Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 1 Travel

We are on our way.We arrived at the airport to find we are travelling with hundreds of Japanese school children all dressed in uniform... This makes for one packed 747!

Violet is as ever, in charge and in control!!!! (except she is unfortunately at the end of the queue)

It is little ironic that our trip to Taiwan is scheduled to take less time than it took for us to get to Prince Edward Island this spring. That shows how big Canada is.

 I get the pleasure of sitting next to Cameron the "unofficial choir historian" His stories only get better with time. I am sure the flight will "fly" by as I hear how the basses taped the words of the Finnish national anthem on the backs of the altos in the Estonian chamber choir for a "memorized" performance on a live national TV brodcast.
I am sure he will have us rolling down the aisles in no time.

Our destination! (in approx 19 hours)

Day 2 Kaohsiung-Tainan

After 21 hours of travel we have finally made it. The plane trip was exhausting but we all seemed to fare quite well.

Well, most of us...

Grant recuperating after the long flight.

Our hotel

The lobby.

Kaohsiung is the second biggest city in Taiwan (1.5 million people). This morning we have already made 3 costume changes before 10 am. Each time wearing a little less clothing as the temperature increased.

David, our choir president, came to the airport and gave each of us a Canada scarf for this tour!!! We love you and appreciate everything you do (although in this weather speedos may have been more appropriate)...(for some)

The city of Kaohsiung gave us a great bus tour of the city in the morning and we got to see some amazing places. Our tour guides Oscar and Angela were so nice and hospitable. Highlights included: the main stadium for the 2009 World games, the temple and pagoda of the tiger and dragon, and the former consulate of the British embassy, which have some of the best views of Kaohsiung.

Our tour guide Angela (middle) with Sopranos: Emily (left) and Caitlin (right)

Lorraine and Caitlin with our other guide Oscar.

My alto girls Jenny, Marla, and Dolores. Where is Fabi?

There she is! Who would have known she would find love the first day?

The Tiger and Dragon Pagoda

Larry and Marla

I climbed to the top! Huff huff

The old British consulate.

Amazing views of the city.

Grace and the university in the background

Lorraine purchased a massage "torture" device. Have fun, Cliff, when she gets home.

The city then treated us to one amazing lunch at a seafood restaurant. We took a ferry across the harbour to get there.

Caitlin, Grace, John Trotter and Jon Washburn on the ferry.

How romantic.

So good!!!

As if this day couldn't get any better, the city then took us to a DIY craft store where we made driftwood sculptures. I didn't realize it was going to be a competition or else I would have tapped into my deep artistic well.

Mark is hard at work

Lorraine seems inspired.

Everyone showing their creations

And Alicia is the winner. Her pig won the big prize!!!

We are now on the bus to Tainan, the old capital of Taiwan. Thank you so much to the City of Kaohsiung for making our first day so enjoyable!

The choir under a Banyan tree.
Stay tuned for more!

Day 3 Tainan-Time to Work

For two lucky nights we get the pleasure of staying in one of the nicest hotels I have ever been in. When you leave your room, you walk out onto a balcony that overlooks a huge atrium, at the bottom of which is a fitness facility. I have not actually had the pleasure of trying it out, but it sure looks state of the art.

At 5am I was lying in bed wide awake trying desparately to sleep and keep quiet, when I looked over and saw Steve (my roommate on tour) with a glow coming from under his covers as he was reading his emails on his phone.
It turns out that each of us had been up since 4am and were both just lying there trying not to wake the other. Since we were awake we went for a walk.

Steve on the busy streets of Tainan which were not so busy at 6am.

The atrium...18 floors up (I couldn't look down)

The beautiful lobby

Last night we were treated to a 12 course meal by the Division of Culture from the city of Tainan. We all could have literally rolled back to our hotel.

Cecelia Chueh (middle) is our "cultural liason". She directs the Egret Women's choir in Vancouver and sits on our board. She is the leading force behind the Taiwan leg of this tour. A special thanks for all her work and connections is needed!!

After dinner, Bill found out what he actually ate. (Larry didn't seem to mind.)

In the morning we had a workshop at the Tainan Theological College and seminary, with a choir of music teachers.

The sign says it all.

Music teacher choir.

