Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 9 and Day 10: The Home Stretch

Our group has had a great time on this tour, but we are TIRED! Many of us have remarked how we wish we'd brought pedometers to measure the distance we have walked since we left on March 6th. The early days of the tour seem like a distant memory, and the bus feels like a second home. There is something very unique about how a group comes together through a bus tour.

Day 9:
Yesterday we had the entire day to continue sightseeing in Washington, D.C. Because the weather was supposed to be a bit warmer than the previous day, a majority of the group chose to start with the memorials: Korean War Veteran's Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and finally the World War II Memorial. All of the memorials are meaningful in their own way. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is striking as there are many statues of soldiers actively walking through the foliage.

The Lincoln Memorial is truly moving in that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on those steps, facing the reflection pool and Washington Monument, as he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. It is powerful because of its sheer size and while it can be imposing, the statue feels empathetic and thoughtful.

The White House
 The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is thought provoking...and we overheard one tour guide telling a group that it was designed in a way to make it look like it is cascading names toward the center of the if it is drowning in names. Interesting take on it, but regardless, it is powerful to look at this wall and see your own reflection among the many, many names of those who died in Vietnam.

The World War II Veteran's Memorial was truly stunning in size and scope...and in how it is placed. On one side you can turn and see the Lincoln Monument, turn 180 degrees and then see the Washington Monument. Each state is represented with a pillar and there is a wall of stars...each star represents 100 people, so you truly get a sense of the number of people lost. Each faction of the war (Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, etc.) is represented as well.
WWII Memorial

Students on steps of Lincoln Memorial
Following the Memorials, everyone headed to the museums they didn't get to see the day before, in addition to visiting the National Archives to see the original Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. They are housed in an incredible building, with so much beautiful detail and design.
Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall
We headed to dinner at Subway and Au Bon Pain on our way to the National Symphony Orchestra Concert at Kennedy Center. (Fun fact: Our bus driver and a few students who stayed on the bus during this time report that that they saw the President's Motorcade go by). The concert hall was beautiful and the music program was as well. The concert opened with two pieces from Debussy's Nocturnes, followed by Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43" featuring Daniil Trifonov, pianist (he is in his early 20's and has already won several prestigious competitions). He played an encore after the audience continued to stand, clap, and yell "brava!". Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano, performed with the orchestra on Falla's "El amor brujo" (no standing ovation there) and the evening concluded with the sublime Respighi "Pini di Roma" ("Pines of Rome"). The conductor, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, is in his early 80's and walked out unsteadily each time he came to the stage, but as soon as he was on his podium, he exuded energy and vitality. That is why we were so surprised when numerous orchestra members stopped playing and lunged for him at the end of the 3rd movement as he began to collapse. He sat on the edge of the podium, raised his baton and indicated that the orchestra should continue. He proceeded to conduct from the seated position, resting occasionally and weakly gesturing as needed. In the 4th movement, in the Pines of the Appian Way, the music began to build and crescendo- suddenly he began to stand and resumed with more energy. It was riveting and as if the music itself picked him up, rejuvenated him, and allowed the entire audience to experience the moment between him and the marvelous orchestra. It was phenomenal and demonstrated pure professionalism for our students in attendance!
Korean War Veteran Memorial

Day 10:
Today we planned to go to Arlington Cemetery, but unfortunately there was a marathon this morning, and all roads leading to the Cemetery were blocked off. We decided to head on to Gettysburg. The battlefield is enormous and the group watched a movie about the Civil War and Gettysburg's significance, in particular, before then moving on to the Cyclorama where a 360 degree painting is installed and then the Museum. We stopped at the Cemetery on the grounds, saw the general area where it is believed Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and took a little time to walk around some of the monuments before getting back on the bus and heading to Bentleyville (yes, the same hotel with the wooden floors!) this evening. We are overwhelmed with history and significant events! Going from Philadelphia where our country was debated and formalized in documents to seeing those documents in D.C., and then to see how our country continued to persevere through the most trying conflict -with one another- has been inspiring.
Lincoln Memorial

Heading home 3.16.14 

Tomorrow we leave early and head back to Terre Haute, hopefully missing a majority of the snow which is headed east.

We thank those of you responsible for helping to get us here, and for following along with our travels. It has been a wonderful experience, but we are all ready to come home.
*Will try to upload more pictures from the trip after we arrive home!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 8: Singing and the Smithsonian

Back on the bus for another day!
This morning we got on the bus by 8:45 a.m. in order to head to the Air Force Base for our music exchange with the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants. When we arrived, Michael Boswell had to give a special "code" number to the guard at the entry which made us feel very 007.

On tour of building
Once we arrived, we found that the building where the group rehearses is completely dedicated to the music ensembles of the United States Air Force. Each ensemble has its own space to rehearse, and we learned that they have a number of different music ensembles including rock band called Max Impact. We were granted the opportunity to briefly watch the Concert Band and the Air Force Strings (they treated us to their arrangement of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean").

We were taken on a tour around the building, seeing pictures of different ensembles at events featuring dignitaries, former presidents, and many other political figures.

