San Francisco and Beyond

I can hardly believe that we’re nearing the end of our time in San Francisco. From our brief visit, the choir has collectively decided that we have no intentions of ever leaving this fascinating and beautiful city.

I last left you briefly before our first high school workshop. As a former home -schooler who never set foot in a high school (except to take the SAT and watch friends’ musicals) these workshops always feel like a glimpse into a parallel universe. Although the two high schools we visited were markedly different from one another, I was deeply impressed by both programs. At Campolindo High School, we had the pleasure of joining ranks with their concert choir as we sang Monteverdi’s “Si, ch’io vorrei morire.” I’d like to take a moment to publicly acknowledge their altos, some of whom sang tenor on this piece. The low notes those altos had were awe inspiring.

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The second high school we visited, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School for the Arts, was essentially every choir member’s dream high school. Nearly every wall has a mural, the students sing major works on a regular basis, and they take classes in subjects I didn’t even know existed when I was their age— we were all a tad envious. Getting to meet such skilled, but more importantly, impassioned students at both schools was a bonding experience. Choir geeks know their own, and we felt a sense of camaraderie at both schools because of this.

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That evening we were left to our own devices. What began as an excursion to explore some of San Francisco’s offbeat history with the choir’s resident historian, Emily Sung, evolved into a minor mountain climbing expedition (the hills here are not a joke), including a knee-deep jaunt into the frigid Pacific (well, at least for me— Emily exhibited more restraint), finally culminating in dinner with nearly a third of the choir at a restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. There may have been a trip to Ghirardelli in there as well, omitted in hopes that my body forgets about my caloric intake for that day.

The next day we had a luxuriously late call time, giving us ample opportunity to rest and engage in further sightseeing. Later in the day, we journeyed to Mission Dolores Basilica for our first concert. This beautiful space was a pleasure to sing in both acoustically and visually. The stunning artwork was refreshingly different from that of the east coast Anglican churches of my childhood, and there seemed to be a new chapel or churchyard tucked behind every bend. However, as a vegetarian, one of the highlights of the experience was the dinner provided for us by the church. I’ve never had so many scrumptious options during a tour dinner. I was almost giddy.

During the concert itself, we were delighted to see a number of familiar faces, from current students and family members to alumni. The concert was thrilling to perform again— perhaps made even more so by the sudden intrusion of a fire truck siren during the penultimate chord of the Lutkin. During the dozens of times I’ve performed the piece in the past four years, I don’t think I’ve ever held the dominant chord for quite that long.

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Today, we head to Aptos for our next concert and first home stay. Though I am sad to leave San Francisco, I look forward to seeing what this next portion of the tour brings.

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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