Journey from Sunny California Totally Worth It!
William M. Cheng ’92
Although I’m not a native, I’m essentially a California guy, after moving to LA for medical school, and then to the Silicon Valley where I’ve lived for the past 18 years. For those of you who have never been to California, I will tell you that yes, it’s true–the weather is fantastic, and we spend our days lounging around in board shorts and flip-flops, sipping iced mochas, and driving around in our convertibles with the top down. So this should give you an idea of just how important HGC is to me: when I saw the POLAR VORTEX that was forecast for the recent Junior Parents Weekend concert, I did NOT cancel my travel plans with extreme prejudice. Because where else am I going to have an experience like this? Nowhere, that’s where.
The weekend kicked off on Friday with a fantastic concert. Having seen HGC recently in San Francisco as part of their recent J-Term Tour, I already knew that they sounded great, but this concert was a revelation. I witnessed a totally unified group that sang with palpable energy, flawless dynamics, and perfect blend. When I glanced at the program, I noticed that as usual, the roster tilted heavily towards Bass I & II (37 in all), with only 8 Tenor I’s and 10 Tenor II’s–and yet the sound was balanced and pure, a testament not only to the quality of the singers, but also to the skill of Conductor Nostrum, Andy Clark. In addition, I learned that a large proportion of singers were freshmen, which made the very mature sound of the group even more impressive–especially considering the relatively short time to make a group this size so cohesive. Some selected highlights from the concert:
- The opening Exsultate justi in Domino by Viadana, which was rousing and stirring, made all the more energetic by the group singing from memory.
- Robert Kyr’s Ode to Music, a piece commissioned by HGC, with its intricate interplay and counterpoint, building to a classic final HGC chord.
- HGC Lite’s terrific set, complete with choreography and some exceptional solos.
- Resident Conductor Harris Ipock leading HGC with two of my all-time favorites, Shenandoah and What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?, notable for Bernie Kreger’s astounding piano accompaniment for the latter (and he told me he saw it for the first time only 2 weeks prior!).
- The absolutely show-stopping, bring-the-house-down spiritual Got a Mind To Do Right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen HGC sing a piece with that much pure joy–there were members on the sides of the arc who were turning to the audience to sing out with big smiles on their faces.
- And, of course, being able to bound onstage to sing the football songs. Yo-Ho!
On Saturday, after an engrossing HGCF meeting where current HGC officers and managers briefed the Board on the success of the J-term West Coast Tour as well as the exciting plans for next year’s Southern US Spring Tour, we enjoyed a nostalgic Alumni Sing (with the help of about a dozen current members). Harris Ipock confounded us old fogies with some of his challenging warmups (do not ask me to do the Do-Re-Mi-Re-Do ever again), and we all had the pleasure of rehearsing with Andy Clark. He’s perfect for HGC, displaying the right combination of professionalism, humor, and musicianship. The thrill of singing old favorites like Sicut cervus, Beati mortui, and Gentle Annie made the trip back East so very worthwhile. The day was capped off with an excellent dinner at John Harvard’s Brewery, where I had the opportunity to chat more with Andy and other fellow alumni.
It was a short but very full and fulfilling weekend trip from California, and I look forward to the next time. To all alumni out there who have never visited for these Alumni Sing weekends, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to support HGC, and also to nourish your musical soul.