To the Bay and Beyond
Glee Club Winter Tour 2014:
Memories and Reflections
A Sampling of Harvard Glee Club Memories
from the 2014 Winter Term West Coast Tour
This sampling of members’ memories from the Harvard Glee Club’s 2014 January Tour to the West Coast encapsulates the central role tours play in the Glee Club experience. From the simple joy of warmer weather to great musical moments and profound human interactions, each of these recollections is a testament to the transformative experience that tour is for all involved. Tour gives Glee Club members the opportunity to come together as a group, to gain a broader perspective on life, and to learn from the kindness of those who make tour possible—chief among whom are the alumni whose generosity allowed this winter tour to take place without a member contribution. We hope these memories serve to underscore how much that kindness meant to the members of the Harvard Glee Club.
Nelson Barrette ’17, HGC Historian
My most memorable experiences are split. On one hand, HGC’s progressively impressive musical production. Equally moving, the wonderful array of generous and kind and interesting hosts. I spent much of Tour catching up with old friends, HGC and otherwise, while getting to know better the new ones currently in HGC. Extended family values—worth their weight in gold!
~ Bernard E. Kreger A.B. ’59 M.P.H. ’70
I so enjoyed our day traveling from Los Angeles to Escondido. We stopped at Taylor [Carol’s] house in Orange County. As I lay on the beach looking out at everyone, I realized that I finally knew all the guys with whom I had been singing for months. More than just names, class years, and majors, I had gotten to know their stories, aspirations, and humor. That night, I felt so connected to everyone as we performed at the Escondido Center for the Arts, and I knew that I had truly made friends for life.
~ Rob Harrington HLS ’14
One of the most memorable parts of tour was spending time down in Dana Point, CA, body surfing in warm water. The beach was beautiful, and everything about that day was great. It was especially memorable because we were invited there by the family of a fellow Glee Club member [Taylor Carol]. Getting to talk to his mother made me see, yet again, how amazing my fellow classmates are. Everybody has a life story, and being on that beach, that day, reminded me of the beauty in everyone.
~ Jason Li ’17
My most memorable experience on tour was being able to spend a morning at Taylor Carol’s house in Dana Point, CA. It was here that I truly realized just how much the Glee Club transformed as a group over the course of tour. It wasn’t so much that we had a blast (playing football, soaking up the sun, and getting tossed by some pretty impressive waves) as it was that we had a blast TOGETHER. We had obviously sung together a lot on stage, but this togetherness on the beach was different. It was just pure fun, enjoying the company of so many new friends. As a freshman, this day was pivotal in making me truly feel like I was a real part of the group. Over the course of tour, we certainly became better singers, both collectively and individually, but I think we also became better people, and gained some great new friends along the way.
~ Ben Kelly ’17
My most memorable experience from tour was our hectic and stressful day in Grass Valley. That day was probably the most divisive day on tour, due to all the drama caused by getting to our concert on time. But this seemingly negative time stood out to me because I think that concert was the first time we really came together as a group. That concert was completely sold out, and we gave an awesome performance in front of a very appreciative crowd, despite having mixed and matched articles of clothing, shoes, and binders in a feeble attempt to look presentable. After the concert, I felt like we had connected with the crowd on a level we had never before achieved, and after the stress died away, I really felt like we finally connected with each other on a musical and personal level. That connection only continued to grow throughout the rest of the tour.
~ Drew Chamberlain ’17
The Road Less Traveled
One of my most memorable experiences has to be climbing Multnomah Falls and singing [Mendelssohn’s] “Beati Mortui” at the observation deck at the top. From what I understand, it is a Glee Club tradition to hike the trail, and now after having experienced it, I would urge that we continue it. The falls are breathtaking, particularly when mist shrouds the upper shelf as it did the day we were there, creating the illusion that the clear waters spring from the sky itself. The hike to the source provided plenty of scenic views and an opportunity to merge ourselves into the mosses, pines, and lichens that are so unique to the Pacific Northwest.
To me, personally, there has always been something special about singing outdoors. It has something to do with the way we mix our voices with the milieu of nature’s sounds to create something heavenly yet borne of earth. At the top of the falls, we sang. Mendelssohn’s lyrical melodies dissolved into the bubbling, churning stream and all together they cascaded over the edge and into the world below. To share such a spiritual experience with my friends and peers in the Harvard Glee Club made the moment all the more special. In that moment, we together announced ourselves to the world. In that moment, we made ourselves alive.
