29 May 2017
Queenstown was the perfect conclusion to our wonderful adventure. The drive itself was phenomenal – we took the longer route, to drive through the Southern Alps and get to see sights such as Lake Tekapo and the lovely stone church by its shore. By the time we’d gotten to Queenstown it was dark, so when the sun rose the next morning we weren’t prepared for the incredible beauty surrounding us. The town is nestled along Lake Wakatipu, surrounded on all sides by the Southern Alps, with the buildings picturesque and staggered so that every window has a spectacular view of the waterfront. We began early with a jet boat ride around the lake, and it was early and cold enough that in some areas clouds still lingered on top of the water, creating a dreamlike atmosphere with the sun shining through. Following that we found a delicious coffee/gelato/chocolate shop – Patagonia Chocolates – before riding gondolas up to one of the mountaintops. The day was clear, sunny and crisp, and looking out from the mountain over the city, the lake, and the surrounding Southern Alps was spectacular, but then we were all able to ride the luge track which followed the side of the mountain. It was hard to focus on the driving – the view was too distracting! Following that we ate lunch overlooking the Cliffside, and were able to watch parasailers glide down across the town.
Then came the time for our final concert. We all anticipated devolving into tears at the end, but we somehow still gave the best concert of our entire trip. We sang in a small, gorgeous stone church, and the combination of high emotions, perfect architecture, and joy from that day’s adventure was just so to allow us to put on an incredible performance. Then it came time for the “Nunc Dimittis” – the song written by Morten J. Luvaas for the original Allegheny Singers, which has since been sung after every Allegheny Choir concert. To say the least, the song has a very special place in all of our hearts. Before we could start, however, the pastor of the church stood up to give us wonderfully touching and praising words, which unfortunately just got us all that much closer to tears. Professor Niblock had us sing a short and lighthearted song after that, only to try and calm us before diving into the emotional conclusion to our concert – our last performance in New Zealand, and the last Allegheny Choir performance for those who graduated. It went about as well as expected – the singing was still lovely, though with much additional vibrato from trying to hold back the sobs (somewhat unsuccessfully). But when it ended, though we were all in tears, every face was smiling and full of joy and love.
Now, sitting in the San Francisco airport back on US soil, though I already desperately miss New Zealand, I cannot get over the feeling of peace, of happiness, and satisfaction that those two incredible weeks gave me. That place has a kind of magic to it that has become embedded in each one of the chamber choir members, and that won’t leave us for the rest of our lives. We have made memories and connections that will last forever, and I cannot truly express how thankful each of us are for the gift that New Zealand was. All I can say at this point is I’ll be back – New Zealand holds my heart.