Postcard from tour: Our Kennedy Center Debut!

Hello SFGC Community, from back home in SF!

Our tour postcard writers, Gabby Vulakh and Elizabeth Easton, with Valerie at the airport in Washington, DC – headed home on Sunday.

Since Gabby wrote you all, our rehearsal process continued in New York and in D.C. It was so wonderful to see Eric Jacobsen again – he is such a wonderful conductor and The Knights’ sound is unique, and the way they conduct rehearsal is so impressive. I loved how they all contributed to their conversations about sound, phrasing, and color – it really paints a picture. Then, they are not only able to describe their vision, but they carry it out in a beautiful and graceful manner.

My favorite song to play with them is definitely Lisa Bielawa’s piece, My Outstretched Hand. The chords are stunning and the words are truly beautiful. The song really comes together when both choirs are singing along with the orchestra.

On Thursday we ate a pizza dinner in New York with the whole group and some alums who are now living nearby. One was a professional singer, and another was an actress. It was really fascinating and inspiring to see girls who had gone through the chorus grow up and have jobs in the arts.

 

 

 

SFGC alumnae Kristin Faith Oei, Michele Kennedy, and Gina Patterson visit with singers.

I didn’t expect Friday’s charter bus ride to Washington, DC to be as short as it felt, so that was a pleasant surprise. As soon as we arrived, we rehearsed Vivaldi’s Gloria with The Knights. We got to sing in a circle around the orchestra, which was great because we could hear the sound (especially of the strings) much more clearly.

A small group of us sang at The Hamilton dinner club with The Knights on Friday night. We listened to the opening act for The Knights, Holly Bowling. She was an amazingly talented pianist, who took songs and arranged them in her own style. She used tools to play the inside of the grand piano, as well as using her muscular forearms to play astoundingly beautiful chords. We performed Panda Chant by Meredith Monk, and then went on to sing several songs with Christina Courtin, who also plays violin in The Knights. She is such a radiant and confident singer with a metallic yet resonant sound, and watching her perform was amazing, let alone singing with her.

Outside the Kennedy Center grand entryway – the SFGC is in great company!

It was a wonderful night full of music, and we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our big concert.

Saturday was our performance day! I was so surprised when we arrived at the festival for our rehearsal. Kennedy Center is so grand and beautiful with large pillars, and the outer marble adds to it even more.

The concert started with Lisa Bielawa’s piece, My Outstretched Hand. It’s such a meaningful piece and I love how Lisa used a young woman’s words and turned it into a beautiful song that includes two choirs and an orchestra. Mary MacLane’s writing is actually really relatable as a young woman, and I love to sing a song that we really truly understand.

Then we sang Vivaldi’s Gloria and it felt so strong! Right after, we had a quick intermission and went back on stage for Brahms. The chords are so pleasing to the ear and it went really well.

Standing ovation at the Kennedy Center!

Before we sang our last piece – Remembering the Sea – a fellow chorister, Lola Miller-Henline, talked onstage a little bit about how meaningful the piece is, especially after the attacks on Paris, San Bernadino, Lebanon, and many others. Once we started singing, I was way more touched than I expected. Because of what Lola had said, I was moved by the poet’s words. One of the lines that stood out to me was “The way one sun becomes every color of skin.” A lot of us had tears streaming down our faces at the end of the song, including the conductor.

We ended the concert with a collaborative piece by The Knights. I am so grateful to have had the experience that I had, and working with such talented musicians was a dream come true!

Elizabeth Easton
San Francisco Girls Chorus, Alto I

A dream come true – backstage afterglow, with Valerie, Lisa, Eric, and – on the back right – Deborah Rutter, President of the Kennedy Center. On the far left is Jenny Bilfield, one of the directors of The SHIFT Festival.

 

 

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