Atlantic Coast Tour: Day Three

Brigid Lucey '18

We woke up early Sunday morning in Charlotte, North Carolina and drifted downstairs to our homestay’s kitchen for a 6AM breakfast of pancakes, fresh fruit, and coffee!  The night before, we’d arrived to find gifts on our pillows: travel size amenities and North Carolina t-shirts, and we six Chorus members had all slept soundly after our long drive the day before. 

Sunday was a TRAV day, so I donned a sea foam green dress reminiscent of the 1940s and a pair of heels.  (Note: TRAV is a business casual dress code the Chorus adheres to when we travel to perform.) The weather in Atlanta was predicted to be sunny and warm, so I didn’t even bother to wear a jacket.  What luck to be able to steal away from Ithaca and enjoy some warm weather before spring truly arrives!  We packed up our bags and new treats from the Williams family and they drove us to the bus pickup point as the sun rose over the city of Charlotte.  We passed enormous churches on the way; I thought forward to the rest of the week and of how many beautiful spaces we’d get to sing in.  We reached the bus and our driver, Penny, helped us load our bags under the bus.  A final goodbye and “Thank you!” to the Williams and we were off! 

The tour bus is, as you’d expect, a unique experience capable of bringing groups together but also of creating an arena for tension and stress to mount.  Before embarking on the tour, we decided to combat the fondly nicknamed “Tour Rage” with movies during particularly long rides.  Some Chorus members brought music, homework, logic puzzles, or light reading.  I brought a coloring book!  On Sunday, we watched The Breakfast Club during the ride to Atlanta.  Robert and Steve, our Director and Assistant Director respectively, admitted to the front of the bus that they were pleased with the selection and hadn’t expected us to have good taste.  (We later destroyed their newfound impression by watching Pitch Perfect and High School Musical.  Oh, well!)

On the way to Morehouse College we made a pit stop at the Ponce City Market, where we enjoyed about two hours of free time.  I made sure to get some fresh air in the outdoor areas, and a small group of us ventured to the park across the street to soak up the sun. 

Finally, we arrived at Morehouse.  Their Glee Club is an ensemble of talented, disciplined, and professional young men who demonstrated the epitome of “southern hospitality” to us during our evening at their school.  During our joint sound check, we marveled at how quickly they assembled on the stage (a speed which Robert joked that the Cornell Glee Club could never achieve).  They treated us to dinner at a dining hall on campus where we socialized and compared the inner workings of our groups, and then we all trooped back to the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center where the concert would begin at 7:00. 

The concert hall was almost completely comprised of wood, which made for one of the best acoustic spaces of the tour.  We enjoyed sitting in the audience to watch the Glee Club perform, then we rounded out the first half of the concert with our own individual set.  After intermission, the two ensembles combined to sing Meguru and Walk Together, Children in a powerful SATB choir.  We were honored to perform with such a wonderful group and their director, Dr. David Morrow. 


Atlantic Coast Tour: Day Two

By Katie Forkey '19

Second things are forever underappreciated. No one looks forward to their second time moving out or their second car with keen anticipation. Second place is never quite worthy of celebration. We don’t remember the second person to discover the light bulb. And love at second sight is hardly romantic. Gone is the newness and thrill, the pride and pedigree that is reserved only for those rare and deserving firsts.

The weight of the dreaded second place was heavy on the night of our concert in Charlotte. After a seven hour bus ride, I sat at our second venue of the Atlantic Coast Tour, mindlessly taking in the beauty of the arched ceilings and stained windows of the church. The milestone of first concert had passed, and the excitement from the first day had disappeared along with the many hours of sleep intended for the past two nights. I rehearsed, ate, changed, and lined up with the rest of the Chorus, all relatively cheerfully and willingly, but not particularly zealously. The same feeling lingered as we walked out into the sanctuary and greeted the few audience members who had chosen choral music over the last game of March Madness (little did we foresee the dangers of performing in North Carolina on April 3, 2017). Nevertheless, there we were: we were given our first pitch, and began.

There is something about the making of music that cannot quite be captured by any explanation or imitated by any experience. I stood there looking out at our conductor and the dozen or so people behind him, surrounded by these fifty women who have so quickly become my comrades and friends. I felt the exhaustion palpable in the air, mingled with the eager but a bit wary anticipation of the eight more days to come. Now more than ever I could tell that this concert was in the place of the dreaded second. Yet together with these simple sentiments there was another, one that cannot quite be grouped in with them but still cannot be separated. It didn’t matter that my eyes were already demanding effort to stay open. It didn’t matter that I and everyone around me still smelled faintly like the bus. It didn’t even matter that we were beat out of an audience by basketball. The only relevant thing was the weaving and crafting of sound, the floor beneath us and the walls around us vibrating and echoing, the mingling of fifty one voices into one concise and articulate statement of beauty.

At times like this, one of my few remembered high school lessons comes back to me. There is something which the ancient Greeks dubbed “kairos”: undefined in our age, it comes closest to quantifying this strange melange of joy, excitement, satisfaction, and longing that we cannot quite grasp. It is the moment when the human meets the divine; the infinite instant that unites the mortal and immortal, the mundane and sublime. It is this kairos which makes music-making worthwhile. So often we say that the music is its own reward, but without kairos, without that euphoria of creation, that claim is empty. It is kairos which we attempt to communicate, not the sounds alone, when we perform. It cannot be stopped by exhaustion or apprehension or low attendance, because it is the very thing which dispels all three. That night in Charlotte, it certainly did. For with kairos there can be no seconds.

