Bulletin Updates

City Kiwis

19 May, Auckland to Whitianga

Though we have only been in New Zealand a short while, and this is only our first stop, I am already in awe of the country. Auckland is a beautiful city, and experiencing the people and the culture is wonderful. Our days haven’t been packed yet, but that is much appreciated, because we are all still getting over the jet-lag, and enjoy having the freedom to explore the city in small groups.

Day 1 we landed in Auckland at 6 in the morning (NZ time), and spent the morning driving around the city and exploring various parts of it. We were all exhausted at this point, and to be honest I don’t think a single person was able to stay awake for the entire tour, but it was still exciting getting our first look at the place we’d all been dreaming about for months. We grabbed lunch in Devonport and explored around, before all going up 60 stories into the SkyTower overlooking the whole city. The view was wonderful, especially because we could see all the places we’d been wandering through that day.

Day 2 began with a choral workshop with Dr. Karen Grylls, and then we went to see the Holy Trinity Cathedral which has been in construction for 3 years, just now putting on the final touches. We sang “Le Pont Mirabeau” in a side chapel of the church, and then “Daemon Iripetit Coridus” in the main area – the final climactic chord echoed through the building up to the ceiling, shocking and somewhat startling us all. After that, we explored the War Museum and Memorial area. Being introduced to the rich history of New Zealand and the Maori people was incredibly interesting.

Day 3 we were set loose on Auckland, and allowed to go wherever we desired in the city – some went to art museums, others to the park, and myself and some others just wandered the city and the wharf. We reconvened in the afternoon at Takapuna Methodist Church, to have our first concert – a joint concert with the Auckland Youth Choir. Performing a couple of songs with them was phenomenal – their choir has about 100 members, and the sound we made singing together was incredibly powerful. It was also neat getting to meet Kiwis our age, and talking about the differences in their experiences and ours. In particular, we discussed American versus New Zealand slang, and the various phrases we used daily but almost never thought about.

The trip thus far has been phenomenal; all of us are in awe of just how beautiful the country is, and cannot wait to see the sights that await us.

Whitianga and the World’s Kindest Paradise

I know that it has been several days since my last post and the only excuse that I can come up with is that the chamber choir has been so engrossed with performing for the residents of Whitianga (pronounced “Fit-tea-anga”), being welcomed into their homes and lives, and walking around for the last three days with our jaws dragging on the beaches.

For as flowery a writer as I am, it is tremendously difficult to explain how strikingly and mesmerizingly beautiful this portion of New Zealand is. Our host families have been utterly welcoming and accommodating of us and our presence in their homes.

Mike, Ben, & Louis at Whitianga concert.

For Ben and me, we had the pleasure of staying with our host-father Mike – an engineer with a home that faces one of the areas beautiful and numerous beaches. The view from my room on the second floor looked onto the beach into the bay. It’s pretty fantastic, folks.

Our first true chamber choir concert on May 20th was a massive success, where we performed twenty-three pieces of our repertoire with two of the songs performed with the Mercury Bay Community Choir – “Hine e Hine” and “Holy Spirit, Don’t You Leave Me.” A successful performance to say the least!

The next day was wrought with Hot Water beaching, cafés, boat rides around the local and stunning coastline – particularly to Cathedral Cove and to the beach where the arrival to Narnia in the second movie was filmed.

Cathedral Cove

This was followed up with another beach visit to further encourage me to move to New Zealand where I am going to live on a boat in the bays: this is going to happen. Oh! And have I mentioned the food and fellowship that these loving folks offered us! Green lipped mussels, pavlova, and New Zealand wines to name some of the bounty! All capped off with singing, life lessons, and astronomy lessons about our brand new celestial views of the southern stars.

Our last day consisted of a visit to the local area school where we hosted a residency for the students of Mercury Bay and collaborated with them to increase musicality and the transfer of shared musical experience between cultures and ages.