The music teacher choir and the VCC women workshop Elgar (that meant a 30 min. break for the men... haha).

We presented some gifts as tokens of appreciation.

We then had the afternoon off to rest and prepare for our first concert. (much needed nap)

The women met early to get some pictures of their new costumes.

Lorraine tried to organize us.

Look at those pipes!

Will riding in our lavish gypsy caravan that took us to the concert.


Day 4 Tainan-Taipei

Last night we sang our first concert. What an audience! At the end of our Taiwanese set people were wiping away tears. At the end of the concert, people screamed for encores!!! Violet sold over 80 CDs. Afterwards most of the choir, feeling quite elated, went to a fun lounge called Lips for drinks.

Nothing like a few drinks to chase away the jet lag.
I slept for a full 8 hours. Hooray!!

In the morning we all woke up and I had to sadly say goodbye to our hotel. I never quite worked up the courage to push the buttons that controlled the space-age toilet (except the flush that is).

The city of Tainan organized a tour of two historical temples. We were met at the first by the deputy mayor and a city councillor who were both at the concert the night before. They presented us with a "medallion" (Cecelia said it was equivalent to getting the key to the city).

The first temple was a Confucius temple which has one of the oldest and largest banyan trees in all of Taiwan. It almost died a few months ago and specialists were flown in to save it. Judging by the new buds, it seems to have worked.

We also went to Koxinga's shrine.

We all were given incense and instructions to kneel, make a wish, and place the sticks in sand in front of the altar. After, I immediately went and bought a lottery ticket.

Some of the more senior members of the choir were reminiscing of "simpler times" back in Saskatchewan.

Our guide Anton was so polite, earnest, passionate and friendly! We were remarkably good actors, seeing as though none of us could understand a word of his English.

We sang a song for him and made a friend for life.

We then were taken to the Chi Mei museum. Chi Mei is one of the largest manufacturers of plastics in the world. 10% of thier profits goes toward arts and culture, like procuring things for thier museum (and bringing us to Tainan city). Sorry, no pictures were allowed. I can only describe it as priceless art, priceless antiquities, and a taxidermy zoo.
You had to get your temperature taken before they would let you in to make sure you were not sick.

Our leader is hot... but not too hot to enter the museum!

We then took the fastest train I have ever been on to Taipei.

Tainan-Taipei: 300 km in 1 hour 30 min.

Day 5 Taipei

We made it to Taipei!
At the main train station there are people everywhere you look.
When traveling with the VCC, we the singers are not in control. We don't have to know trivial things like where we are staying or going, so none of us does. All we do is follow the leader. I jokingly remarked to Jon that it would be easy to get swallowed up by the sea of people and I could just see it, me, lost in Taipei with not even the faintest idea of the hotel's name. He imediately called a halt and made everyone "count off" to make sure we were all there. We were.
The choir was last in Taipei for an international choral festival in 2002. We had a fantastic guide back then named Jason. Seven years later he met us at our hotel and took us all to the Shilin night market (the biggest in Taiwan). He looks exactly the same, and has not aged a day.

I refused to wear the mask. It clashed with my shirt. (Until we found designer ones in the market.)

I won't even try to explain the night market. I think it is something you have to experience. There are smells I am positive do not exist in nature, more people in one space than I thought possible, mix in anything and everything is for sale.
We all managed to find a few souvenirs...
T-shirts which make absolutely no sense seemed to be quite popular.

A favorite. Please email me ( what you think this means. The best interpretation will get a prize!


The next morning we were left to our own devices. Steve and I decided to go to Taipei 101; officially it is still the world's tallest building until the completion of the Burj Dubai in December.

The amazing view.

The elevator ride took all of 30 seconds to go up 90 stories (apparently the fastest in the world). It felt like taking off in an airplane with no turbulance, ear pops and all.

We made our way back to the hotel and went to the rehearsal in preparation of tonight's big concert. The hall that we are singing in is something else.

The National Concert hall of Taipei seats around 2000, was built in 1987, and cost 7 billion dollars!! (Taiwanese dollars)

Will told me this is the biggest organ in all of Asia.

We were all feeling a little apprehensive and nervous before tonight's big concert!

Wish us luck... I mean break a leg.

