NYT ’17, Korea Day 1 : Travel to Seoul and Korean BBQ

After a memorable (or maybe not so memorable for some) night at Party World karaoke in Taipei, it was time to head out for the next city on our trip — Seoul, South Korea. After a smooth check-in process at the Taoyuan International Airport, we were all set to board our Air Korea flight to Incheon International Airport. Aboard this flight we had our first experience with Korean hospitality – although the flight was short, the flight attendants took very good care of us. I was impressed by the frequency with which we were offered food and drink, as well as the fluency of the flight attendants in English, Chinese, and Korean. Our trip concluded with pleasantly short wait times for customs and baggage claim at the airport in Seoul.

Our reception at KIS came with a banner [I am currently hunting for the group photo that followed]

On the way to our accommodations in Korea, it became obvious how cold it was outside as the glass began to fog up on the interior of the bus. Though this blocked our view of the landscape, it provided an opportunity for some to begin planning for tomorrow’s workshops at the Korean International School, and for others to rest. We took some time to rest at a Korean barbeque restaurant on the way – this was to be our first meal in Korea. I was with the group that was given floor mats to sit on, but one could immediately notice that the floor mats were heated from underneath – how nice is it to be able to sit on the floor without being cold!

KIS led us to an excellent Korean Barbecue restaurant for our first meal in Korea

We were given sheets of meat to cook and cut ourselves (though we were aided by the waiter); served with an assortment of condiments and side dishes, the delicious meat was aggressively seasoned and definitely the highlight of the dinner, eaten alone or in a lettuce wrap (I was told that the vegetarians enjoyed their meal too). The servers at the restaurant were attentive and accommodating of the obvious language barrier; however, it soon surfaced that a number of the servers were Chinese-Korean and spoke fluent Chinese, and some fun conversation followed.

Shenanigans at the dinner

Soon after we re-boarded the bus, we arrived at the Korean International School and were shown our accommodations. The majority of us were to be housed in spacious four-person dormitory rooms’ bunk beds. Though more modest than our Taipei accommodations, these rooms will certainly allow us a comfortable stay in Seoul; however, we noticed a few interesting quirks as soon as we arrived. First, the floor was again heated! This made going barefoot in the bedroom quite comfortable, making it easy for us to respect this aspect of Korean etiquette. Second, Wi-Fi was not available in the bedrooms! This forces students to congregate in common areas for web access, promoting the social scene at the school in a manner both clever and astounding. That night, we engaged in various activities, including planning for the next day’s workshops with the Korean International School students, an outing to Gangnam, a poker night, and a Sherlock (the TV series) watching party.

Overall, a fantastic first day in Korea.

Author: Jimmy Jiang

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 6 : Concert at the National Concert Hall

On the day of our first concert of tour, January 2nd, we had a free morning to do as we wished. Some gleeks decided to go hiking up elephant mountain, others took a visit to the Taipei City Mall, and still others took a trip up to the top of the famous Taipei 101 building with some of the fastest elevators in the world.

Several hikers with the Taipei skyline behind them.

We met after lunch to take the buses to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. We took group photos both inside and outside the beautiful National Concert Hall Conveniently we all coordinated and wore our great tour shirts (designed by the talented Dennis Zhang). Here is the full group on the steps of the Taipei National Concert Hall:

The Full Glee Club in front of the Taipei National Concert Hall

The Concert Hall had an incredible pipe organ taking up the wall behind the stage, and the room had wonderful acoustics: one of the best in the country, we were told. Here we are on the stage:

The Glee Club on the stage of the National Concert Hall

At long last we had a sound check to prepare for our concert in the concert hall. We ran through the critical parts of the repertoire and made sure we had everything under our belt.

The singers take a break during the rehearsal

After the sound check, we had a dinner consisting of a box with sushi rolls. The people in charge of our dinner learned only after they ordered that we were headed to Japan next! We changed into our clothes and prepared to perform in the concert hall at 7pm.

