Aaron Lange of the tenors here. Our second and final day without any performance, we got to enjoy the many pleasures that the beautiful Basque Country has to offer. Many of us went to the city of Bilbao, where we had a full day of wine tasting, exploring the city, and seeing the incredible Guggenheim museum.
The winery was on the smaller side but was still very interesting. They produce a wine called "Txakoli" (cha-ko-lee) which is known as breakfast wine by the locals (so I suppose 11:00 am wasn't too early for wine...). Our wonderful guides Álvaro and Adriana showed us an overlook of Bilbao. What an incredible site. The natural landscape plus the amazing architecture was breath taking.
We made our way down to the city and wandered around for a while, getting to see some beautiful buildings of old and new.
The Guggenheim museum is known for some contemporary art, as well as the famous spider statue. The highlight for us would probably have to be the various structures that bend and play with sound. From being able to hear a whisper from a long distance, to making the whole area ring with a certain pitch, we musicians had a blast. Many wonderful memories were made in the gorgeous city of Bilbao.
Kaixo, mi amigos! Grant here: Second Bass, first year grad student and newbie blogger. Eskerrik asko [thank you] for reading!
It’s amazing we slept at all last night. The fall (harvest?) festival outside in Musika Plaza roared on unabated till 3 am. Ah, the dulcet strains of the guitar intro to “Sweet Home Alabama”. Over and over again. Like a lawnmower that won’t start. In spite of that, I felt unusually refreshed and centered the next morning, ready for a focused rehearsal at the music school. We walked a rather more circuitous route than intended, but we were all, like, “who cares?! We’re in Spain!” Also overheard many times along the way: “I’m so happy right now!” and “I’m so glad to be here” and “I’m so glad you’re here!” Did I mention I love this choir?
After we all photographed the adorable little turtles basking outside by the duck pond, Ethan gave us a serious workout: Vowel unification, diction, dynamics, slow and meticulous tuning of major and minor chords—a choir nerd couldn’t ask for more. During momentary pauses, I found myself wondering about the people who rehearsed in the years and decades before us in that little room; the stories behind each of the portraits, certificates, and awards hanging on the walls; how many in this faraway place might have rehearsed the very same music as we? (I mean, like, “Ametsetan” and “Niño Dios”, of course. I’m hoping however that “Hallelujah” just might someday enter the canon of regional repertoire!)
We may have gotten slightly cranky during the photo shoot on the stairs. Thanks for your patience, Chase – We were probably just hungry for the paella that awaited us back at the hotel. I had never even seen, much less tasted paella before. Did I mention that the food here is INCREDIBLE?!
And then, off to la Colegiata de Santa Maria in Borja, our first performance site! It was a long (3 hour) bus ride. Close to our destination, the yellow bluffs were riddled with wind turbines. Awaking from a doze, I momentarily mistook the scenery for the eastern Columbia Gorge.
I’ll let the concert recording speak, or sing, for itself. The audience was eager to applaud (a few couldn’t even wait till the end of “Hodie Christus”) and wouldn’t stop till we offered two encores. Ethan confirmed that it was as fine a concert as Chamber Choir has ever sung, and in a resplendent acoustic that magnified all the energy and nuance throughout. We were rewarded with gifts of wine and a private tour of the church. Halloween seemed to arrive a bit early, as a realistic skeleton greeted us at the crypt, his scythe inscribed with: A NINGUNO PERDONO (“To no one pardon”).
The massive 16th Century pipe organ façade in the rear gallery had fascinated me since we first entered the building – especially its marvelous display of horizontal trumpets, and the way it leaned noticeably to the right after centuries of “settling.” But I wasn’t expecting our tour guide to suddenly ask, “are there any organists here among you?” Colin instantly outed me as such, and the parish organist led me up to the organ loft as everyone else gathered in the monks’ stalls below. Now, I’ve played historic instruments in Europe and Mexico, but this unprompted invitation struck me as particularly special. I was worried about not knowing any Spanish Baroque music, but the organist explained that the functioning parts inside the instrument were actually of more recent (18th C.) Romantic style. He suggested I sight-read a Spanish piece he particularly liked, followed by the rest of the choir singing an impromptu “Hear My Prayer O Lord”.