Allegheny College Chamber Choir students host a music workshop with Mercury Bay Area students

Followed by a day trip hike to Shakespeare Point and the surrounding area. Megan, Ben, Dan, Troy, and I were fortunate enough to be invited around to explore Whitianga from the air in a two-seat plane, built by Mercury Bay Area high school students, and a gyrocopter: the only one in the area and one of seventy in all of New Zealand.

Louis in the gyrocopter before takeoff

A perfect three days in paradise; unrivaled by anything I have yet seen or experienced in this realm. I have not stopped smiling since landing in Aoteoroa (Land of the Long White Cloud: New Zealand).

Who Are You Calling Chicken?

Yesterday, after we all got settled in, and after our first real sleep since Monday, the choir had the priviledge of visiting the Auckland War Memorial Museum to learn about New Zealand’s vast natural, military, and multicultural histories. The first floor of the museum focused on the indigenous Polynesian and New Zealand people, the Māori. We experienced the intricacy of the artwork, the resourcefulness of the clothing, and the careful carving of the waka (giant canoes), all created with great precision and symbolism at the hands of Māori people. Each piece held insight into the culture of the Māori people.
The second floor took a look at the natural history of New Zealand. We took a journey through time to look at the land, plants, and animals of the past and present. The most notable animal of the Island’s past has to be the Moa, New Zealand’s “chicken.”

This chicken stood a shocking 12 feet tall and weighed approximately 570 pounds. The Moa has been exstinct for several hundred years, but lives on in its unique nature. Other featured birds of the museum included the kiwi, a New Zealand symbol. The kiwi is a flightless bird that still lives on the Islands. When explorers first sent back specimen of the kiwi to europe, people believed it was a hoax because of the bird’s fur-like feathers and unusual shape.

The final floor focused on New Zealand’s contributions in the first and second World Wars, as well as the New Zealand Wars of the 19th Century. A stone wall with golden carved names commemorates the thousands of fallen during these times.

We’re all eager to continue learning about the multiculturalism of the country as we head into historical Rotorua in a few days to experience traditional Māori customs.

New Zealand, Kiwis, & Choir – Oh my!

I don’t think that one can truly appreciate the island nation of New Zealand until they have set foot on its volcanic and sub-tropical soil. Upon arrival,  the state’s rabid insistence on biosecurity was evident as they required declaraton of all things organically foreign being brought to the country – and I can absolutely see why! The natural beauty of the primarily indigenous flora is both breathtaking and inspiring: the impetus for art, clothing, children’s metaphors, and cathedral stained glass.

At the end of our second day, I have finally found an opportunity to sit and write about our experience. If you wish to read about the San Francisco experience, I will direct you to Emma’s post. New Zealand has been filed with the most friendly and accommodating people, and the food has been fantastic!  From full bays opening to the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the surrounding islands offer a scenic view of beauty and serenity.

View from Auckland SkyTower

More to come with photos galore!

San Fran

Chamber Choir New Zealand Tour

16 May, San Francisco, California, 9:45 p.m.

We just left US soil, and what’s running through my head is a quote from Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which I think will prove to summarize our entire journey:

“It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes.”

Today we spent 6 hours exploring San Francisco, with a collective overwhelming sense of elation in experiencing it with one another.

We split off to wander Pier 39 for lunch, but then came together to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Joy radiated from us all, which climaxed when we gathered together and sang Estrellita impromptu. The interconnection, the feeling of jubilation bouncing off of one another and multiplying exponentially, even while still just on US soil, still only in day 1, was incredible.

Now, actually being on the plane, racing away from the US, a sense of suspended anticipation is settled over us. There is some level of worry, mainly for the extensive plane ride ahead of us; but for the most part, the thrill of the journey is rushing through us. Suddenly, New Zealand is tangible.

Later, Gators

Chamber Choir New Zealand Tour

14 May, Meadville PA, 7:30p.m.

Well, everyone made it on the bus! To be honest, for a while it felt like we’d never make it, like the trip wasn’t actually going to happen. It still feels that way to an extent – like this is just another trip to Pittsburgh, rather than the initial launchpad of our 2-week adventure. Partially this feeling comes as a result of the end of the year – a combination of finals, packing, moving out, and graduation. For me, because I have another year, this was more from the difficulty and guilt which came with balancing spending time with the graduating seniors, while strongly feeling the pressure from time-sensitive New Zealand-related things. But we’ve made it – everyone is packed, dorms left bare, goodbyes exchanged, and we’re off!

