New York Music & Dance Performance Tour February 2004

Group Leader: Timothy Jones

Dance Teacher: Lola Moreno

 

Thirty-six pupils from Year 8 to Year 13 travelled as part of the group, with one former pupil, aged twenty-one. Distinct performing ensembles within the group were the Chamber Orchestra, Percussion Group, Chamber Choir, Swing Octet, and Spanish Dance Group.

 

The itinerary very much followed the published programme, and was as follows:

Wednesday 11th February: depart Madrid for New York JFK airport. The huge amount of excess baggage, including percussion instruments and the three cello travelling cases on loan from the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía were finally loaded.

Our private coach was waiting at JFK, as planned.

A neon traffic sign on the road into NY from the airport read “Child Abduction: Yellow Alert”. This served as a very powerful reinforcement of part of Mike Frank’s pre-tour talk to students about vigilance and safety.

The group was installed in their hotel rooms within minutes and had the first experience of the Olympic Restaurant, two blocks from the hotel, which was to be our regular base for cooked American breakfast and supper each day.

Thursday 12th: a fascinating example of peer group organisation enabled rolling rehearsals to work smoothly during the morning in the various hotel rooms, with some pupils being called on by different ensembles as the morning wore on.

A private coach took us to the Manhattan site of the United Nations International School. We had a rehearsal involving four senior UNIS players, and then performed to 250 of their Middle School students, to an enthusiastic response.

We loaded everything back on the coach to travel the short distance to the Instituto Cervantes, situated off Fifth Avenue. The concert was filmed by the Hispanic Information & Telecommunications Network Inc. for later broadcast on the Hispanic Culture channel. We have a copy of this tape.

The Director of the Instituto Cervantes welcomed us, and in his introduction commented that this was the first concert to be given in their new facilities. The audience was made up mainly of Spanish members of public.

Friday 13th: By coach again to the UNIS Manhattan site for a concert for 150 High School students, again received with great enthusiasm. A fifteen minute snack in the cafeteria gave the opportunity to mix with the UNIS students, who were very friendly.

The coach took us to the UNIS Queens site, where we performed to 150 students of mixed ages and were given a tea time snack.

The mixture of classical string music, Spanish Dance with changing costumes, and the lighter Swing and Percussion items, brought a very positive response at all the UNIS performances.

Saturday 14th: Time to make the most of the hotel’s ideal location and walk to hit the shops in Times Square and Broadway; the older students in the wealth of choice of musical instrument stores and the younger students hunting for clothes bargains and gifts at Toys R Us, in supervised groups.

A performance of “Aida” at the Palace Theatre in Times Square caused a great impression and was followed by more sight-seeing in Broadway, and a look at the Empire State Building from a distance, a cult view on St Valentine’s Day.

Sunday 15th: A walk through a very crisp Central Park, with a stop for photos at the John Lennon memorial took us to the Natural History Museum. Afterwards we walked back through Central Park and some of the group went skating on the open air ice rink. Others continued walking to Fifth Avenue to see St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Disney and NBA stores, and walked past the Rockerfeller Center, splendidly illuminated, to watch skaters on the ice rink there.

Monday 16th: By public bus service to the Guggenheim Museum, where we made the most of the permanent collections including various Picasso, Van Gogh and Degas, and enjoyed the fabulous architecture, then a choice between a visit to the Metropolitan Museum and further visits to Fifth Avenue, including the Plaza Hotel  and later the NBC television centre and shop.

Then back to the hotel to prepare and change and travel by private coach to perform at the Riverside Church. This church is a landmark, and the audience was small but appreciative and included some English friends who will take enthusiastic reports back to their colleagues in the UK. The acoustic in the Riverside Church chapel was astonishing, and  we heard the Chamber Orchestra especially as never before. The coach driver took advantage of the proximity to Harlem and gave us a short tour of the area.

Tuesday 17 th: A brisk walk took us to the Intrepid Sea Air-Space Museum, an aircraft carrier docked at Pier 86. We filled an entire public New York bus to go cross town to visit the Empire State Building, now New York’s true sky line landmark.

Back to the hotel to meet our coach which took us to the Manhattan School of Music where we heard a concert of Bartok’s music where one of the performers was Ruben Yessayan, a former British Council School student. The standard of playing at the concert was breathtaking.

Wednesday 18th: Our first and only experience of the Subway was a direct line journey to the beautiful Washington Square. We had been invited by Jim Fernández, Director of the King Juan Carlos I Center of New York University to visit the Center and hear about its activities. A short lecture was followed by breakfast and photos in front of their original portrait of the King Juan Carlos.

From this site in Greenwich Village we walked through the University area down to China Town, then to Wall Street with a photo stop at the New York Stock Exchange, had lunch at the  South Street Seaport, site of the docks which were formerly the sea link to England via Liverpool, walked to the World Trade Centre site, saw the Titanic memorial, and crawled exhausted back to our Times Square base area to do some last minute shopping.

Thursday 19th: For our last morning the group chose between a two hour harbour cruise, sight seeing from the boat including the Statue of Liberty and the major bridges; and a visit to the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall to experience the unbelievable perfection of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in an open rehearsal, playing Haydn, Poulenc and Shostakovich.

Then a quick dash to the hotel to load up the coach to travel to JFK for our return flight to Madrid.

 

Almost everywhere we went we were complimented on the excellent behaviour of our students: at the hotel, the restaurant, the UNIS schools, and even the Delta pilot made an announcement at the end of the return flight congratulating the group and wishing us well.

 

 

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