Americans in Quebec…and then Paris

Bonjour tout le monde!

Today we left our  hotel in Québec at about 11 am. After doing a final sweep of the rooms, the hotel staff declarOld Quebeced our rooms “marveilleuse” (marvelous). Only one student forgot an instrument!

The busses dropped us off in the square by the Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. Then, we split up into groups to explore this oldest walled city north of Mexico. A spacious boardwalk overlooks the St. Lawrence River in front of the Château. This is also the site of the infamous funicular, a glorified elevator originally used to transport goods from the ports to the haute ville. Now, it carries the swarms of tourists up and down between the upper and lower sections of Vieux Québec. And, the lower level  of Old Québec is the dictionary definition of picturesque: narrow cobblestone streets and brightly shuttered stone houses lined up on either side.

For lunch we dined on Ashton’s fine poutine, a delicious Canadian classic of French fries and cheese curds, served with ladles of piping hot gravy on top.

The bus ride back to Montreal was long but thankfully unimpeded by traffic jams along our route. The airport was another story – endlessly snaking lines just for checking baggage and then again for going through security. We still managed to arrive on time to our gate.Bound for Paris

So far, our flight to France has been uneventful, except for minor turbulence at the beginning.  Now it’s time for a little sleep before we arrive in Paris in a few hours.

A bientôt!

Blaise Gervais, viola   (Photos: Oliver Ames, violin)

And more…

The VYO has arrived in Paris as of this morning. VYOA Executive Director Caroline Whiddon emailed me moments ago with the following update:

“We’ve been traveling for the last 26 hrs on bus, plane, and bus….. but we arrived safely. The tour has been GREAT so far, and everyone is healthy & happy.  Also, I can see the top half of the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room!”

Rachel Howard forwarded several beautiful photos from the orchestra’s first afternoon in Paris.

Amusez-vous bien!

Lisamarie Charlesworth, VYOA Director of Marketing                                         (Photos: Troy Peters & Rachel Howard, viola)

Au Quebec!

Wearing red ribbons - the Quebec concert was a benefit for a local AIDS organization.

Wearing red ribbons - the Quebec concert was a benefit for a local AIDS organization.

Sightseeing in Quebec City

Sightseeing in Quebec City

Our first concert in another country!

We played in the Palais Montcalm in Québec City last night- it was an amazing hall. Our audience may not have been very big, but it was so much fun to play in the hall anyway, I don’t think we noticed. This hall was acoustically designed for an orchestra, unlike the Flynn where we normally play, so everything sounded so clear. It was also visually beautiful, with lots of dark wood.

Just before the concert, we were hanging out in the Green Room chatting and laughing. Some of us began chanting “Duncan, Duncan” to get him to fiddle for us. It worked. He played us several tunes, and it was just the thing to rouse everyone and put us in the mood to perform. We were all cheering and clapping- it was awesome!

Because of the acoustics in the hall, we all experienced hearing elements within our playing that we’d never heard before. At breakfast today, we compared notes on these details. Overall, we think the concert went well; we all had a lot of energy, because we were (and are) so excited to be traveling together!

VYO members pose with their tour poster.

VYO members pose with their tour poster.

When we left the hall after the concert, there was a huge crowd outside. Cirque de Soleil (the biggest circus in the world, based in Canada) was performing a free show as part of the annual music festival in Québec City. The buildings surrounding us were bathed in bright colors; the stage, also lit, was surrounded by manmade fog. A security guard kept telling everyone to move back. We learned why, when fireworks violently exploded nearby!

We are having tons of fun!

Suzanne Calhoun, horn

And More….

The sun finally came out today – it felt nice after a week of rain! I toured Québec with my friends until the late afternoon. The city just as gorgeous as the weather was beautiful. We walked into Château Frontenac. It was amazing inside: walls that were made of wood and gold chandeliers draped from the ceiling. Afterwards we explored the boardwalk and the Citadel, all surrounding the river.

It was great workout going up all the stairs that ran along the edge of the cliff, but very much worth the effort. The cool wind chilled us when we got too hot from climbing and the view from the top was spectacular. We are now on our way to Montréal to catch our plane to Paris…Absolutely cannot wait to be in this beautiful city!

Daphnée Vandal, violin    (Photos: Caroline  Whiddon & Troy Peters)

The Last Minute

Yesterday was the last full rehearsal day at the Music Center. The mood was decidedly upbeat. In between large sections of music one could hear Troy’s voice bobbing up and down in volume and the laughter of the students on stage.

Late in the afternoon, the students gathered for VYO senior recognition – kind of an annual ritual Troy holds whether the orchestra is touring or not. He singles out each senior, acknowledges his or her work in the orchestra and awards each student with a certificate. He also relates anecdotes about his experiences with each student – in most cases, these are hilarious tales. He ended the afternoon reminding the orchestra members of their upcoming  musical mission, “You are going to change lives with this music, so remember to be great!”