Overall, it was a fantastic concert. Since it was both the first concert on tour and a high profile concert hall, we were all a little nervous, but the adrenaline gave energy to our music. However we were a bit put off by the icy cold silence after our first piece; unbeknownst to us, an announcer had before our arrival on stage asked the audience to keep their applause until the end of a section! But as the concert unravelled, it was clearly a success. Lite’s A Cappella was beautiful; and probably the single moment that garnered the most applause was Jasper Johnson’s translations of announcements into Chinese. It was a great concert to start off the tour.

The Glee Club during the first tour performance

We were all very excited in the backstage to have performed our first concert: I for one was most nervous about this concert in particular, and we had risen to expectations. It was then time to say goodbye to the concert hall.

The Taipei National Concert Hall, the night of the concert

That night after the concert, we were taken to a karaoke event at Party World, where we were treated by Albert Ting himself to two large reserved rooms, as well as food and drinks throughout the night. The gleeks enjoyed themselves in the singing and drinking, a joyous end to a strong first concert day.

Raucous singing during the karaoke party following the concert

Author: Sean Park and Jeffery Durand

NYT ’17, Korea Day 7 : Travel to Japan

[A quick note: sincere apologies for the big delay in the blog updates. We will be updating all the previous missing days very soon in addition to the upcoming days]

The morning was spent busy packing in the KIS dormitories, along with a final breakfast in the busy highschool cafeteria for those that had the courage or energy left to wake up. Some, including myself, were a bit late to laundry process, and had to resort to laying out socks, underwear and shirts on the heated floor to make them dry faster than on the racks! Finally we met at 10:30am and loaded the two buses, and bid our farewell to the amazing KIS staff with our traditional “Domine Salvum Fac.” We set on the final leg of our journey: to Japan, the land of the Rising Sun!

The Glee Club sings their farewells to KIS

The travel to Japan – with a bus ride to the airport, plane ride to Osaka KIX, and bus ride to Osaka – was itself uneventful, many of us using the time to catch up on sleep. We all unanimously enjoyed the quality of the Korean Air service, with on-flight entertainment and quality snacks served despite the flight being about an hour long. The club was hailed at the arrival gate by a team from the Shin Osaka Youth Hostel, where we were to spend our night. We were surprised at the length of the bus ride to the hostel, and so were grateful to finally make it to our small yet confortable hostel rooms: our first bedroom in Japan!

The group dispersed for dinner, with a contingent following Taggart Murphy (who was in the Glee Club during the Europe tour of ’73, was now living in Japan for almost 40 years, and had played a critical role in the planning of this tour) to the lively area of Kita-Ku. Back at the hostel, despite the very spotty wifi, we all enjoyed games (especially card games), conversations, and the manga library before setting to bed, with tomorrow’s explorations and concert in mind.

[More pictures coming soon!]

Author: Jeffery Durand

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 5 : New Year’s Day in Taiwan

We were given a fantastic gift for New Year’s day: the Glee Club had the day off. I can’t imagine a better way to start the New Year.

The group split into a great variety of trips throughout Taipei. Here are but just a few:

Outing to the Taipei Zoo:

A group of just around ten gleeks woke up early in the morning to go to the Taipei Zoo; it has the reputation of being the biggest zoo in Asia, so our expectations were high! We were not disappointed. We started with animals native to Taiwan, among which was a collared bear (Formosan fauna), then spent time in the insect house trying to catch butterflies! From there we hurried to the Panda house to catch a glimpse of the furry bear: we was eating bamboo near the back of his cage! Finally we ambled around, stumbling on the African and Asian elephants, orangutangs, and many others animals. These sights were made unique by the lush sub-tropical backdrop unique to Taiwan.

Some of the Gleeks near the entrance of the Taipei zoo

Hike into Elephant Mountain:

Around 20 Gleeks used New Year’s Day to go hiking in the ‘Four Beasts’ region, just outside of Taipei. The area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, temples, and spectacular views of the city skyline, especially Taipei 101. Beginning at Elephant Mountain (象山) , we were surprised by both the endless stairs and the sheer volume of selfie-stick armed tourists. At the peak – the main tourist destination – the group separated; some descended back into the city, others hiked a temple viewing trail, while the most adventurous pushed on towards the 9-5 peak (九五峯). Although the sunset forced us to turn back prematurely, we were still rewarded with an amazing view, and our tired souls were somewhat soothed by the melodious tenor notes of a local farmer.