U.S. Air Force Concert Band
U.S. Air Force Strings
 The Chorale and Madrigals group headed to where the Singing Sergeants were rehearsing and had the opportunity to listen to them sing several pieces. At one point, they invited Michael Boswell up to sing a piece ("Light of a Clear Blue Morning" by Craig Hella Johnson), which is a definite check mark on his bucket list! They then listened to the SMWC group sing before both groups had the opportunity to sing "Set Me As a Seal" together in a collaborative experience. Chief Angela Burns went to school with Michael Boswell (along with another singer in the group, who also went to East Carolina University with both Michael Boswell and Sharon Boyle) and spoke easily with the SMWC students. She facilitated a QA session, where the students asked them questions and listened to each singer in the ensemble describe: 1) their specific degrees and schools attended, 2) where they were from, 3) and how long they have been a member of the group. Their rapport with one another was evident and the exchanges felt easy and enjoyable. The Singing Sergeants ended our time together by singing one more song, "Freedom Song" which was beautiful.
Chief Angela Burns (front) of Singing Sergeants

Michael Boswell singing with Singing Sergeants

SMWC Choirs singing with Singing Sergeants
Listening to Singing Sergeants
After eating lunch on base, we headed to the Mall in D.C. to do some sightseeing for the rest of they day. Because it had dropped 35 degrees in one day and was suddenly 15 degrees with the wind chill, most of the group chose to visit some of the museums which are part of the Smithsonian. Favorite museums included the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of American History. Because of the cold, Michael decided to have the bus pick everyone up a little earlier and we headed to find dinner. Most of us ended up at Applebee's which was on the way to the hotel, and because many are tired of fast food! On the way to the restaurant, a Krispy Kreme shop was spotted, so after dinner, somehow everyone ended up at Krispy Kreme without even planning it!
Outside the Native American Museum 

At the Air and Space Museum
It was a very full and fun day (Although very cold. Winter, please end soon.) and tomorrow means more sightseeing in D.C.

Krispy Kreme! (Photo Credit: Ellen Webb)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 7 Choir Tour: Philadelphia Freedom

Ah. The City of Brotherly Love. As we mentioned, we have been watching the John Adams mini-series when we have longer trips, so imagine the excitement of the entire group to step off the bus this morning in Old Town, Philadelphia, and see Independence Hall down the street!

This morning Dr. Anneliese Payne and Dr. Janet Clark headed back home, but had to get their flight redirected to avoid the snow which was headed to Detroit. They arrived safely this evening and they will be missed.

We broke into small groups and explored the city most of the day, only to return to the bus by 5:00 p.m. Because the historic district is relatively condensed, some smaller groups would end up at the same location, sharing whatever else they had just seen with the others. Most chose to go first to the Visitor Center, where they provided free tickets to Independence National Historic Park, where Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Philosophical Hall, and more are located. The Park Rangers who were stationed at each hall provided extensive information and history on each facet of the location, and answered questions in depth and with a wonderful grasp of context as well as dates and names.
That is Tiffany glass in the mosaic behind these students
In Independence Hall, we were able to see that the size of the rooms where great debates occurred are actually very small! In addition, George Washington's chair remains original to the space, with a wonderful story about Benjamin Franklin's observations of the "sun" image engraved on the chair.

Independence Hall and Congress Hall

Way in the back, center, is Washington's chair

Behind Independence Hall
Pretending to be part of the deliberations of Congress

Chatting with a Park Ranger outside of Congress Hall
We learned that after the initial hairline crack in the bell had been repaired, it was rung again on George Washington's birthday for a celebration and the old crack reappeared and kept moving up on the bell, so it was never rung again.

Liberty Bell!

Checking out the display prior to seeing the Liberty Bell

Christ Church Burial Ground:
Many signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here...
one of the most historic cemeteries in the country

Whoops! Tilt your head to the left and you'll see
Benjamin Franklin's tombstone, designed to his exact specifications.
Christ Church
Michael Boswell in front of Christ Church
Christ Church was incredibly interesting, and the guide was very knowledgeable explaining about all the historical figures who had attended church there: George and Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, John Adams, and many more. One group of Woods students who had come through today took the opportunity to sing after being asked by the guide. They broke into "Amazing Grace" in the church which served as a place of worship for those who founded our country. The building was flush with history and walking through felt like stepping into a time capsule. At one point, the 8-year-old on the trip (daughter of the two music faculty on the trip), along with a music student at another time in the day, both got the chance to ring the bell in the back of Christ Church. It was unassuming and didn't seem particularly special...but we found out it is 300 years old, older than the Liberty Bell and older than our country. It had been forged in England, brought to the Americas, part of the Christ Church until it was lent to another church for a period of time. Over time it was lent to various places, and ended up in the basement of a hospital and was gone for about 200 years. Just a couple of years ago, the bell was uncovered in the basement and found that Christ Church of Philadelphia was inscribed on the bell so it was returned. It still rings a beautiful tone!
Benjamin Franklin funded the cost of the steeple of Christ Church
At that time, it was the tallest building in the entire country.

