In the words of the choral conducting graduate, scholar, former history major, Westminster Choir member, and my dear friend, the Princeton-educated Emily Sung, “I love the ocean! I love the ocean! I love the ocean! The ocean is so big big big big BIG BIG BIG! I love the ocean YAY hooray wheeeeeee!” Her wise words accurately summarize the last few days we have spent in Santa Monica and San Diego.
After arriving in Santa Monica and Monday, we were given free rein to explore our environs. And by environs, I mostly mean food. Have I mentioned that I’m a vegetarian, and that I’m never leaving California? Because being in Santa Monica was the final selling point in that decision. I joined a large portion of the choir for an almost unbearably wonderful dinner at True Food Kitchen, followed by a trip to the pier. I don’t think that there’s anything more magical than traipsing about an illuminated wonderland of sea, Ferris wheels, street musicians, and sea lions under a clear sky. Although I only intended to dip my feet in the water, it turned out that Poseidon had other plans, as by the time I turned in for the night I was drenched up to my waist.
The next morning we went on a group trip to the Getty Museum. Even though we were only there for a couple hours, I hardly know where to begin in describing it. My inner history nerd was satiated by an exhibit on WWI propaganda and artwork, but the true highlight came at the end as several choir members and staff persons (including Dr. Miller) took on the task of recreating one of the outdoor statues and were duly caught on camera. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The end of the day was filled with further beach shenanigans, a poetry reading, and a late night bonding by the ocean with one of the youngest members of the choir, Tsarina.
On Wednesday, we performed in the auditorium of Santa Monica High School. This concert was particularly special for the choir as the director of the school’s choral program, Jeffe Huls, is a former student of Dr. Miller, and a former Westminster Choir member, Shari Perman, was Mr. Hul’s student during her time in high school. As I was in the choir with Shari for one year, it was moving to get to perform for her and her home community.
The next morning was the end of workshop marathon as we worked with the choirs at Santa Monica High School and Mira Costa high school. In a change from our normal workshop format, we got to watch Dr. Miller work with these choirs as a clinician. This gave us a chance to step back and see how he achieves certain results with groups of a different age, which enlightened aspects of our own rehearsal process.
At Mira Costa, we also had a chance to socialize with the students and learn about their passion for choral music, glitter, and anarcho-feminism, amongst other things.
Before we could depart for San Diego, however, a choir member (who will remain unnamed to protect his anonymity) realized he had left his tuxedo at the home of his host for the previous night. What should have been a tedious hour of sitting about the bus turned into one of my favorite moments of tour as we played various games and soaked up the glorious Southern California sunlight.
And then, San Diego! This stop was especially important to me as my paternal grandparents and much of my family lives near San Diego. While most of the choir went to various sectional dinners, I had a chance to reconnect with my family. After that, I went out on the town with the choir as we graced various (somewhat empty) pubs with our boisterous presence.
The next day we performed in the gorgeous St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is the reigning champion of concert locales for this year. The lush acoustic was filled by an enthusiastic audience, lending the choir the energy to perform with vigor. However, the best part for me was being able to share my music and choir family with a large part of my extended family for the first time. It was an experience I know I will treasure for a long time.
Now, I write to you from the dressing room at the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, the last stop on this tour. Though my brain is addled by the scent of hairspray and the obligatory copious amounts of deodorant, I’m dizzied even more by the excitement of performing the concert for one last time (before we tuck it away for a few weeks) and the prospect of tonight’s tour banquet. This tour has been quite a trip, and I’m truly blessed to be able to tell you all about it.