~ Felix Wu ’14
My favorite tour memory is singing [Mendelssohn’s] “Beati Mortui” as the sun set by the Muir Woods overlook. Watching the sunset over the Pacific, we sang as if honoring the beautiful sight. It had been a great day. We had spent some time in San Francisco, and on the Golden Gate Bridge. We had stood in awe of the tremendous redwoods. This was a day that deserved a fantastic capstone. We found this finale in the sunset over the Pacific. It was a powerful moment. There was no question that we would sing. The music we offered up at that point was not perfect, but it affected everyone who heard it. It was a true testament to the Harvard Glee Club’s mission. We bring our music with us wherever we go, whether it is concert halls or beaches, restaurants, or theaters.
~ Jacob Mueller ’17
In San Francisco, a large group of guys rented a car and drove to Muir National Forest. On the way back, we stopped at Muir Beach Overlook just in time to catch the sun setting over the Pacific. I’ve seen plenty of sunsets in my life, but the combination of good luck, companionship, and beauty really stuck with me. That image will always be emblematic of the tour for me.
~ Jared Lucky ’15
One of my most memorable tour experiences was the afternoon spent with some of the guys at Muir Woods followed by watching the sunset from some cliffs overlooking San Francisco Bay. Having quiet time immersed in nature at Muir Woods gave me the opportunity to really reflect on the experience of tour and what it meant to me, and I think it really put things into perspective. Watching the sunset on the Bay was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen, and getting to experience it with people I consider to be some of my best friends was that much better. I think the entire tour was such a transformative experience and definitely the highlight of my first year at Harvard. I’ll never forget the experiences and memories made on this tour with the rest of the Glee Club.
~ Billy Gardner ’17
While we were in Oregon, a bunch of us went to Multnomah Falls and climbed the mountain there. I’ve never really been one for heights, but climbed the mountain anyway, and am very glad I did. We sang a bit on the bridge leading to the hiking trail, and then we ascended up through the mist. When we got to the top of the mountain, there was something transcendent about standing hundreds of feet above sea level, the ground obscured by fog, walking about together in the woods below the summit. Mere steps away from us were drops into hundreds of feet of fog. Being so high above the world and so far away from Cambridge, one could view things with a clearer perspective.
Once we’d descended the mountain, we ate in the lodge and sang “Happy Birthday” to a waitress, who was crying as we sang. We later learned that her emotion was two-fold: she was happy for the birthday wishes, but also had falsely believed that she’d been called there to be fired, on her birthday. We got to surprise her with a bit of a different outcome, thankfully.
~ John Griffin ’16
The Kindness of Strangers
My home-stay in Portland, Oregon was with an elderly couple. While having no particular ties to the Glee Club, they took Conrad Shock, Ben Kelly and me into their home, wined and dined us, bought us bus tickets to head downtown, and spent hours talking with us about their life stories, dispositions, and hopes for the future. Our hostess made so much food my own mother would have been proud! Before eating our final dinner, our host, being of Irish descent, offered to us an old travelers blessing, “May the road rise up to meet you.” At that moment I understood what their hospitality meant to me and how fortunate I was to be cared for as family by total strangers.
~Aaron Pelz ’16
One experience that really stands out was staying with the family in Grass Valley, CA, that housed me, Trevor Nash, and Ben Barnett for several nights. Our hosts were actually raising their two grandchildren, who attended a high school where we had done a choral workshop. While we stayed with them, we slept outside the house in their camper (which was actually very comfortable), but they took every pain to make us feel at home and to show us their home town, taking us on scenic drives, making us snacks, and sending us off with a nice card. On the last day, our host mom really opened up to us about what the family had been through, and how difficult it had been to pick-up the pieces when she and her husband had to assume full care of their grandkids. It was a very touching moment, and I’ll never forget how willing those people were to share their lives with a few strangers.