More fantastic food and wine awaited us after the tour, and we thanked our hosts by singing “Give Me Jesus” and “Hallelujah”. None less than the mayor of Borja was in attendance. I was sure I misunderstood his words, his compliments were so effusive, but I confirmed later he really did say what I heard: “En nuestra ciudad, el recuerdo de este concierto nunca morirá” … In our city, the memory of this concert will never die”.
Nor in our memories, mayor. Buenas noches!
Here's a clip from our first concert in Spain in the city of Borja. It's "Hear My Prayer" by Henry Purcell.
Kaixo! It's me, Camden of the tenors, posting again, this time not about flying but about an inspiring rehearsal, a short walk to the beach, a little exploration, and a powerful concert even better than the last.
Our day started with a light breakfast, as usual, but our rehearsal following it was different. Ethan gave us some more insight on his interpretation of Samuel Barber's "The Coolin." He invited us to bring out a personal part of ourselves while performing that song. One of his mottos about being a musician is that the great ones specialize in "focus and vulnerability." "The Coolin" and "Aho" are two songs that are an exercise in vulnerability. The former is about the love of your life, the latter is about the loss of a life dear to you. We left that rehearsal with a new understanding of emotional expression.
Our concert wasn't until later in the evening, so many spent our afternoon at the beach. We waded out into the Atlantic and let the waves splash (and sometimes jostle) us. The most memorable wave would be the one we faced while in a chorus line kicking our legs. Once we had our fun out there, we headed closer to shore to play a game of Ninja in ankle-deep water. The waves made the game... interesting to say the least, they seemed to come by more often after someone dove for a quick attack.
We rode our tour bus over to Ordizia where that night's concert would be. During our sound check, Ethan wanted us to change the way we made a section feel rhythmically; he wanted us to sing it like we were ribbon dancers. To help us visualize, he took a tie and used it as a ribbon (check out the video). After our sound check we got to explore the town a bit. I got to relax with a small cup of vanilla tea and some potato chips. What shocked me about this cafè was their choice of music: they had some (in my opinion) pretty bad American pop music playing on the radio. I didn't realize our country's music got radio plays in a Basque cafè where they didn't even speak English.
The concert was in a reverberant cathedral not unlike our first concert. We performed much of the same set with a few differences. We removed one song and replaced it with another. We prepared a new, fun spiritual as an encore: "In Dat Great Gittin' Up Mornin'." It's full of soloists doing a call and response with the choir. We also had, for the first time, two females (Michelle and Grace) sing the opening solos for "Hallelujah." They showcased their rich low-range by singing in the same range as the men that usually started off the song. When it came time to sing "The Coolin" and "Aho" we showed the audience a part of ourselves that many don't share. It's hard to describe the feeling of putting everything you have emotionally into a piece, but it's an experience I'd love to repeat at our next concert.
Jaclyn of the altos here! Okay guys, being a member of the PSU Chamber Choir doesn't suck. Today after breakfast, I met up with a group of lovelies including our fearless leader, Ethan, to explore the beach. After enjoying a glass of Txakoli, which the Basque refer to as "breakfast wine", we headed out. The beach was beautiful and the water warm. The waves were some of the biggest and most beautiful I've ever seen.
We found a lovely place to stop and enjoy more wine and some delicious desserts. The cuisine here is absolutely fantastic, and I have yet to have a bad meal (hopefully it will stay that way!). Some of us were really tired today:
Now we are outside of our hotel enjoying a glass of wine (today was a free day, so obviously WINE!) and enjoying the company of our chamber choir family. I'll leave you with some pictures, since they can convey so much more than my words can.
Kaixo! That's "hello" in Basque. It's Camden here again letting you know about the rest of our initial traveling.