Inside Christ Church Sanctuary

Christ Church bell which is 300 years old and still ringing
 Betsy Ross:
Alleyway leading to entrance of house Betsy Ross stayed in for three years
 All around Philadelphia there was literature and calendar of events related to Women's History Month. Still, there are few places and symbols which truly depict the impact that women had on the colonial period of history. Betsy Ross, though, was like the men of that time...changing with the times and adapting as needed. She was an upholsterer (unusual for women of that time), but after the Revolutionary War, less people wanted fancy upholstered items. At that time, she began working for the government/military sewing uniforms, etc. She was also widowed three times.

We can't write about Philadelphia and not mention "Rocky", right?
 There was so much to see and learn today, that it cannot possibly be all included here. More places were visited than mentioned here, but overall, it was heard over and over again "I love this place!". On the bus ride to the hotel in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. at the end of the day, there was a quick stop for dinner.
Looking forward to tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 6 of Choir Tour: Remembering our History and Delaware Bound

Waiting in line for the Ferry to Ellis Island
After an early breakfast, the group loaded up the bus, checked out of the NJ hotel, and headed to the Ferry to Ellis Island (NJ side). The weather was spectacular, and riding on the water was quite pleasant. The wobbly feeling of the boat jostling in the water, and the occasional loud horn took some students by surprise! Many took pictures of the NY skyline from the water and while a little hazy, it was still very nice. As we rounded the bend to truly take in the Statue of Liberty, many were struck by the impressive symbol of our freedom and independence. One person remarked that for those immigrants who had traveled through horrible conditions for so very long on the water, to come into the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty, it must have been an incredible sense of excitement and gratitude. The island is very small, but has several buildings on it in addition to the statue. Most of the buildings are no longer used, and some had more recent damage from Hurricane Sandy, but the processing center is still a symbol of transition/connection between our past, present, and future. We then took the ferry to Liberty Island, to see the Statue of Liberty up close.

Main Building on Ellis Island

The Registry Room - where our ancestors were documented!
She is much more impressive in!

Pictures do not do her justice...

Our international students!

Perfect PR pic for NY

Enjoying the view of the Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island is a place one could stay an entire day and still not learn everything there is to know about the immigration history of our country. The displays were very informative, explaining everything from the number of immigrants throughout various eras, where various immigrant groups settled in the United States, the history of Slavery in the U.S., the history of how Native Americans were treated (e.g. Trail of Tears, etc.), the role of music in cultural identity and how it was used (still is, by the way), for cultural groups to relate better in an environment that may feel hostile or unrelenting. Folk songs were used centuries ago by immigrants coming to this country to maintain cultural stability and continuity. Over the years, these folk songs have blended to create new song forms and music which is more indigenous to this country.

Rehearsing on the bus on way to Wilmington, DE

Conducting a piece while traveling
down the highway is an acquired skill

Following the awe-inspiring visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, we loaded back on to the bus and headed for Wilmington, DE, where the choir would sing their concert at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church, where a good friend of Michael Boswell, Jeffrey Manns, is conductor and tenor. The choir rehearsed in the sanctuary, maintaining their focus as workers pounded on the roof, doing work on the church. At times it sounded as though the roof might cave in with the loudness of the hammering, but the choir forged on and everyone was relieved when it finally ended 30 minutes before the 7:00 concert time! 

The church fed everyone, providing pasta, salad, and pizza, which was so wonderful after many days of eating in restaurants. There was a very "homey" feel to the church and the people who volunteered their time to provide the meal. The choir concert was lovely, with area church members in attendance, including one SMWC alum from the class of 1970! Some highlights were the opening piece which incorporates whistles and bird sounds (isn't the human voice incredible?), a set of multi-cultural folk songs (Korea, Ireland, and China represented!), a lively piece which includes pats and snaps, and a set of sacred pieces, which ended with the song "Invitation" which the choir sang in France two years ago. As they sang, their faces brightened, their bodies relaxed, and their voices filled the room. One of Jeffrey Mann's church choirs (he said there are 9 different kinds of ensembles at the church) joined the SMWC choir for two pieces (Clausen's "Set Me as a Seal" and a gospel piece) at the end of the concert. Once again, a collaborative effort led to a wonderful musical impact!

Michael Boswell conducting Chorale

Jeffrey Manns and Michael Boswell (tenors/conductors extraordinaire)

Michael Boswell conducting Madrigals

Shelby Partin, flute

The group then got back on the bus and headed for Philadelphia where they will stay one night, sightsee all day on Wednesday (apparently in rain), and then head to Washington, D.C. Wednesday night!

Tomorrow morning Dr. Anneliese Payne (SMWC faculty) and Dr. Janet Clark (Vice President of Academic Affairs) will leave the tour and head back to Indiana by plane. The SMWC Choir wish them safe travels and say thank you for joining them on the trip!

Another bus teaching moment

Mother/Daughter pic (Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

Youngest member of Choir Tour (Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

Passing time (Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)
(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)

(Photo Credit: K. Boswell)