Afterwards, the students met their chaperones, posed for a few parting “Bon Voyage” photos, enjoyed pizza and attended a French cultural training session.

The sheet music and percussion are packed. The taxi horns (for An American in Paris) are bubble-wrapped. After this evening’s concert at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, it really is Bon Voyage.

Lisamarie Charlesworth, VYOA Marketing Director

(Photos: Caroline Whiddon & David Yandell)

Friday Night Lights

How about the VYO “Bon Voyage” concert on Friday night at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts? It was an apex of concerts, for a variety of very good reasons.

The orchestra soared effortlessly through the program: Corigliano’s Voyage, lush and haunting; Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea & Prosperous Voyage, as serene as the sea. Drake Mabry’s Prelude and Tango literally danced and the Saint-Saëns Baccchanal positively rocked. But, it was the VYO’s swingin’ rendition of An American in Paris that seemed to jive the most with our audience members. Overheard in the lobby afterwards: “The Gershwin…juicy!” High praise indeed.

Accolades for Troy during his final Vermont concert added a bittersweet layer to the evening. Governor Douglas opened the concert with a few friendly jabs (“Do you know how hot it is in Texas?”) yet heartfelt praise for the artistic accomplishments that Troy has achieved with the VYOA. Caroline Whiddon read aloud a letter written by Senator Leahy to Troy in commemoration of the occasion. Following intermission, Alex Aldrich presented Troy with a Citation of Artistic Merit on behalf of the Vermont Arts Council. Still more high – and much deserved – praise.

By concert’s end, the celebration hit it’s peak. The audience was on their feet, and the applause, endless. The VYO responded in kind with an encore of selections from West Side Story. Interestingly enough, the repertoire for Troy’s first VYO concert in 1995 included selections from West Side Story. It is fitting that the same music should be the final piece played at the Flynn on Friday night. Symmetry is sweet.

Lisamarie Charlesworth, VYOA Director of Marketing    (Photos: David Yandell)

Bonjour Mesdames & Monsieurs

The air in Elley-Long Music Center is electrifying as we orchestra members become more and more excited about our trip. I’m sure that the rest of the orchestra also feels this. Yesterday at the lunch break during rehearsal, my

friends and I discussed how much we were looking forward to eating baguettes and pâté. And during the plane ride between Québec and Paris, my plan is to play cards with Noah (bass) and look ahead to sampling more French food and a LOT of culture.

I must insert here that for me and some of my friends, the death of Michael Jackson has been extremely sad. It is strange that this event should happen at the same time as our much anticipated trip. As the trip nears, and our thoughts focus on rehearsing, packing and French pastries (I can’t help myself), the loss of such a talented artist is still in the back my mind.

Happily, we leave in a matter of days. Three days, to be exact…Québec and France, here we come!

Oliver Ames, violin   (Photos: Lisamarie Charlesworth)

Meet the Blog Team

The VYO Blog Team (pictured) met briefly during a break in today’s rehearsal to sort out the details of creating the tour blog, which is somewhat of a new experience for all of us. The ten students involved have volunteered theBlog Team!ir time and talent to create this online diary, armed with their cameras, a laptop or two and hopefully an abundance of free WiFi connections throughout Québec and France. Working in pairs, the students will begin to send their posts and photos beginning with their first tour stop in Québec City on Sunday, July 5.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, at the Music Center, tour rehearsals are in full swing…And the anticipation for the kickoff concert and ensuing trip is beginning to crescendo.

Four days and counting… Très bien!

Lisamarie Charlesworth, VYOA Director of Marketing

Le Tour Arrive!

Bonjour!

The VYO summer tour of Québec and France is fast approaching. Tour rehearsals begin on June 29. Students are beginning to think about the sheer excitement of traveling and performing music together in four breathtaking locations that formed the path of Samuel de Champlain’s voyage four hundred years ago.

med-eglise-de-la-madeleine-visoterra-12336

Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris

After the tour kickoff concert at the Flynn Center, where Troy Peters will bid a fond adieu to Vermont, the orchestra will perform at the beautiful Palais Montcalm in Old Québec City, founded in 1608 by de Champlain. From there, the students depart for Paris. It simply does not get better than performing at L’église de la Madeleine – or – experiencing first-hand what Gershwin may have felt and heard before inspired to compose An American in Paris. From Paris, it’s on to the quiet coastal town of Fouras, where the group will glimpse a more serene style of life, and hopefully enjoy an amazing meal of fruits de la mer.  The tour culminates in historic Poitiers; a city filled with remnants of medieval riches, now bustling with university students and academic life. In Poitiers, the VYO will meet alumnus Drake Mabry (VYO-oboe, ’67). Drake was commissioned to write Prelude and Tango specifically for this tour, so it is fitting that we would give our final concert in his town.  Prior to the concert, the orchestra will be treated to a farewell dinner, hosted by the mayor and other dignitaries. Afterwards, the orchestra will perform their final concert on a specially built stage in the breathtaking Palais de Justice, which dates to the 10th century.