Our flight to Madrid went smoothly. After seeing nothing but the Atlantic Ocean for about 6 hours, it was nice to see land again. Once we landed, it was a no-nonsense, get-to-the-bus-so-we-can-get-to-Tolosa-before-bedtime stop in the airport.
Once on the tour bus, we started a long ride to Zarautz. on the Way we stopped at a bar and restaurant called "Alonso." this is where I completed a personal goal of mine for this trip: order a meal with out using any English. I was able to do it with 6 carefully uttered words: "Chorizo... y una Fanta... limón... gracias"
After the a few rest stops, countless windmills, and pretty little villages, we made it to our hotel just in time for dinner! The competition is providing all the meals through the hotel restaurant and dinner was not a disappointment. Since almost everyone in our choir was sleep deprived, we went to bed soon after that. Some stayed up to enjoy a little celebration in the courtyard with a live band.
To sum this up, we're all safe and sound and this trip is going to be great!
Hello! Welcome to the start of another fantastic tour in another country. My name is Camden Davis, a tenor in the choir, kicking off this trip with a blog about our travels.
Together, we embarked on a long journey from Portland to Tolosa. It starts with waking up in (or staying awake until) the wee hours of the morning for our first flight. We decided to meet at the airport at 4am to ensure we wouldn’t miss our flight, which departed at 5:50am. It was nice to see all of the excited and friendly (albeit very tired) faces even though it was long before any of us would normally arise. Despite our look, we had a goal to show Spain our musical ability and had a strong desire to do so.
Many of us fell right to sleep right after and during takeoff, including myself. Those who stayed awake or woke up in time had the privilege of seeing a gorgeous sunrise over the clouds in the horizon through the windows of our plane. We landed safely in Newark, New Jersey for a nice, relaxing, long layover. We started settling down, making Gate 80 more like home. We took advantage of this time by working on some memorization. The people in the airport seemed to enjoy our rehearsal; many pilots thanked us for the music. The last 3 hours of our layover in the Garden State was up to each of us how to spend it. Since we’re students, many of us spent this time working on homework, others explored the airport, and of course, others slept.
It looks like we’re about to board our flight to Madrid. I’m posting this now so I don’t get left behind. To be continued…
Hi all - Assistant conductor Jason here. We're for Spain in two weeks! Working very hard but having a lots of fun preparing for the Tolosa contest. We also have a concert coming up next Friday, October 17th in Lincoln performance hall at 7:30 PM! Hope you can join us. Until then, here's a teaser video of us are rocking out to an Irish Basque section of one of our competition pieces... that's not really Irish.
Welcome to the new www.psuchamberchoir.com! As you can see, we've got a new look. We've also posted the 2014-2015 season - look under Events to learn more. We'll continue bringing you updates through this blog both on events at home and on our upcoming tour to Spain for the Tolosa Choral Contest from October 24-November 2. Stay tuned!
Sorry it's a little late but here's the final results. Thanks to University Communications for posting this news on our behalf:
The Portland State Chamber Choir won the first-place in Adult Mixed Choir category at the 16th International Choral Kathaumixw on July 4.
Started in 1984, the International Choral Kathaumixw competition puts a strong focus on global partnership through music. This year's competition featured both youth and adult choirs from nine countries during the week-long competition held July 1-5 at the Powell River Academy of Music in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.
Portland State's choir also took two second place awards in both the Contemporary Choral Music and the Folk & Cultural Traditions categories. Portland State students Joanna Meline and Saori Erickson took first place victories in their respective soloist categories as well.
"This was really a life-changing week for an amazing group of students," said PSU choir director Ethan Sperry. "There are so many phenomenal choirs singing here and it's an honor to be among them and to be counted at the top of that list."
We're very proud of how it turned out. Congratulations to St. Stanislav's Academy Youth Chorus from Slovenia for winning the Choir of the World and the Totem Pole! And a huge thank you to all of our supporters.