~ Jared Lucky ’15
The one thing I underestimated most about tour was the housing experience. I never expected to go down the West Coast and meet so many amazingly hospitable families who were willing to open up their homes and let strange college men live with them. I was especially touched by my host in Portland, Oregon. She opened her amazing house to us, and allowed us to feel at home when we were miles away from our families. From the roast chicken and home-made cereal, to the stories of grand travels throughout Cuba, to chatting about our respective goals and ambitions, my time in Portland with my host was beyond compare.
~ Ben Barnett ’17
Tour was, hands down, one of the most incredible parts of Freshman Year. While every day entailed fun exploits and adventures with the guys, there were several profound moments that impacted me as a man. The most poignant memory was in Grass Valley, CA. Nelson Barrette and I were hosted with a family that was unbelievably kind, and undoubtedly going through difficult financial circumstances. Despite this, they showed us the most hospitality that I have ever experienced, cooking us delicious food at every opportunity, showing us around their town, and hand-making us personal, leather bound journals as parting gifts. This gracious family showed me that, regardless of our current circumstances, we can and must take care of those around us. To the family in Grass Valley, thank you for your kindness and for everything you taught me.
~Taylor Carol ’17
The most unforgettable experience was staying with a host family in Grass Valley, CA, with two other members of the Glee Club. At first glance, our hosts appeared to be a typical couple: middle-aged and middle-class with teenage kids. But I would soon realize that they were extraordinary people. Upon arriving at their home, the husband informed us that one of their children, John, had a genetic disorder. I went inside and soon met John, at least to the extent that he could be “met;” he could barely talk and didn’t respond to others less persistent than his father. John’s mother then offered ice cream to us, which we gratefully accepted. As we ate, I witnessed firsthand their struggle: two parents tirelessly trying to reach an unreachable child. The night went on, and we gradually heard more about John: his misdiagnosis with autism, his health issues, his seizures that happened “like clockwork.” I could hear the flashes of stress in their voices. But at the same time I also detected their great strength. Two parents, through their love of a child and love for each other, were constantly winning their difficult daily battles. I doubt that I will ever forget that family, those superheroes; they will be a model of strength and love for the rest of my life. I am still touched by their willingness to host, and their great hospitality. And I will always be indebted to the Harvard Glee Club for making such a life-changing experience possible.
~ Michael Patterson ’17
January 18, 2014 was my 21st birthday. We were in Escondido for the penultimate performance on tour. My host, Patrick, had this lovely home in the mountains to which he welcomed me twice: once on my pre-tour and then again when the rest of the group came. He remembered from our first meeting that it would be my birthday when we next saw each other, and he planned a special post-concert wine, cheese, and dessert party for me and the other Gleeks who stayed with him. It was a perfect and classy way to usher in a new stage of life, and I’ll never forget the care and enthusiasm he showed toward us.
~ Keon Pearson ’15
Making Beautiful Music Together
Our last concert was in this massive church in San Diego, set into a slight slope. As we processed forward passed the pews, we approached the most beautiful window at the front of the church. The glass was not stained or colored, just beautifully set and divided in a way that framed the sloping trees and sky behind. Throughout the rehearsal, we stood fifty-plus feet in front of this window, with our backs to it. But for a single piece, we walked back towards the pews before the window, arranged as if they were rays emerging forth from the glass. The setting sun bled through the pane, subdued but pure, and framed the scene behind, a painting where all negative space was warm orange and yellow, soft, serene. I suddenly felt just so… happy. Then we were in place, singing again.
I still don’t know what made that moment something special to me. Maybe tour makes me sentimental (more likely just Glee Club). Whatever the reason, though, I learned it’s the small things that you never forget, that you never regret.
~ Conrad Shock ’15
Our concert in Altadena with the Young Men’s Ensemble of the LA Children’s Chorus was one of the emotional highs of the tour for me. After a challenging performance the night before in Westwood I think I and many others were a bit discouraged and unsure of how we would do. Would we bounce back? Or would we let nerves get the best of us again. I really felt that the bonding that had gone on during tour, the desire to sing with each other and sing for each other helped us to refocus that night and put together an amazing concert with the YME. We sang some of our pieces the best we’d ever had, and when we combined with the YME for “Glorious Apollo,” I knew we had completed something special for us, and something that the audience truly appreciated. The lesson I’ve taken from the experience is that we are not defined by one performance, one test, or any one event in life. Challenges are inevitable but having true friends to rely on during those times of adversity is a blessing because with them there will always be hope to bounce back better than before.
