SJK Singers take New York City

The SJK Singers experienced the trip of a lifetime in New York City this past weekend!

Day 1 began with the Freedom Tower Tour - the skypod elevators climbed 102 stories in 47 seconds! When at the top, the view revealed the transformation of New York City from unsettled lands to today’s remarkable forest of skyscrapers. At the bottom, we witnessed the breathtaking monument memorials of Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Centre.

Day 2 began at the Manhattan Concert Productions rehearsal. After participating in a fun warm-up, our choir observed an amazing rehearsal with respected U.S. conductor Andrew Last, where we learned fine detail skill techniques.
After a brief walk and flashmob performance in Times Square, we made our way to lunch - Ellen’s Stardust Diner - where our servers were all Broadway Singers - and treated us to an incredible show for the price of a burger. We must admit, (as Mr. Craig would say) it was undoubtedly a ‘geek out’ moment of the trip!

Followed by all this inspiration, the choir made its way to the Broadway Show Come From Away - which tells the remarkable true story of thousands of stranded passengers due to 9/11, and the small town of Gander, Newfoundland that welcomed them. It was amazing. If you haven’t seen this show, by all means, make a point of doing so - it will make you proud to be Canadian! As it turns out, Mr. Craig is colleagues with one of the cast members, who was gracious enough to come out and meet the students for autographs, pictures, and words of encouragement. It was quite a moment!

The day finished with an extraordinary and genuinely authentic Italian dinner at Angelo’s (right beside the theatre where the Colbert Show is filmed) and Top of the Rock (Rockefeller) for another spectacular view of NYC, and a tasty Bakery Snack Stop!

The morning of Day 3 was a variety of free time choices - Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Shopping at Macy’s, and Times Square. Our entire afternoon was spent at the headquarters of Young People’s Chorus of NYC.

For those not in the know, Young People’s Chorus (YPC) of New York is one of the most respected choral institutions anywhere. Over 2000 kids from all over Greater New York travel to the school, some commuting up to 2.5 hours each way, several days a week, for the opportunity to be part of this school.

The school’s founder, Francisco Nuñez, is a world-renowned choral director, Master Teacher, and MacArthur Fellow, among many other distinctions. He is a former director of choral studies at New York University. Francisco spent three hours over two days working directly with our choir, giving them high-level instruction, and in some cases, individual training. He made our students laugh with his wit, which put them at ease and pushed them well beyond their normal boundaries.

YPC has students right across school age, and of varying levels of ability; we also got the opportunity to spend some exchange time with YPC’s elite choir, a group of about 25 girls, many of whom were the same ages as our older students. We performed for them, and they in turn performed for us. We think it’s safe to say our students were absolutely blown away by the virtuosity of these girls. They heard what is possible through hard work, commitment (some rehearse 8 hours a week), and the pursuit of excellence. But when not singing, these are just regular kids. It was so heartwarming to see our students making instant friends with the YPC kids during our breaks. This was definitely the highlight of our trip - getting to meet New York students and learning what choir means to them.

After another Italian dinner, we went off to Carnegie Hall. This was an opportunity for our students to hear the culmination of the rigorous rehearsal process they had witnessed the day before. Those same students we heard rehearsing on Day 2 were now on the stage of one of the world’s most prestigious concert halls. For most of our group, that evening was also likely the first time they heard a “contemporary Classical” performance, as the main work on the programme, “Carmina Pax”, was written and conducted by Z. Randall Stroope, one of America’s leading modern composers. The work had its World Premiere just over a year ago!

The group had a final walk through Times Square on the last evening, stopping for s’mores at Hershey's and treats at the M&Ms store. We returned to YPC on the morning of Day 4 for one more round of training with Francisco Nuñez, then returned to the hotel for a rooftop lunch provided by our hotel before heading to the airport.

Our choir students were amazing ambassadors of SJK. Not only did we take action by giving away any leftover food to those in need, but we also left our metro passes for anyone who could use them for the remainder of the week.

Heartfelt thanks to all our chaperones on this trip who supported the students' safety and enjoyment of their trip: Jane Albright, Gia Lucchetta, Helena Wulff, Jennifer Shingler, Judith Martin, and André Van Niekerk. Also, special thanks to André and Helena who assisted with extra planning and details to keep it less stressful on the group!!

The choir returned inspired, which was everything we wanted for our singers.

Ms. de Boer-Jones & Mr. Craig