As this is my first post, I’ll introduce myself a bit. I’m from Austin, Texas, majoring in English and double minoring in Political Science and Economics. Choir for me has always been my safe haven, the one thing that stabilizes me through the years. My mother is a church music/choir director, so I’ve been singing practically since the womb. Finding a challenging, warm, familial choir at Allegheny is one of my greatest blessings, and getting to experience a new culture, a new side of the Earth with this group means more than I can convey. We’ve become a true family, and I couldn’t imagine going on this trip without each and every member of the choir.

My worries going into this trip – not having enough time, and not having enough phone space for all the pictures I intend to take. 2 weeks seems so long, but I know it will fly by and will leave me feeling shorted. In order to see everything we have planned, some things will seem rushed, and priorities in destinations had to be made. That’s the curse of all travel though – it never seems long enough.

When I try and pinpoint what I’m most looking forward to, it’s getting the chance to experience a new culture, a new country, and doing so surrounded with people I love and people who have become family. Everyone here will see this trip through different eyes. By traveling with this diverse group of people, we get to share our different perspectives and collectively experience the adventure that is New Zealand. I couldn’t be more excited.

Chamber Choir Kicks off New Zealand Performance Tour

James Niblock, facing a momentous undertaking, thought of the stars.

“A week from now, you won’t recognize the constellations in the sky,” Niblock ’97, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Allegheny College, wrote in an e-mail to his choir students.

An entirely different collection of stars shines in the Southern Hemisphere.

Today, after more than 18 months of planning, preparation and practice, 19 students from the Allegheny College Chamber Choir will depart for New Zealand in what will be the choir’s first international performance tour since 1980 and its first-ever tour to the South Pacific. The two-week trip will include performances in Auckland, Whitianga, Rotorua, Christchurch and Queenstown, along with plenty of sightseeing opportunities and an introduction to Māori culture.

For Morgan Hazzard, a 21-year-old biochemistry major from Lafayette, Colorado, the trip is the ultimate capstone to her college career. She was among the eight choir members who graduated on Saturday with the class of 2017.

“It will be the most incredible last experience I could have at Allegheny,” Hazzard said a few days before Commencement. “I couldn’t think of ending my senior year any other way. This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The trip is breathtaking in both scope and purpose, involving more than 30 hours of air travel, including layovers (and that’s just one way); eight performances in five cities; and 27 pieces of music sung in eight different languages, including native Māori. It is one of the most logistically complex endeavors the choir has undertaken in recent memory, requiring extensive support from alumni and donors. There are also hundreds of people waiting on the other side, including partner choirs from other schools and organizations as well as host families who have agreed to house the students for parts of their stay.

The tour is the culmination of what began as decidedly smaller-scale discussion in November 2015. Then, Niblock was floating the idea of a California trip, maybe over spring break, or perhaps a European tour.

“By the time I said going to New Zealand was a possibility, everybody’s jaws just dropped to the floor,” said Niblock, who will lead the students along with pianist Douglas Jurs, assistant professor of music at Allegheny. Rounding out the entourage will be alumnus Jeffery L. Webb ’98, himself a collegiate choral director and avid singer.

“We’re not testing the boundaries of campus or the boundaries of Pennsylvania or how far we can take a coach bus,” Niblock said. “We’re testing the boundaries of what’s familiar. We’re going to a place where a European culture we understand very well exists side-by-side with a Polynesian culture most of us don’t know about. The ‘not familiar’ part meets a lot of musical and institutional goals.”


Chamber Choir New Zealand Tour – Allegheny College

John Knobel, a music major from Carlisle, Massachusetts, started singing in fourth grade. He joined the Allegheny choir as a first-year student and now plans to pursue a career as a choral conductor, a music teacher or a music therapist after graduation.