~ Daniel Park ’15
My favorite moment from our tour was performing with the Los Angeles Children Chorus’ Young Men’s Ensemble in Pasadena. When I was in elementary and middle school, I used to perform with my school choir, and I had the opportunity to sing in a national choir in fifth grade. When I left the stage after my national choir performance, I recall sitting in the audience and listening to the “adults” sing. I remember telling myself that I would become a part of a similar ensemble when I grew older. Seeing the LA group about 8 years later was a reminder of how far I’ve come both personally and musically and how much time I’ve devoted to singing. My hope is that our performance made the younger kids, who seemed thrilled to be there, feel the same way I did when I was in their position.
~Matthew Vegari ’17
The experience I most remember from tour was the alumni sing and banquet following our Grace Cathedral concert. Not only was the fare delectable, but we had the chance to see some old and not-so-old familiar faces and meet many new ones! I had my repertoire wish granted when we sang [Palestrina’s] “Sicut Cervus” and singing had never been so much fun as it was that night. Finally, I saw for myself what kept people coming back well beyond their college days.
~ Emmett Jao ’14
My favorite memory from tour was our concert at the Altadena Community Church with the Young Men’s Ensemble of the Los Angeles Children’s Choir. From our opening note of [Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard”], I could tell that there was something special about this concert. The venue was superb with an excellent crowd, and we were collaborating with a very talented group of young men, but it was the focus, passion, and intensity of every member of HGC that made this such an incredible musical experience, one of a caliber that I had never taken part in before. Talking to the other guys after the show and seeing their reactions to the performance, it became apparent that I was not alone in my thoughts; we all knew that we had just created a musical experience that made all of our long hours of rehearsal all semester worth it. Sharing such an experience with the fifty other men of the Harvard Glee Club made me feel that I was truly part of the group, transitioning from a “newie” to an “oldie.”
~Trevor Nash ’15
On tour, I had the pleasure of conducting “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming” in several concerts. Standing in front of a choir of 60 is an empowering experience, but standing in front of a choir of 60 and knowing each of the men personally and increasingly well enriches the experience beyond imagination. I almost can’t wait to get to finish college and move on to graduate school.
~ Michael Raleigh ’15
The World Beyond Harvard
At our final stop in San Diego, some other Gleeks and I stayed with a group of three avocado-growing families. Our stay with these families remains my most vivid memory of the West Coast Tour for a number of reasons. For one thing, our hosts were incredibly welcoming and generous. Staying with them for a night was an absolute pleasure. But more importantly, they were really excited about avocados. Now don’t get me wrong, I too can get excited about avocados. They’re green and delicious—what’s not to like? But then in the grand scheme of things, avocados don’t really seem that important to me. This hasn’t really changed, but after two hours’ worth of touring the groves with our energetic hosts, I think I do have a new appreciation for what living on a farm in an agricultural area can be like, and it seems awesome. From clean air and quiet nights to Glee Club Concerts and San Diego’s arts scene, living on a farm an hour outside of a city really seemed great. What I’m trying to say is that the West Coast Tour opened my eyes to what life outside Harvard can be like. Where I couldn’t really see myself anywhere but in some major city in a research laboratory or in some big office before, I now more clearly realize how many other options exist.
~ Martin Reindl ’15
The moment I got off the bus in San Francisco is a moment I will never forget. The dreariness of the cold was getting to me, not only the cold in Boston, but the cold of my home in Rochester, Minnesota, where I had been up until the tour started. As I stepped off the bus a light breeze hit me and I realized that I did not have to wear the sweatshirt I had on. I ripped it off, enjoying the sun. Seventy degrees! It had been negative 50 in Minnesota. As a native of not Minnesota, but Brazil, the realization that warmth existed in the United States was mind boggling. As I warmed, so did my demeanor and outlook on the day. As we explored the town I took my time. We actually ended up missing the boat to Alcatraz; however I was not discouraged—I knew that someday I would undoubtedly be back in that wonderful city.
