Having all returned safely from New York, we are basking in the memories we gained from singing at Carnegie Hall. And we are most grateful for our wonderful and generous congregation, without whose support we would not have been able to participate! We represented our part of the world very well – it was an amazing adventure!
We arrived in the Big Apple in relatively balmy weather and immediately began checking out the various restaurants, sites, and shops. Many of us stayed in midtown hotels, so we were within walking distance of Central Park. Being on West Coast time is a decided advantage in The City That Never Sleeps! Some of us went to the opera, some to a Broadway show, some to the New York Philharmonic, and some to a jazz club in the Village. Rehearsals were in Park Central Hotel for one long morning and one long afternoon. Composer Sir Karl Jenkins stopped by and there were autographs and photo ops. The rest of the time we were free to explore the city.
Many of us visited the 911 Memorial. It is very moving to look into the huge square holes in the fountains that sit where the World Trade Center towers once stood. A sacred place, where so many lives were lost. How fitting that we had come to NYC to sing of peace. And indeed, as many of you know who heard our May 9th performance of The Armed Man, the music is moving and the film heart-rending. I personally could not get the refrain out of mind as I gazed at the names on the memorial stone: “God shall wipe away all tears….”
Sunday morning, several worship services were attended: high church complete with incense at St. Thomas Episcopal with a heavenly Men’s and Boys’ choir, a rousing gospel choir at First Presbyterian, and the full Catholic experience at St. Patrick’s. All are on 5th Avenue.
On the eve of the concert, as it got colder outside and began to snow, 24 of us gathered at Marseille Restaurant on 9th & 44th for a lively group dinner. The French-Mediterranean fare was delicious, the company delightful! Many of us walked back to the hotel through always-brightly-lit Times Square. The next morning, Central Park was beautifully dusted with fresh snow.
On performance day, we had a “short” rehearsal with the orchestra, and the production crew showed us how to get on and off the stage. As there were almost 300 singers, this took a while. Small groups of singers were bustled into separate rooms, some of which were 4 or 5 stories higher than the stage level. Our queues snaked down the stairs and gradually we were able to get into place. Whatever organization of voice section had been no longer applied, yet we managed to all fit onto the stage. The full symphonic orchestra was fantastic! What an incredibly special experience to sing on this hallowed stage.
Aprés le concert, we attended a gala buffet banquet at Rosie O’Grady’s on 7th Ave. There was plenty of scrumptious food and an open bar. The Swiss and German groups serenaded us with a couple of traditional songs, but we all joined in on the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann and Dona Nobis Pacem.
We are very proud to have been the only American choir to sing in The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (the first part of the program included other American choirs doing other Jenkins’ compositions), and we are already talking of doing something similar again!