The New Zealand trip is a chance to grow and do what he loves while being an ambassador for Allegheny, said Knobel, 22.

“Anywhere we go, we always have Allegheny on our chest,” he said. “We’re all representing the college. The relationships we’re going to (build) with other schools and other choirs are very important to our education on an individual level, but also to the groups as a whole and to their improvement.”

He’s looking forward to staying with local families.

“I’ve stayed in a few different countries in hostels and you always meet different people and you always gain new perspectives on their lives and experiences,” Knobel said. “It’s always something you can grow from.”

Unlike Knobel, most of the students in the choir are not music majors. The 19 students traveling represent 26 different major and minor programs and nine different states. Ben Thomas, a tenor who joined the choir as a first-year student, graduated with a neuroscience degree on Saturday.

“In many ways it sums up Allegheny as a whole,” said Thomas, 22, of California, Pennsylvania. “There are only two or three music majors in the Chamber Choir and the rest of us are in different disciplines. We all get to take this trip halfway across the world to a place we’ve never been.

“It’s basically the textbook definition of ‘unusual combinations,’” he said, referring to Allegheny’s national reputation as a place where students are encouraged to explore their unusual combinations of interests and talents. Students often focus their energies and curiosities on courses of study that are not closely linked to their major.

Beyond the opportunity to travel abroad, the choir has helped forge deep friendships that will continue beyond college careers, Hazzard said.

“I could care less where we go,” she said. “I just want to be with this group of people.”

Read student blogs about the trip under “News & Events” on the Music Department website.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Percussion Ensemble

The Percussion Ensemble will perform its annual spring concert on May 1 at 8 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium. The group’s performance repertoire includes “Caravan,” “Irish Tune From County Derry,” “Three Asiatic Dances,” “Stinkin’ Garbage,” “Take Three,” “Living Room Music,” “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Hip Hop Deluxe.” The ensemble is composed of seven students from the Music Department and is directed by Stephen F. Corsi. Audience seating will be on the auditorium stage.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Wind Symphony & Wind Ensemble

Wind Symphony and Wind Ensemble, with 95 students playing in the symphony and 35 in the ensemble, will perform on Sunday, April 30 at 3:15 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium under the direction of Professor of Music Lowell Hepler. Several faculty members are a part of the groups as well – Professor of Biology Dr. Lisa Whitenack plays with the Wind Symphony, adjunct instructor Thomas Leech joins the Wind Ensemble, and Dr. Ronald Stitt, adjunct instructor of trombone, plays with both groups.

Wind Symphony will perform “The Sinfonians” by Clifton Williams; “Irish Tune from County Derry” by Grainger; “Tableaux de Provence” by Paula Maurice, featuring senior soloist alto saxophonist Daniel Kerschner; “Alligator Alley” by Daugherty, featuring the bassoon section; “Mother Earth Fanfare” by Maslanka, conducted by Dearden; “Music for a Festival” by Sparke; “Danzon #2” by Marquez; “Dance of the Jesters” by Tchaikovsky; and “National Emblem March” by Bagley. Wind Ensemble will play “Schottische” and “Cakewalk” from “Suite of Old American Dances” by Bennett, and “Overture to Candide” by Bernstein.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Civic Symphony

The Civic Symphony will perform at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 in Allegheny’s Shafer Auditorium. The performance is free and open to the public.

The symphony features 31 students under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Jennifer Dearden. Four faculty members play with the symphony — adjunct instructors Tom Leech and Stephen Corsi, Professor of Modern Languages Phillip Wolfe, and Professor of Political Science John Christie Searles – along with a few community members. They will perform “Russian Sailor’s Dance” by Gliere; “Beseda,” arranged by Robert Bauernschmidt; “Forlana,” from “Five Bagatelles” by Gerald Finzi, featuring senior clarinet soloist Melissa Ruszczyk; three movements from “Dances of Transylvania by Bartok;” “Tarantella” and “Polka” by Rieti; “Saturday Night Waltz” by Copeland; and “Danzas Cubanas” by Robert Sheldon.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research