Ten VYO students will be documenting the tour on this blog, submitting posts and photos on a regular basis. From concert halls to cafés, poutine to café au lait, the VYO will take you into their Canadian and French experiences with gusto and a unique perspective. We invite you to visit our blog frequently, and hope that you are inclined to comment on what you read and see!

A bientôt….

Lisamarie Charlesworth
VYOA Marketing Director

De Champlain’s Excellent Adventure

During last weekend’s VYO concert, we performed an amazing program! It consisted of Mr. Peters’ world premiere piece, Champlain’s Voyage, the Fauré Pavane, the Brahms Schicksalsied, Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 2, and An American in Paris by George Gershwin. Often a program will include a “rest” piece, such as a concerto, that is not musically or technically difficult. Not this time! Suzanne Calhoun - Flynn Center May 09

Each piece possessed individual challenges. The Gershwin was the hardest, definitely, but we worked at it so that it sounded tight and dance-like. The Chorus added 60 more musicians to the mix when we performed the Brahms and the Fauré, so adjusting to this large, additional presence was a part of the challenge.

Our conductor wrote Champlain’s Voyage in honor of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration, celebrating Samuel de Champlain’s voyage from France to Québec and Vermont. It is a cool piece, with extraordinary textures and well-done orchestration. We were fortunate to work with the composer every week. Mr. Peters told us exactly what he wanted for sound in each spot and he answered our questions about style and tone. A sentimental note: he wrote the piece with this orchestra and all its players in mind, including a big cantabile solo for our amazing tuba player.

As for the other works: The Fauré is very pretty; the Brahms is a phenomenal combination of gorgeous and tormented music. The Carmen Suite is fun because the melodies are recognizable; the Gershwin is a journey through several different themes and styles, as the “American” strolls thorough a musical Paris. I don’t think I had a favorite piece…

The VYO will tour Québec and France this summer. Actually, we are following Samuel de Champlain’s route in reverse, starting with our kickoff concert in Burlington at the Flynn Center on July 3. From there, we drive to Québec to perform at the Palais Montcalm in Québec City. Then, we board a plane and fly to Paris to perform, and of course, to do some sightseeing! We will visit La Rochelle, the port where de Champlain initially set off for North America. We will also visit Poitiers, where we hope to meet Drake Mabry, a former VYO member who composed a piece for our tour, entitled Diary of Perspectives.
For me, the atmosphere at our spring concerts was not one of finality…most of us will get to play together again and spend time together on our tour.

I can’t wait!

—Suzanne Calhoun     (Photo: David Yandell)

In The Moment

VYO at FlynnOur spring concert has come and gone. It is strange to realize that my Sunday afternoons will be free for the rest of the school year. Even stranger,  the heavy feeling of finality that hung over this concert weekend. This concert was especially unique, adding an extra spark that helped us focus and appreciate our music like never before.

The first half of the concert felt smooth. Mr. Peters’ piece was energetic and the collaborative pieces with the VYO chorus were beautiful and delicate. The second half of the concert was even better. Sometimes, the orchestra struggles after an intermission because of physical and mental fatigue, but on Sunday, our focus level remained high and we delivered a performance of which we could be proud.

In my opinion, the last piece on the program, An American in Paris, was better than ever. Our enjoyment of the piece came through with an electric intensity. This is not to say that our playing was entirely free of mistakes, but it was so full of passion! Playing An American in Paris demonstrated to me the sheer power of music. Live music is a gift. When performers and listeners connect with the heart of a piece, it captivates and leaves one thirsty for more. This kind of magic gave many of us chills as we played the final notes of Copland’s beautiful music.

The poignancy of the moment was amplified by the knowledge that this would be our last “regular” concert with the VYO. Mr. Peters will be moving to Texas later this year and along with the other seniors, I will graduate soon. I reflect on these changes with a mixture of sadness, gratitude for the past and excitement for the future. Playing with the VYO has been such a significant part of my life for the last two years that I can’t believe my time is already ending.

Fortunately, most of us can still look forward to playing together again at our Tour Kickoff concert on July 3rd and to our exciting tour.   If our spring concert was any indication, our summer performances in Vermont, Québec and France will be magnifique!

—April Burbank     (Photo: David Yandell)