Day 6 Taipei-Tokyo

Last night we did something that we have never done in my 10 years in the choir. Backstage, before going on, we gathered in a circle and all joined hands and just centered and shared each other's energy. I am not the most "new-agey" kind of person, but something clicked and we honestly sang the show of our lives. After the first piece on the program people screamed and it just got better from there. Three encores ended the show. We all felt that a very special event had just happened.

Fabi basking in the glow of the "green wall" in the atrium of the concert hall.
After the concert we were taken out by the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus to a Hot Pot restaurant. The last time I went for Hot Pot back home, no one knew what they were doing and it turned out to be a frothy mess. This time under the careful tutelage of our hosts, eating the chicken feet and pig's ears seemed more like delicacies as opposedo to punishment.

Jason, Gordon, and Fortune

So good!! It is the same idea as a fondue. You cook meat and things in various flavoured broths. The secret is to only cook a little at a time and to make sure things cook for long enough. Hello salmonella! Yum Yum
The altos were the most rambunctious... of course!

The sopranos were, as always, demure.

Friendships were firmly forged, and saying goodbye at the end of the evening was honestly quite sad. It was a late night, but a real good one.
There was so much boiling soup it made my brand new glasses fog up. I took them off and forgot them on the table when we left. I owe Grace, my beautiful dreamer (that is her solo) for seeing and saving them.

Yes, they are real.... :)

This morning we woke up early and were taken to the National Palace Museum.
In 1945, due to political instability on the mainland, the Chinese National Party evacuated the treasures from the Forbidden City to the island of Taiwan. There is so much in the collection that the museum cycles each exhibition every 3 months. It takes 104 years to exhibit everything. It is huge, easily on the same scale as the British Museum, and we had 1 hour. Run!!! I went to the gift shop for souvenirs.

One of many buildings.

Then we were off to the airport! Hello, Tokyo!

Day 7 Tokyo

We made it to Japan, that means we sadly had to say goodbye to Cecelia and Taiwan. We had such a great time and will all miss it there.
Tokyo is spotless, orderly and gigantic.(except for the hotel rooms, orderly and spotless yes... gigantic... no)

I guess you sacrifice size for location.

This morning I woke up and set off with Cameron in search of breakfast. A great thing about Tokyo is that in front of each restaurant they have plastic displays of the food that they serve. We found a great little spot and camped out there for a time.

Mmmm, plastic soup!
Charles and Lucille Flavelle joined up with our group and will be traveling with us for the remainder of the tour.

Charles with John T.
They own a little chocolate company back home called Purdy's.
We also picked up Tama Copithorne. She was the major force and organizer behind this part of the tour.

Tama (middle) has us all trained in the proper etiquette and proticol, which was put to the test as the choir got dressed and went to the Canadian Embassy and sang a mini-concert/tea party for the royal Emperor and Empress of Japan!

Vi had her speech ready.

All those years of playing Princess tea parties are coming to fruition!!
Their Majesties are the only Imperial Household left in the world. Where others are mere royalty, there is only one Emperor.

We were first taken on a tour of the Embassy. The outdoor rock garden was designed to represent the different regions in Canada.

The north.

The Pacific.

The Prairies!

Just kidding! We love and miss the bread basket of Canada!

We were then taken to the Ambassador's official residence in preparation for the concert. They thought of absolutely everything.

The concert included just 10 VIP guests.

Their Majesties' chairs! The man in the suit is the Canadian Ambasador.

We practised getting into one line so the we could each be introduced by our names to Their Highnesses.

There were no pictures allowed because the other embassies could lose face, and it may show favoritism towards Canada. Also, just transporting the Royals required 4 different police forces including helicopters. Talk about a complicated production!
It was out of this world. The Emperor and Empress spoke to each of us, and they were the cutest and most elegant people I have ever met. This night was one I will remember for the rest of my life!! After the concert there was a reception and Their Majesties were ushered around so that they could have a brief conversation with each of us. The Emperor told us the last time he visited Canada prior to this summer's visit was when he went to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, when he visited on the way back to Japan.

Fancy hors d'oeuvres

What a pleasure! And honour! It isn't every day you get to meet Royalty.

The Olympic clock here. Makes me almost miss home.

