New Year’s Eve began with another day of rehearsal. We rearranged the chairs so that we were in the same formation we normally use back at Harvard, and that helped everyone settle into our normal rehearsal routine. We learned the pronunciation to the Japanese and Korean songs we’re performing with Gunsan and at Koriyama (thank you to Richard Yuh and Westley Cook, our resident Korean and Japanese speakers!) and spent some more time on “Ave Maria.” When we broke for lunch, a group went to a restaurant that made dishes such as “Dawn Intestinal Wang” and “Exploding Onion Beef” but also bite-size versions of a variety of Chinese dishes – ma po tofu, scrambled egg and stewed tomato, xiaolongbao, kung pao chicken, sugar pea greens, cha siu bao, and, of course, white rice. Other groups went to have the famed Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup.
Also that morning, while the men of the Glee Club were diligently rehearsing, Lite was driven to Albert Ting’s house to sing for his mother. Against a beautiful backdrop [picture coming soon!] of the Taipei skyline (as seen from across the river), we kept our audience entertained with Disney and Billy Joel, while also being fed Taiwanese snacks. Albert even joined us for a beautiful, impromptu performance of Loch Lomond. (although the lack of rehearsal definitely showed; on Lite’s part, of course!)
During the second half of rehearsal (during which Lite joined the rest of the group), we sang through our concert set list. In addition to our Princeton and Yale concert set list, we had three songs from our winter concert and four songs from previous years’ repertoire. We had learned a lot of music – some of which was not in the setlist of our upcoming first concert, but necessary to the rest of tour: indeed, our collaborations all have shared repertoire, such as local folksongs, and we had to iron these new pieces out. On the walk back to our hotel, some of the guys broke out into song, which was a good sign of their enthusiasm.
For New Year’s Eve dinner, a group went to a Szechuan restaurant. The dishes were completely tasty: we had some pork with hot chile sauce, chicken with pepper sauce, fried green beans, prawns and snap peas, and chow mein with vegetables. Another group attempted to go to the famed dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung; but the line proved too long!
After dinner, the group split to go view see the fireworks at Taipei 101 from different places.
Some met up at a night market, and took the subway (a magnificent public work) to Taipei 101 itself to await the fireworks. After wandering about trying to find various friends, we ended up on the fringe of a concert area, packed into a street which was standing-room only. However, for the number of people there, the evening was incredibly quiet. We didn’t feel much of a sense of anticipation from any of the people around be besides our fellow singers, but everyone was looking at the skyscraper. On the building, laser lights welcomed the world to Taiwan and when the time came, counted down the 10 seconds to midnight. As we tried to chant along with them (the fluent speakers joined in with gusto), we finally felt a surge of energy, and people cheered as the first fireworks shot from the tiers of Taipei 101. We sang “Auld Lang Syne” and enjoyed the orchestral soundtrack to the fireworks show, before slowly making our way back to the hotel. Of course, it takes a long time for such a crowd to disperse, so by the time we got to a subway station and made it back to the hotel, it was 2:00 AM.
Another sizable group of Gleeks met at the Meiti Riverside Park, which gave us a clear view of the Taipei 101 tower but also plenty of space to congregate. We played cards, had a glass of wine and talked about the year before and ahead. As the countdown approached, we were all served a glass of champagne, and gathered by the riverside.
As the fireworks started, we sung the joyous “Exultate Justi in Domino” to welcome the New Year. The fireworks were incredible, but surprisingly short – but we did not stop singing. We went on to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” “Winter Song,” “Parting Glass,” and “Sicut Cervus.” Then we dispersed, some heading for the nightlife of what was sure to be an exciting night, and most going back to the hotel.
We made it back two hours into the new year, and finally fell asleep.
Authors: Curtis Wu and Constantin Arnscheidt