Poem from New York

Dear San Francisco Girls Chorus Community, FullSizeRender (4)Hello from New York!

We have worked so hard to prepare for this tour that it is hard to believe we are finally here. On the flight to New York, while many slept, read, listened to music or occupied themselves to pass the time, I wrote a poem which I would like to share with you.

My Journey to New York

The low rumble of the engine surrounds me, A constant radio—like static in the background, As we gradually ascend into the air and fly through the sky.

Clouds scatter like squirming bees, Behind the glass window sunlight filters into the dark plane, The low rumble of the engine surrounds me.

Passengers begin to unbuckle their seatbelts, They shuffle around, pull out their devices, munch on chips, While we continue to fly over the vast blue sky.

I watch movies flicker on screens, Taste droplets of orange juice on my tongue, And listen to the low rumble of the engine.

I imagine the sensation of landing, my first view of New York City, and I sigh. Lights twinkle across the horizon. The bustling atmosphere is so different from the calm sky.

I envision meeting my host-family for the first time—what will they think of me? And what about my first rehearsal—how will that be? But before I can think any further, I am suddenly brought back to reality by the low rumble of the plane’s engine.

The morning after our arrival we participated in a moving service at the enormous Trinity Wall Street Church. It was an incredible experience. We sang beautiful hymns and psalms, along with In Merres Mitten, Duo Seraphim, and Panis Angelicus. Voices of the San Francisco Girls Chorus mixed with those of the Trinity Church Choir and the music reverberated throughout the magnificent church.

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Everything about the service was new to me. We learned many of the prayers on that morning. We wore red and white choir robes that were different from our usual black dresses. The audience was enormous and the service was broadcast online. I have never attended mass or participated in any type of Christian service before today. Yet, at the same time, I also felt a familiarity that was frankly unexpected. Although I am Jewish, I felt a strong connection to the service and the music we were singing. The Sunday mass did not seem that much different from a Shabbat service in a synagogue. The sermon reminded me of the weekly Torah portion.

Following the mass, we ate a hearty meal and walked around the Financial District. Since many choristers love the Broadway musical Hamilton, a Trinity Wall Street chorister offered to give a tour of Alexander Hamilton’s grave. After another round of rehearsal, we had the privilege to partake in an improvisation workshop, learning how to sing on the spot while being confined to certain modes and pitches to prepare us for our performance at St. Paul’s later that evening. St. Paul’s is a church right down the street from Trinity. It is full of memorials and photos of 9/11 because many people sought refuge there after the twin towers fell.

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While walking to St. Paul’s, we were caught in a major downpour and found ourselves soaked by the time we reached the church! Umbrellas flipped inside out and upside down, shoes were filled with water, and clothes were drenched. But luckily we had our performance uniforms and could change.

The lights dimmed and candles were lit all around the church sanctuary. As people walked in, they were handed a candle, and soon the entire room was aglow. We performed our music by candlelight and improvised practically the entire performance. It was frightening at first to hear pitches we had never rehearsed. Eventually, we began to feel when the person next to us changed notes and were able to harmonize and create lovely music together. The experience felt magical and exhilarating. Candles flickered, and voices mingled and bounced off the walls. If only the service could go on forever! Sadly, it came to an end. We were reunited with our awesome homestay families.

Tomorrow will be another exciting day filled with rehearsals for Lincoln Center. We will rehearse with The Knights and Eric Jacobsen. We will also finally meet the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and hear the missing parts to Back of the Choir by Gabriel Kahane and My Outstretched Hand by our very own, Lisa Bielawa.

Our New York tour has been so exciting and rewarding already in just the first few days. I cannot wait to see how the rest of the week plays out!

Gabriella (Gabby) Vulakh San Francisco Girls Chorus, Alto I