Day 8 Tokyo

After meeting the Imperials, Steve, Will, and I went out for dinner in an area called Shinjuku. It has one of the busiest train stations in the world with over 1 million people traveling through it each day.

The packed train.
We found a great little Indian place.

Shinjuku is the futuristic city that Blade Runner was filmed in. Neon signs everywhere!

Today we went for a rehearsal with the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, with whom we will be sharing a concert tomorrow.

Chifuru Matsubara, the conductor of TPC, came to Vancouver 2 years ago as a guest conductor for one of our concerts. It was great to see him again.

We sang 2 joint pieces together, so we sat in mixed formation. It was a little intimidating singing in Japanese with native speakers sitting right beside you, but with our excellent language coaching we were well prepared and held our own.

A great thing about traveling with a group like this is that people split off and do their own thing. People took a boat trip of the city, some went shopping in Shibuya, and some went out in Ginza.

Ladies were off for a night on the town.
Big concert tomorrow!

Day 9-Tokyo

Japan is the neatest place and has some of the coolest neighbourhoods. This morning I went to Harajuku.
It is so neat with all sorts of designer shops full of "must buys". I fought my way through the throngs of Japanese schoolgirls who were buying rhinestones for their cellphones to pick up some cute bibs for my new nephew. I realized afterwards that I spent $50.00, not $5.00 like I thought I did. My Yen, like my common sense, seem to be depleting quickly.

Everything in this store is pink!

I got some dog treats for the pets in my life.

In the afternoon we had a dress rehearsal at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan theatre. The Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus is such a great group! I had some Canada pencils to give away.

We presented a gift to their director, Chifuru. After, I got some pictures with longtime friends.

Our sister choir!!
In the basement of the theatre we left out mark.

Didn't write this... just liked it.


Sorry my posts have become a bit sporadic... Who would have thought wireless signals were hard to come by in Japan?

Day 10 and 11 Shunan - Hiroshima

Our concert with the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus went exceptionally well. They sang the first half of the concert, and premiered a new work by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. We sang all Canadian works in the second half. Our ensembles have such different sounds; I honestly think it would be hard to compare the two. A friend of mine from Vancouver was visiting her brother in Tokyo, and she came to the show. She said she was very proud of us.

Anyway, we got up early the next morning and went on a fast train to Osaka where we transfered to another train -- apparently not as fast -- to Tokuyama station. (Even the "not as fast" train was going well over 200 km per hour!)

It is farther in the south and you could feel the difference in temperature and see more tropical vegetation. On the way, we caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.

We arrived to find ourselves in a hotel full of sumo wrestlers... of course!

He is the grand champion.

This is the only person I have ever seen who tried to stare down Vi...

We sang at a peace concert. The concert opened with about 10 children from the community who got up and sang "O Canada"! It was possibly the cutest thing I have seen.
We sang a set, then there was a short film about human torpedos!
The area that we were staying in was famous during the war for its young men who sailed out in these kamikaze torpedos. They were martyrs in that they sacrificed themselves for their country.

Jenny had some pictures and stories that her choir and students had made, which she presented to the children. It was so lovely that the children actually made some pictures for her to bring back to her kids in Vancouver. It is true that music has no borders.

All I am saying is... this bus would be illegal in Canada. 26 people in a vehicle built for 12...

A great group of ladies!!

In the morning we got up and headed for the train station again. We had a long trip to get to Izumo, but we were going to stop along the way for a couple of hours at the museum in Hiroshima. I was not prepared for, nor expecting, the impact that visiting Hiroshima museum had on each of us.

This building at ground zero is left in ruins as a reminder of the horror of the nuclear bomb, dropped Aug. 6, 1945. It killed hundreds of thousands of people and has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Childrens' peace memorial.

Please read Jenny's following post about her experience and reaction to this profound place.

Cranes, war, music and I

I'll try to keep this short. It probably won't be. At least you know the effort is made.

There aren't many opportunities as a Canadian to really get hit by the enormity of war. I've only experienced it on the three occasions, and the first and the last brought me full circle.

The first time was a Remembrance Day assembly at my Calgary elementary school in Grade 4. In a dimly lit gymnasium, the entire school was read the story of Sadako and a Thousand Cranes. As I sat there, blinking at the dark walls, I began to comprehend that war didn't just have to do with military men with guns, that it made an innocent young girl a few years older than me lose her life slowly and painfully. Afterwards, we folded our own cranes to be sent to the Children's Peace Memorial in Hiroshima. We and another elementary school held a peace march with signs and media. We sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Give Peace a Chance. It made an impact.

