero (which is made of goat skin), and sea shells. And then we danced to the jota rhythm. Mara taught us some traditional footwork. This master class showed us how to create music from very humble beginnings, inspiring a sense of community.

Afterwards, we toured the city with Carmen, a native of Salamanca. She led us through the Old Cathedral, and the New Cathedral, which actually dates from the 17th century. On the façade of the cathedral we discovered a surprise: an astronaut carved into the stone. The beautiful architecture and depth of history surrounding the buildings has survived conquests, earthquakes, and college students of the university adjacent. Following this, we viewed the library of Salamanca University which was originally a palace, and then toured the Plaza Mayor. Salamanca is a magical city steeped in history and tradition.




Though tired from our previous day of exploration, we embarked on our journey to Salamanca today. After packing our rooms, we promptly checked out and began packing our bus. Unlike our previous bus, the cellos with their hard cases could not all fit in the carriage, so we had to pack them into the seats of the bus. Nevertheless, we left sharply at 10:00am, and within a few minutes, the bus was filled with the sonorous snores of sleepy students! Along the way, we saw the change from city to countryside, with towering buildings changing to long, never-ending fields. From the few farms with cows, to the vast wheat fields, the scenery was breathtaking. Through the mountains we went to leave the beautiful city of Madrid, but we were greeted by this new and comforting change. We finally reached Hotel Horus in Salamanca, where we placed our bags, only to get back on the bus to travel to the center of Salamanca to explore and have lunch.

The city was quite different than Madrid, with cobblestone pathways adorning the shop-filled streets. A group of people, including myself, had lunch seated outside. Looking for jeta, a Salamanca special consisting of fried pig’s face, we asked the waiter whether they carried the specialty to which he replied yes. However, once we sat back down he explained how they miraculously ran out in the two minutes it took for us to sit down: we were tricked! Nevertheless we all enjoyed our meals: paella, lamb, steak, and a slue of other things. Disgruntled by not having jeta, we again disembarked through some backroads until we found the coveted food. You could get it for a surprising 1.10 euros, we were shocked by how cheap it was. However my excitement was short-lived. After taking the first crunchy bite, the pork cheek inside was salty and quite chewy – not to my taste. I am glad to have tried it once, but I am sad to say I probably will never eat it again.

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel. We were given some free time- some of us explored the hotel, and some of us got some sleep. After the afternoon of free time, the students and teachers congregated in the hotel dining room to have some dinner. We had una ensalada mixta (salad) with some pork and fries. Full from our dinner, the group decided to experience Salamanca in the nighttime. We returned to the old quarter, where we had lunch. However, we witnessed the beautiful light shows in the center of the quarter. The lights were projected onto the exterior of the buildings along to different tracks of music, highlighting the intricacies of the architecture: long ridged pillars, and tall stories. There were a series of light shows presented, each created by different artists from all over the world, from Colombia to Japan. Along with the light show, our quartet decided just before leaving the hotel to play on the streets surrounded by a magnificent, Medieval landscape. With our instruments, we found a spot next to the New Cathedral (“new” but built in the 17th century!), conveniently set up with lighting from the ground and street lamps, and began to play. We attracted a generous amount of people, playing sections of Schubert and Dvorak quartets from our concert repertoire. The experience was very fun. Though it was challenging to read my sheet music in the dark windy night, the informal setting of an audience purely constructed of a group of people walking by was a new and interesting experience as a performer.

String quartet playing in front of the cathedral.

The Finale of Madrid

Hola from Madrid! Nathan and Montanna here.

Today was our third and final day in Madrid. Tomorrow we head off to Salamanca.

The day started late with breakfast at the hotel. Some Spanish staples such as hot dogs and mushrooms filled our stomachs. We also bought some traditional Spanish spread– Nocilla (like nutella but better)– from the neighboring supermarket to put on our toast.

The bus left for the Museo del Prado (the Louvre of Spain). On the way our wonderful tour guide Pilar pointed out some attractions. As the gang waited in line for the museum, the blazing sun provided us comfort and light we were so wrongly deprived of in the US. We enjoyed the street music of a guitarist and his friendly sparrow sitting on his hand. In the museum, we split into two groups. The Prado is known for housing many famous works including pieces from Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. Some highlights includes Las Meninas by Velazquez and the Dark Paintings by Goya. It was interesting to analyze these pieces with our tour guides, exploring lighting choices and perspective in each painting. We even got some souvenirs from the gift shop.

For lunch we had some free time. The majority of the group, however, followed Señor Fernandez because of his knowledge of the city. We ended up at a restaurant called Casa de Cervantes. We happily gave ordering power to Señor because most of us were lost at the Spanish menu. I’m glad we did because we experienced traditional Spanish tapas such as Jamon Iberico (Iberian Ham), Shrimp with garlic, Calamares (calamari), and Croquettes.

After rolling ourselves out the door, we walked off our lunch with a trip to the “Central Park of Madrid.” The scenery was absolutely stunning and the entire group had smiles on their faces as we soaked everything in and took many photos. Inside the park we saw a glass palace with white stone statues inside, a park lake where couples rented row boats and children fed ducks, and beautifully manicured landscaping.

We took a quick siesta at the hotel to recharge before eating dinner at the hotel and heading out to see the show, Carmina Burana. Let’s just say the show pushed the edge of creativity. It featured everything from opera to solo flute, chicken costumes to a vat of symbolic red wine, and a reorchestration of the famous original opera for two piano and a slew of percussive instruments. It was definitely a quirky homage to Bacchus, the God of Wine.

After leaving the show with more questions than answers, Señor Fernandez took us to a Madrid hot spot. Chocolatería San Ginés  is a famous shop known for their churros and hot chocolate. It’s important to note that Spanish hot chocolate is not drinking chocolate but closer to what we know as chocolate syrup. We filled our bellies with churros and porras (thicker churros) dipped in chocolate at a crisp 10 pm at night before walking back to the hotel for checkin. What a day!


Montanna and Nathan

Typical Spanish dish: gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic)


Churros with chocolate