The view from Elephant Mountain

Bike Ride toward the ocean:

Another contingent of 10 gleeks went on a biking trip along the Tansui river that afternoon, with the goal of going all the way to the ocean. I had been told by Albert Ting himself that the sightseeing was incredible and that the riverside had a pathway specifically for bikes; parts of this trail were alluringly called the “Golden Shore.” So after some searching, we found a good quality bike shop that miraculously had the perfect amount of bikes for us. We joined the very well maintained and beautiful bike path; the wide, open views of river branches and mountains beyond were unforgettable. But due to its popularity there were a lot of bikers other than ourselves, so we unluckily got split at a turn. But a rescue party successfully reunited us, and we a witnessed a breathtaking sunset from the river shore. After a final push north we arrived at a train station that we took back to our starting point, tired but proud of the 20ish kilometers covered.

Connor and Ben with their bikes

We made our way safely back by subway when night arrived. Once we gave our bikes back, we walked to the nearby night market and had dinner at a restaurant with Hakka ethnic food, and shared duck, noodles and beef dishes to celebrate a day well spent exploring the formidable landscapes of Taiwan.

The biking group meets after their outing for dinner

[more pictures coming soon!]

Authors: Jeffery Durand and Constantin Arnscheidt

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 4 : Second Day of Rehearsal and New Year’s Eve

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.

Our conductor, Harris, at rehearsal break

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!)

Lite performs for Albert Ting and his mother while enjoying a beautiful view of Taipei

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!

A group of Gleeks going out for dinner in Taipei in anticipation of the New Year

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.

The Gleeks amidst the crowd at close to the Taipei 101 tower.

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.

We share a glass of champagne in celebration of the New Year: to 2017!

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.

The group at the Meiti Park with Taipei 101 in the background.

We made it back two hours into the new year, and finally fell asleep.

Authors: Curtis Wu and Constantin Arnscheidt

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 3 : First Rehearsal and Dinner Party

After the full day of jetlag recovery, it was only fitting that we should start the day with a rehearsal. A hotel breakfast later, some grabbed the spare time to amble in nearby markets, finding a fruits, souvenirs.

Gleeks tour the nearby fruit market

We all assembled in the lobby at 10am and all headed to the Management of New Arts building: we were to rehearse in the same Steinway piano shop that Lite had rehearsed in the previous day! We assembled, ready to start singing, and learned new Korean repertoire along with Korean pronunciation.

The Glee Club gets ready for their first rehearsal.

It was good to get back at singing, but the lack of sleep and practice certainly made a few feel a little rusty at first (at least that’s how I felt). A lightning lunch or snack served as break, and finished the 4 hour rehearsal, only to be told by our tour manager, Jay Mueller, that our Alum for the ’93 tour to Asia, Albert Ting, had invited us all to dinner and Karaoke that evening in our hotel: what a wonderful surprise!

Our fearless Tour Manager, Jay Mueller, at rehearsal

Soon after our return to the hotel, we changed into fancier clothes and went to the second floor of the hotel, where a incredibly fancy room and meal awaited us. We feasted upon a selection of varied taiwanese dishes including noodles, vegetables, and very good duck meat.

Dennis and both Connor and Connor enjoy their meal at the reception

During the night, people started singing Karaoke songs, starting with a hilarious rendition of “Beat it” and “Jingle Bell Rock”, followed by an Oliver’s impressive performance of Frank Sinatra’s “New York” which he re-dubbed “Taipei, Taiwan.” By the end of the night, all were full on extroverts on Karaoke stage.