The second time was on tour with the Mount Royal Youth Choir in 1998, when we visited Vimy Ridge. Two things struck me - the towering monument to the Universal Soldier, of course, but also the hilly, ridged ground, created by mortar shells and underground tunnels which had caved in. We sang a spiritual at the monument and it resonated off the sides of the ridge.

And the third time was yesterday.

We stepped off the train at Hiroshima and I felt the pit of my stomach. I wasn't expecting this.  I thought I'd feel a little solemn, thoughtful, perhaps. Instead I felt as though I really didn't want to be in the same place as past obliteration. It was odd. This was further amplified by the fact that it was a) cloudy and rainy, and b) that my water bottle had exploded in my garment and turned 9 of the 25 of my student's music projects for children in Japan into a watercolour mush. (I'm so sorry, kids...I did get the chance to hand most of them out the night before.)

On the streetcar to Hiroshima's Ground Zero I stared blankly out at what now seemed to be a bustling city and felt a brooding sense of anger at how one group of humanity could make a decision to turn hundreds of thousands of others into dust and kill the rest with cancer. I didn't like the fact that people seemed upbeat in these circumstances, although in another way I was happy to see it. I didn't understand why this was hitting me like it was. We got to the Peace Park -- I read a sign pointing out where the bomb had hit and was this close to getting teary.

I was feeling like an idiot. I'm not much of a crier. I'm normally relatively stoic. I look around at people crying in movies with a quizzical grin. It was bothering me that I was bothered. It felt silly.

We walked across a bridge and I had almost found my equilibrium again when someone from the choir motioned me over to an exhibit and said, "well, there are more than a thousand cranes here, but this should do". These weren't Sadako's cranes, no. They were, however, the creations of thousands of schoolchildren from all over the world for the Children's Peace Monument, keeping the spirit of Sadako alive. I lost all composure, let out a sob, turned around, walked away and needed two minutes to get myself together again. 

Again, I felt like an idiot. Like some sort of drama queen who fails to truly comprehend the real emotional impact. I had no relatives from this area. I was a privileged Canadian. I felt as though I was cheapening the survivor's actual experience by sitting there blubbering.

Since I'd sat there crying, I'd lost most of my time to actually view the exhibit and most of the choir had already moved on. I tried hurriedly to take as many pictures of as many cranes as I could, trying to retain, realizing when I was almost done that the crane I'd made in Grade 4 was probably in there somewhere.

We moved on to the museum where Sadako's actual cranes would be. They were supposed to be near the end of the exhibit - I didn't feel I had much time. I made my way through the museum, seeing pictures of mushroom clouds and the Enola Gay pilots calling the bombing a "success" and people's skin sloughing off and felt a dull dread in the pit of my stomach that I would made an idiot of myself once again. Then, next to an exhibit explaining the effects of radiation poisoning and cancer on the children, there they were.

They were so tiny.

They weren't made out of origami paper, but little wrappers. I imagined a green-and-white one to be some sort of peppermint, probably a hospital treat. Each of their little heads and wings were carefully cocked to one side or the other. I looked down at my museum brochure and realized I'd been unconsciously making tiny little folds in the side of it.

I counted them and got different numbers each time - 43, then 40, then 41. The daughter of one of our Shunan concert organizers sidled up next to me and counted 41. I told her mom who this was the only story about the war that had really hit me as a child. She nodded and seemed to understand.

I stood there for about 30 minutes with my forehead against the glass, peering at these tiny little creatures. It struck me that the exhibit attracted every child who walked by - the preschoolers who liked the pretty colours and dainty shapes, the school-aged children with their yellow hats who had obviously heard the story before and stood there in reverence.

Standing there, I started to understand the content faces of the Hiroshima natives on the train, started to understand why this was saved for the end of the exhibit. Each little bird was imbued with a very simple emotion. Hope. I understood then that the story wasn't about a little girl who had her life taken away through such catastrophic circumstances, but that she had given something to herself and to others which was so much more powerful than all of that. It lifted my spirits.