Atlantic Coast Tour: Day One

By Christina Lee '18

       I won’t lie, this year’s tour started off a little rocky for me. I woke up to the sound of my housemate’s voice asking if I was ready to go. “It’s 7:41!” She said. We had to be at the tour bus by 7:45. Needless to say, I was a bit frazzled. Was I completely surprised? Considered I’d stayed up until 3 AM packing, not so much.

            Lucky for me, our bus was having some technical difficulties and wouldn’t be ready to go for at least another half hour. My housemates and I arrived at Statler Hall damp with rain and sweat, but thankful that we weren’t the sole reason the Chorus would be a little behind schedule.

            After a quick bus switch, the Chorus was on its way to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The morning’s sour start was definitely sweetened by the prospect of lots of chocolate later in the day. We arrived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and started our day with a workshop with a couple of high school choirs at our Tour Manager’s old high school. Liz introduced us to her former teacher and two really talented groups. I always love workshops because it gives the Chorus space to reflect on why we continue singing after high school (because we love it) and allows us to share our music with others (which we also love doing). Plus, we get to play fun rhythm games and perform in rounds with the other choirs. It’s always a really fun way to engage with music differently in new places.

            Next, we were off to Hershey Chocolate World. There, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the gigantic gift shop. The food was all chocolate themed. I loved the pulled pork sandwich topped with chocolate sauce so much that I literally dreamt about it later on tour. Then, we all hopped onto a historic Hershey trolley for a tour of the town. After an hour filled with fun facts and free chocolate, we were back at Chocolate World, hopping on the bus to head to our concert venue.

            Our concert was at the beautiful Messiah Lutheran Church in Harrisburg. The first performance of tour is always a bit interesting. It’s our first chance as a choir to show off our sound in a brand new place with an audience who, in many cases, have never heard the Chorus perform before. However, the concert typically comes after a long day of travel and exhaustion. Maybe it was a leftover sugar high from Hershey or maybe it was the pure excitement of the first day of tour, but the Chorus overcame our sleepiness and pulled together a lovely concert. It felt good to hear pieces we had been working on for a semester reinvigorated and gave us a good idea of the aspects of pieces we could really dig into over the course of our ten day tour.

            That night, I was home stayed by my friend Sarah’s wonderful family. A few other chorus women and I spent some quality time bonding over food and Sarah’s dog, but before we knew it we had to go to bed. The next day, our wake up call was 5 AM and we needed to rest up! Tour Day One: check. Only nine more days to go.

A Note For New Members

By Johnna Margalotti '19

Here we are, at the start of another semester that now sprawls dauntingly ahead of me but will once again be far behind me too soon.  Just the other week, I sat in Lincoln Atrium welcoming another round of nervous callbackees, and couldn’t help but become a bit nostalgic thinking of my own Chorus audition freshman fall.  I remember it all so vividly – chatting with upperclassmen who were younger at the time than I am now yet who somehow seemed so mature.  I laughed when a few of the auditoners thought I was a senior, but was instantly humbled to think that they might look up to me just as I looked up to the older Chorus members who calmed my nerves before my own audition. 

That’s when it dawned on me: I am now a middle-aged Chorus woman. I am entering my fourth semester in the group, with nearly half of my career behind me and only half remaining.
As bewildered as I am that so much of my time in the Chorus has already elapsed, I am excited for what lies ahead.  Most importantly, I am excited to welcome a new batch of members to share my remaining time in the Chorus with.  I am excited for them to sing in their first Twilight concert, their first Vespers, their first Commencement.  I am excited to make memories and jokes with them, to make them feel welcome as I was made to feel welcome when I first joined the Chorus. 

So, to my lovely new friends – Katie, Lucy, Gauri, Somi, Dana, and Grace – welcome! I implore you to cherish every moment of your time in the Chorus, because I promise you nothing will prepare you for how quickly it passes.  There will be times sitting in rehearsal when you are forced to tediously sing the same three measures over and over again in pursuit of some yet undiscovered new musical idea, and you will think that those two hours of rehearsal have managed to defy the laws of time and space and stretch out to infinity.  And then, before you know it, you will have survived infinity 40 times over, wishing you could live it all over again because it is such a privilege to be able to enter into this realm that exists outside of time, outside of the daily stress of Cornell.  Enter into this realm willfully and joyfully, always with the awareness that your time here is a finite resource, and glean from this experience all that you possibly can.

My advice to you, and the advice that I hope to heed myself in the next half of my Chorus journey, is to immerse yourself fully – not only musically but also academically and socially – in the incredible experience that lies before you. Be open to new people, new ideas, new ways of thinking and being.  Go to Chariot nights, sing the “Evening Song” on Ho Plaza even when it only 15 degrees outside, sit next to someone new every rehearsal, visit Sage Basement often.  Bring a pencil to rehearsal (and use it). Sing boldly.  And when the next set of new members comes along, remind yourself what it felt like to be in their shoes, and welcome them with open arms.  Keep the circle unbroken.