Chorale makes older women cry with joy
Beautiful weather? Check.
tango? Check. Great currency
exchange rate? Check. Peerless
Oh, right, and music. Lots of it, in several languages.
This all refers, of course, to the Colby Chorale's spring break trip to Argentina. The experience only really came to an end on the night of April 4, with a grand concert here on the Hill conducted as always by Paul Machlin, the College's Arnold Bernhard Professor of the Humanities.
As for the beginning, some American Airlines mishaps resulted in a four-hour delay (the chorale entertained other stranded fliers with an impromptu performance in the Logan Airport terminal) and a diversion of 20 Colby singers to Chile before finally making it to Buenos Aires half a day late (not enough seats were available for the whole group on the delayed flight to Miami).
The actual tour, according to everyone this writer talked to--and a blog at http://colbychorale2009. blogspot.com--was a blast and a half. In addition to a few weird, anecdote-worthy happenings (like the time "Fern [Jeremiah '09] had her purse snatched and turned around and grabbed it right back," Dan Echt '11 recounted, or when Lauren Kerr '12 met a local whom she learned had acquaintances in common with her mother from time spent teaching Spanish in Maine), they performed for full houses with stunningly enthusiastic audiences, who often sang along and sometimes even danced.
Their first concert, a closed performance for the American ambassador and his guests, was originally scheduled to be at the American embassy in Buenos Aires. Michael Clark '11 wrote on the tour blog: "The embassy is this really ugly gray building that looks as though it used to be a warehouse, so we considered it fortunate when we learned that our concert had been moved to the residence of the ambassador.
With its marble staircases, tapestries, and glass artwork, the house seemed as though it were the manor of a French noble."
Of their concerts for Argentine audiences, Kerr said, "All ages had really come out. I think because they held them in churches and schools it was a real community turnout." And a concert in the city of Tandil didn't end before the Chorale found itself performing two encores for an audience that wouldn't stop clapping. A local choir sang for the Colby group, and hosted a reception for them after the concert. Another highlight of Tandil was a pick-up game of soccer that Echt and several others played with local children and apparently postcard-perfect tour guide Ignacio (Iggy for short).
It would be a mistake not to devote at least a little space here to the actual music. Apart from traditional Argentine pieces, the program included Advent pieces conducted by Jim Rockafellow '10 and Menya Hinga '09, two settings of the hymn Ave Maria (one of which Byron Meinerth '09 recalled on the blog, "made older women cry with joy") and an original piece by Peter Ré, Machlin's predecessor at the College. (Ré taught for 30 years, recently turned 90 and was present in the audience.) The chorale also commissioned a composition from Faculty Fellow in Music Ryan Vigil. Untitled and exactly seven minutes, 12 seconds long, it features no words, only sounds. Many of the sounds are reminiscent of machine noises, like heavy switches being thrown and air hissing out of tires or valves. There was also some rapid, unsettling whispering that started in the basses, spread to the rest of the group, and crescendoed almost into full-fledged shouting. The piece featured a wide variety of transitions between consonants, vowels and other sounds; some were abrupt, some allowed silence, some had sounds fade out to be replaced by others that had already been in the background. Becky Thorburn '09, Kevin Baier '11, Steve Olzerowicz '10, Ramsey Meigs '11, Sara Burbine '09, Alix Luce '09 and Hinga featured in various solos, and the whole affair ended on a powerful note with two African- American spirituals.
Best to leave the final word to the blog. Meinerth on the trip: "I could talk about how quickly the past week went by, but I won't. I can't do that, because we did everything to the fullest, and that's really all that matters.... Paul, thanks for providing us with friends and memories to last a lifetime."