This blog did get long-winded. My apologies. It has not escaped my attention that music has had some role to play in each of these experiences. I'm grateful for that.

- Jenny McLaren

Day 12 Izumo

We said goodbye to rainy Hiroshima. It was a 3.5-hour-long trip on the bus through some pretty amazing scenery to get to Izumo. I didn't realize Japan was so mountainous. We went through one postcard picture village after the next.

We arrived at the hotel at Izumo right before supper to be greeted in the hotel lobby by six young girl taiko drummers. Welcome to Izumo!!

They played us 3 songs; you could feel the music reverberate right through your body and we were mesmerized by their drumming. There was a girl in the back row who couldn't have been more than 7 years old. Just watching her concentration and her dedication put a smile on my face.

Izumo reminds me of Tofino in British Columbia. We are at a hotel where the waves are crashing only 20 feet from our room. So beautiful!!!

On the beach close to our hotel.

We put our feet in the Japan Sea. Very warm, but a large wave came and soaked us above our knees.

The hall where our concert will be.

We were taken out to a French restaurant for dinner.

We had a workshop with a choir made up of about 90 or so citizens from Izumo. We will be performing with them tomorrow night -- a song we have dubbed "The Happy Bunny Song".

Still not entirely sure what this song is about.

They are so nice!!

Since Steve and I were given the largest room at the hotel (karma has its benefits), we decided to have a room party. A fun night for all.


Day 13 Izumo

Izumo is known in Japan as the birthplace of myths and legends. It is home to the oldest and most important Shinto shrine in the whole country. Apparently all of the gods throughout the nation gather at the Taisha shrine in Izumo each October. ( I was 3 days late, but better late...)
I have sung in many, many church services, but in this case it was our songs that were actually given as an offering. A very special morning.

We had to wash our hands and lips in order to enter the shrine.

Robert (middle) works for the city of Izumo as an interpreter. He managed to catch the eye of many a choir member...

We were seated and had a sacred tea ceremony. We had sweets first (very sweet) and then a bitter tea (very bitter).

The sweet... a.k.a. sugar cube

Bitter tea... only palatable after the sugar cube.
We then were given vestments to wear, we washed our hands again (no H1N1 here) and were given a thimbleful of holy sake.

Mmm... sake

We processed in 3 lines to the holy shrine where we gave our offering.
Every 60 years the shrine is renovated -- they showed us some of the techniques used.

A demonstration of the roof construction. It is about a foot thick and made of layer upon layer of a special tree bark held together with bamboo nails.

The high priest was sure that the God of Izumo liked our gift.

It was a national holiday in Japan, so our concert was at 2 in the afternoon. I am sure the 50 or so people who had to stand at the back of the hall (every seat was full) had sore feet by the time it was over as there was a childrens' choir, ladies' choir, mens' choir, plus we sang a whole program, encore and all. We then sang 3 pieces with the large massed choir made up of the citizens. The audience loved it and just clapped and clapped.
After, there was a toast and a photo session. The toast included Koto players and a dance routine from the children. Kind of like a post-concert concert.

We learned how to play the koto.

Speeches were given by our oldest and youngest members.

We were then ushered off to the post-concert concert reception dinner hosted by the Izumo-Canada Friendship Society. They wanted to make us all feel like home so they served us all ceasars, the Canadian drink.

Of course the altos were soon out of control.

And the sopranos were not too far behind.

Well... some of them.

There was a speech from the mayor of Izumo who was not at the concert, but got a text from someone telling him it was very good. (Like a true politician he did not miss the reception.)

The Mayor. 

That started it.
What followed was speech after speech and presentation after presentation. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

I think Caitlin said it best when I asked her what she would remember the most about this trip, and she answered, "The people and the hospitality that they have shown us."
I think I agree.


Day 15 and 16 Kyoto

We made the paper again! This time in colour!

We took the train from Izumo to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It took us around 5 hours, and we had just enough time to check into our hotel before we went off to perform a concert.

So Japanese.

We were joined by a local womens' choir for the final piece on the programme. Their director also has a mens' choir which came to Vancouver and sang with Chor Leoni at MusicFest Vancouver about 5 years ago.

With 1000 tickets sold, the concert was pretty well sold out. People were lined up around the block.