~ Eduardo Cabral ’16
On tour, our hosts were truly glad to have us with them, and the opportunity to enter not only their homes, but also into their lives, was truly unforgettable for me. Meeting an elderly Portland couple that proudly displayed a lifetime of pictures and posters on their walls, seeing how a group of Seattle choir singers lived together in curious harmony, and visiting a cabin in the woods of Grass Valley where the owner had carved out his own hiking trail, were all unique insights into the different ways people find fulfillment in their lives. Thus, through my home stays, I gained an understanding of the range of lives people lead, and how I may one day choose to live my own.
~ Benjamin Lopez ’15
My most memorable experience on tour had to be driving down the West Coast on the Pacific Coast Highway as the sun was setting. We were the last people in the country to see the sunset that day. I don’t think I generally give the United States enough credit for its natural beauty, but that day I got a glimpse of just what the country had to offer. It was the Glee Club that made that experience possible, and for that I am so very grateful.
~Henry Wang ’15
After attending a San Francisco Symphony rehearsal with several other members of the Glee Club, Brent Blackaby [AB ’96] offered to take a few of us back to our hosts’ homes. But Brent went beyond the call of duty by offering to show us a scenic view of San Francisco at night. After we accepted his offer, Brent drove us to a pier next to the old, out-of-service eastern span of the Bay Bridge. On the pier, the San Francisco skyline bloomed before our eyes. I can honestly say that looking out over the bay that night changed my outlook on life. That experience was the beginning of a process of introspective evaluation of my life goals. Visiting San Francisco showed me that there are many possibilities in life that I’ve not yet explored, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to broaden my horizons if I hadn’t gone on tour with the Glee Club.
~Alex Rohe ’17
One of my most memorable experiences on tour was my time with my second Seattle host. In my extensive conversations with him, I learned about his time at Microsoft and in the Peace Corps. The stories he told about serving in Kyrgyzstan made me consider the radically divergent lives of different people around the world, and his decision to leave his career at Microsoft and join the Peace Corps intrigued me. I knew people who had joined the Peace Corps after college but I had never met someone who had done it after they had an established career. I found myself thinking about the many paths one’s life might take, the many paths my life might take. I found the opportunity to connect with someone who had lived such an interesting life to be incredible and I feel that it encouraged a new introspection in my own life.
~Patrick Moran ’17
In Grass Valley, CA, a few of us stayed with this zany middle-aged couple—a retired UPS pilot and his wife, who was once a cop in Alaska, then headed a non-profit, and has come out of retirement several times to run political campaigns. On the first morning there, we woke up bright and early to go to the Rough and Ready Grange Breakfast, a monthly social event at the town grange hall, featuring a local ragtag band of old country musicians. For me, it felt like I’d stepped into a time machine—this was a scene I’d expect to see out in the Midwest in the 1950s, not in my home state today. We sat and ate breakfast and talked to some of the locals, including this charismatic, really out-there old guy named Wendell who was apparently one of the founders of the local Tea Party. Soon before we needed to leave, the band (the Fruit Jar Pickers) invited us up to sing with them, so we sang “Down in the Valley” [a Kentucky folk song] with an accompaniment of banjo, mandolin, and guitar. The entire experience was pretty surreal, and showed me a side of California that I had no idea existed. And the best part? It was only 10 miles from where I spent my last summer as a whitewater raft guide.
~Ben Garber ’17
Our tour culminated with a performance at the First United Methodist Church in San Diego. HGC appeared on the church’s Music Series, performing for an audience of nearly 800 people. This church and concert series regularly presents the top choral ensembles in North America and we were most fortunate to be their featured guest chorus this season.
After the performance, Resident Conductor Harris Ipock and I had the opportunity to meet many professional colleagues in attendance, including high school choral directors, church musicians, and music educators. Their feedback was generous, sincere, and meaningful. Each of these colleagues made the somewhat inevitable comparisons of our concert that evening with others they had heard through the years from various top-flight ensembles. What made the Harvard Glee Club unique, in their words, was the group’s commitment and their passion: singing with purpose and from the heart. It meant a great deal to Harris and me to hear how our the group’s performance provided an important opportunity to reaffirm the work these folks do in their communities through choral music, reinforcing the potency and impact of great music, sung well, by a unified community of dedicated singers.
~Dr. Andrew Clark, Conductor