New York City is without a doubt the largest city I've ever set foot in--likely the largest city I ever will step foot in. The name alone should be enough of a clue to how massive this place is: New York, New York. The city that never sleeps. A city so huge, they had to name it twice. From the moment we were bused from LaGuardia Airport to our hotel on 57th and 7th, everything was just so much bigger than Idaho. Bigger crowds. Much taller buildings. More activity. It was enough to make me feel so much smaller than I am in Idaho, and more than enough to give me a vague sense of vertigo no matter what elevation I stood.
Spending a week in New York City defintely ranks as the best Spring Break I've ever had, and I'm proud to say I shared it with the rest of C of I's Chamber Singers. Technically, we were here on business--there was a concert at Carnegie Hall that we were invited to perform at, singing the music of Eric Whitacre, one of the 21st Century's most talented choral composers. But a chance to perform at such a prestigious concert hall is more than an honor, but also a pleasure. in fact, the entire trip was littered with pleasures just as New York's streets were littered with newspapers. I could easily write entire blog posts about any given event I took part in during my 7 days as a tourist, but in the interests of not creating one of my infamous walls of text, I think I'll stick with an overview.
Thus, I present the Top 5 Experiences I Had in New York City:
5. Exchange with Concordia College
As you might well imagine, choir tours often involve quite a bit of singing, and this trip was no exception. Aside from our Carnegie Hall experience, we got to spend time with the choir of Concordia College, located about half an hour away from the city. Concordia College reminded me quite a bit of our own campus. Their small student body (only around 750 students), thriving wildlife (squirrels, of course) and extremely tight community (including its own Greek Life, to my surprise) was much less of a culture shock than most of the other things I did in New York. Aside from the pouring rain, it was almost like being at home.
I was amazed not only by the talent of our new friends from Concordia, but also their kindness towards us. Here we were, total outsiders from the opposite end of the country, from a place where our tallest building is equal to one of their smallest, and they welcomed us with smiles and open arms. They shared their experiences and stories with us over a meal in their Hogwarts-esque dining hall, complimenting us on our excellent sound and asking us all sorts of questions about our lives. We found common ground with these students in more than just music. Singing for them and hearing their raucous applause and seeing their sincere enthusiasm put me at ease and helped me realize that even though we come from such different backgrounds, we're all still human.
4. Visiting Chinatown and Little Italy on Canal Street
I will say that outside of actually flying to their countries of origin, you will never find better Chinese or Italian food than you would if you took a stroll down Canal Street in New York City. I went there with a small group of other choir students while we had some free time, and going there hungry may have been the best decision I made throughout the entire trip. Some of the restaurants may have looked really sketchy, but the hole in the wall we stopped by for lunch could not have been more delicious. Easily the best meal I had on the trip, the six of us shared some orange chicken, fried rice, honey roasted chicken and beef, and much more, all for some of the best prices. I unfortunately can't remember the name of this place--I'm sure if I asked my choirmates they would slip me the name--but perhaps it's better this way. It makes it seem more like a dream than a real place. The same goes for the Italian cafe we stopped by for what was New York's best cannoli. Literally, it was voted number one, and it definitely earned that distinction. If they weren't $5.50 a pop I would have devoured a dozen of them.
And the shopping! It was like walking into a totally different city. Everything in Chinese, all the shopkeepers ready and willing to haggle to make sales (including items like swords--one of us paid $58 on what was originally retailed at $80), slightly shady looking women on the street corners urging us to follow them to Gucci bags and Tiffany jewelry...it was like we were in Beijing, not New York. And yet a subway ride away would take us to Times Square. The diversity of New York is truly something that needs to be seen to be believed.
3. Eric Whitacre Singers
The first night we were in New York, we were treated to a concert at the Lincoln Center put on by the very man we would be performing under in the coming days: Eric Whitacre and his Singers.
I could just tell you how amazing this concert was, but you should have a listen here and gauge how they sound yourself. Simply put, the concert could not have been better.
2. Avenue Q
Broadway musicals may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love them. All of us went to see a Broadway show during our time in New York, and we had a pretty awesome selection. Four others and myself decided to see the 2004 Tony Award winning Best Musical, Avenue Q. To put in perspective how critically acclaimed this thing is, it beat Wicked in both the Best Book and Best Musical categories. And let's face it, Wicked is infinitely more popular than Avenue Q, although Avenue Q is probably a great deal more creative.
Best described as a cross between Sesame Street and South Partk, Avenue Q blends puppetry and live actors controlling them in an incredibly raunchy treatment of old children's television. Following the adventures of a recent college graduate searching for purpose, he and his neighbors learn several important lessons, including "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet is for Porn." (I'd post the links to the songs, but they aren't really completely safe for work.) Not for the easily offended, but hilarious for everyone else. I was blown away by the humor, the acting talent, and pretty much everything. Definitely reccommend it for anyone going to the New York area!
1. Singing at Carnegie Hall
Was there really any doubt that this would be the best experience I had in New York? When I think of all the talented men and women who have stood on the stage I have now stood on, performing music loved across the globe, I can hardly believe my luck. The Hall itself is beautiful--red carpeting everywhere, really comfortable looking seats, balconies upon balconies. It looks small from the stage, but only because the balconies are so layered on top of each other. It wasn't a sold out crowd for the performance, but there were enough people there in all their finery for it to really matter.
Honestly, the music could have come together better. When you have over 200 singers on stage, there's bound to be some hiccups. Some of the singers we shared the stage with weren't 100% certain on their music like we were, and that made some of the magic go out of the hall. But when it all came together on certain chords, it was like an out of body experience. The fact that so many of us from so many walks of life, some of us coming from as far away as Australia, could create such a sound that we did reminds me why I continue singing.
Clayton is a sophomore creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.