This concert was presented by Pana Musica. It is a sheet music store here in Kyoto that specializes in choral music. This was the first time that they have presented a concert. The evening went off so well that we were told it will definitely not be the last.

Some of the awesome staff from Pana Musica.

Marla, the singers' representative to the board, made a very nice speech/presentation to Mr. Hattori, the director of Pana Musica, at a great reception after the concert.

We got aquainted with Mary Blossom... a Japanese merlot.

She was quite unforgiving.

Kyoto is so neat with hundreds of little temples that dot the city.

A little dog temple.
His bite is worse than his bark!

We had the next day off, so some people went sightseeing. We were staying right in the shopping district.

So, when in Rome...


Day 17, 18 and 19 Yokahama

We have finally made it to the last stop on our tour. Each place that we have visited has had such a distinct "flavour", and all the different cultures and experiences from each place we will bring back home with us. The really neat thing is that we, in turn, were able to give them a gift in return.

The view from our hotel room!!
I went on this ferris wheel. I am very proud of myself and thankful that Steve did not rock it too much.


Our hotel!! 

The beautiful hall we performed in!!

We led a conductors' workshop. Lots of fun!

View from the ferris wheel.

We also led a workshop with some local choirs... We helped them perfect the sound of music.


In a way, it's a little surreal to be home. Lucky to have returned just before a holiday, giving us the chance to spend precious time with family before jumping headlong into the backlog of whatever work was put on hold for three weeks.

This odd feeing of of being so comfortable being away at work for such an extended period has occurred for me on occasion, but never so much as on this past tour.

As I listened to similar comments from my colleagues, I was struck by how many collective tour experiences we all share, and just how many important facets there are to the making of a successful tour. So many of us (if not all!) have agreed that this was probably the best tour they can remember, and everyone numbers their priorities in his or her own particular order of importance. For me, it was the diversity of the events in which we were able to participate, and the level of appreciation for our collective musicianship and versatility that was so immensely gratifying. Sharing in the culture of each place we visit always adds a special perspective, and this tour was certainly no exception, but hugely enhanced on this occasion due to the personal involvement of family and friends of Tama Copithorne and Cecilia Chueh. The incredible array of unique events, so many of which were arranged especially for us, and some not usually available to the casual visitor, added an especially rich aspect to this tour.

Not to leave the exemplary level of musicianship we achieved together unmentioned, I feel that the description of what it takes to make a tour like this work on so many levels was so eloquently articulated by our own Violet Goosen, a day or two ago on this blog. As I digested her comments, it made me feel so proud that she felt this way about our performances, comportment, and the level at which we represented ourselves as a choir, as musicians and as citizens.

I would like to add that we can never say enough about the incredible 'behind the scenes' work, much of which seemed to go on 24/7, not only in the months leading up to, but also during the tour. We can only imagine the incredible amount of detail and organization, and the stresses of dealing with the constant changes that arose as the days proceeded. Always, and as ever, handled seemingly without a hitch, hiccup or ruffle of feathers, Vi and our intrepid team of 'handlers' soldiered on, smoothing the way and ensured that things went according to somebody's plan! That these compliments come from someone whose years of musicianship and dedication has contributed so enormously to the shape and soul of the choir, is high praise indeed.

So, to Violet, Tama, Cecilia, and their extended friends and families, profound thanks and gratitude for all your efforts and expertise. Thanks to Jon for his leadership and that special ability to always find a direction for those workshops, and to John William Trotter, (John-boy, Trotzky, Asistanto) Bravo! It's the first time we've ever seen someone play 'Lotto Conductor" and we were dazzled by your skill, versatility and good humour. Special thanks to Charles and Lucille Flavelle, whose companionship and enthusiastic support always adds so much.

I know that, in the days to come as we make the transition back to the hectic scramble of making a living as musicians, I will remember the depth of appreciation of our art from those we visited, and particularly, the moving words of Charles, as he described the effect our performances had on their friends and his deep affection for the choir. It brings an enormous sense of fulfillment to have chosen this as a career. The memories of what we achieved and the people we were able to touch with our music are gifts I will treasure always, and I know I will be able to call on them whenever I need a reminder of just how profound and powerful the choral art can be.

Marla - #8


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