By Rhian Merritt
Read the original blog post here: www.kindkrafts.com/blog/nyc-on-the-rock
For three weeks this summer, I was away in Newfoundland touring with the National Youth Choir! I had an amazing trip (minus the snow in Gander) and I am sad to leave all of the music and new friends on "The Rock".
Firstly, I want to say how thankful I am to be able to participate in the National Youth Choir. This was my third year representing Nova Scotia and I'm always amazed at how each year is as good as the last. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my fellow choristers from across Canada as well as Jeff Joudrey, Gabrielle Gaudreault, and Phil Roberts. It is such an honour to be able to work with these talented musicians and to tour beautiful provinces for the purpose of sharing music.
The trip started in St. John's where we stayed at MUN for our rehearsal week. The conductor, Jeff Joudrey, jumped right into the music and everyone was so enthusiastic about our repertoire. One of my favourite things is having a first rehearsal with a new choir. Everyone learns their music at home and so you never know what to expect when the whole group finally comes together. After finishing the rehearsal, we all knew that this was going to be a fun year. Over the next week we polished all of the twenty pieces and then set out for our upcoming tour.
The choir then travelled to Cornerbrook, Stephenville, Gander, Clarenville, Carbonear and finally St. John's. At each new location we met tons of new people and were able to explore the area. I'm so thankful for the enthusiastic audience in Cornerbrook, the INCREDIBLE dinner in Stephenville, my super awesome billets in Gander, being able to see my friend from Acadia in Clarenville, and the unreal hospitality shown to the choir in Carbonear. Our wonderful tour manager, Kristian, and her family gave us the true Newfoundland experience as all forty-five of us swarmed their home for dinner and a party. We also got screeched in, where community members watched us kiss the cod and dance a good Newfoundland jig. The choir couldn't be more grateful for what Kristian, Astro, and her family did for us during the tour – we LOVE you!!!
Throughout the week, there were a few events involving community outreach which really stuck with me. In Cornerbrook, Gander, and Carbonear we were able to meet with the local choirs and work on one of our pieces with them. It was so much fun to watch how excited they were to be able to sing with us. It made me remember how inspiring it used to be for me to sing alongside my older peers when I was in junior choirs. I don't think we realize how influential small moments like that can be and so it was really awesome to be able to have that experience.
When we were in St. John's we had a mental health workshop with Dr. Jan Buley. At first the choir was barely awake and probably not in the best shape, but we quickly snapped out of it as Jan got to work. We did an emotional exercise which definitely brought the choir closer. It was so important for us to have this workshop and to have that time to be with each other in a non-musical setting. Later on that day, we met with the Stella's Circle Inclusion Choir and listened to them sing an original song for us. The Inclusion Choir is based in St. John's and most of the members have experienced homelessness or have gone through a period of struggle. Stella's Circle is a local organization that provide services to adults who face barriers that prevent them from fully participating in their community. These barriers include mental health challenges, addictions, trauma, poverty, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, low literacy, and long periods of unemployment. The organization has several ways for people to be involved including the choir. It was beautiful to hear the song they wrote and to have the opportunity to meet such lovely people. Visit http://stellascircle.ca/ to learn more about the organization and all of the ways they are helping their community.
Finally, we reached Podium (Canada's national choral conference and festival which is co-presented by Choral Canada and a provincial host every two years) and a snazzy new hotel in St. John's. On Sunday we had our final concert in the gorgeous basilica – the acoustics were out of this world!! It was bittersweet performing our final piece but we still had two workshops to go! The next day we were fortunate enough to be able to work with composer Ēriks Ešenvalds and sing two of his pieces, "Stars" and "Only in Sleep". What amazed me the most about this particular workshop, was how Ešenvalds got us to think. Instead of simply stating how he wanted us to sound (warmer tone, less vibrato, more open, etc.) he would make us discover it for ourselves by telling us to sound like "winter". It was so cool to see how effective that terminology was compared to telling us what he wanted more directly. He was a very lovely man and I'm so thankful to have been able to work with him.
I loved exploring the city and meeting so many locals who were always up for a chat. I got to catch up with a friend I hadn't seen in years and talking with him made me so happy – thanks Tristan! I am now obsessed with the city's Jellybean Row Houses and have decided I will have a brightly coloured house when I'm older. It's a beautiful place and I wish that I had been able to see more of it during my stay. Now that I've been to Newfoundland I can't wait to go back!
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