The stage is full of singers singing like there’s no tomorrow

Author: Jeffery Durand

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 2 : A day trip of Taipei

On our first full day in Taipei, we took a tour of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, Longshan Temple, and the National Palace Museum, led by intrepid tour guides Wong Li-ling and Fannie Lai.

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial was undergoing restoration, so a large scaffold and its white safety netting wrapped around the upper, shrine-shaped part of the memorial. We learned from our tour guide that the Memorial has 89 steps, to represent Chiang Kai-Shek’s age when he died, and that it has been at the center of a discussion of how Taiwan should relate to the founder of its contemporary political state.

The changing of the guard at the memorial

We took the elevator to the fourth floor, and watched the changing of the guard in front of the enormous statue of Chiang Kai-Shek. Following Chiang Kai-Shek’s gaze, the memorial looked out over a grand courtyard at the National Theater and the National Concert Hall, where we will perform in a few days. On the ground floor, the tour guides took us around an exhibit displaying important artifacts from Chiang Kai-Shek’s political and military careers.

The National Concert Hall, where we will be performing on January 2nd

The next stop was the Longshan temple, where Buddhists and Taoists gather together to pray. The temple is over two hundred years old, and the architecture is beautiful.

The tour guide shows us how to use the incense sticks

The tour guide narrated what goes on at the temple on a regular basis: people bring offerings of cakes, fruits, flowers, burn incense, toss stones, and pray to various different gods for success and wisdom. Several Gleeks took the opportunity to light incense and throw moon-shaped stones to ask the gods for advice on their own love lives and career plans.

Gleeks meditating at the temple.

We ate lunch on the bus, a lunchbox of rice, cabbage, a tea egg, and a chicken cutlet, and then drove to the National Palace Museum.

Gleeks in front of the entrance to the famed National Palace Museum

Students from the local Taiwan International School who had done extensive training with the museum docents gave us a guided tour of the museum, demonstrating their knowledge of the artifacts and their ability to navigate the large holiday crowds. As we listened through our headsets, we learned about emperors who put their stamp of approval on artwork, emperors who fell in love with their consort’s younger sister, emperors who consoled their wife over the loss of their son by commissioning a group of chicken tea cups, emperors who created the first standardized weight of rice, emperors who build bells to commemorate their victories- many years of decadence, but also ingenuity and beauty. The museum was filled with ceramics, bronze, jade, paintings, and even some furniture, and painted a rich picture of Chinese history.

A selfie being taken at the National Palace Museum

Meanwhile, Lite, the A Cappella subset, left early from the tour to rehearse at the Management of New Arts building. After a somewhat rushed subway ride across the city, the subgroup was led to a the eleventh floor of the building, which (lo and behold), was a steinway piano shop. Lite rehearsed it’s repertoire for the upcoming concert, then was taxi-ed out to the National Palace Museum, had lunch on the steps of the museum, and went in to join the rest of the group.

Lite assembles for their rehearsal in the piano shop

The final stop of the tour was a foray into the famous Shilin night market. We went to an underground food court and ate the local street food (cheap yet very yummy) in smaller groups. Then those wanting to head back to the hotel and sleep climbed back onto the bus; this counted most of us, as jet lag was kicking in. However some others chose to stay at the market, explore, barter with the shop owners, and play some of the endless games proposed.

A group getting samples in a tea shop at the Shilin night market.

Authors: Curtis Wu and Jeffery Durand

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 1 : Arrival in Taipei, Taiwan

On December 26th, the first members of the Glee Club arrived in San Francisco in preparation for our flight to Taipei. This was a good time for us to catch up with each other after having left Cambridge for our winter breaks.

The next day, HGC left San Francisco an hour late, because the plane was too heavy and they had to decrease the weight by removing a pallet of mail from the freight hold.

Gleeks wait at the airport

As the 747-400 flew across the Pacific, the Glee Club enjoyed a lunch of rice and chicken or vegetarian ramen noodles, in-flight movies, and friendly conversation. The flight crew we interested to hear about our upcoming tour, and at the end of the flight, offered us leftover chocolates as a sending-off present.

After almost 14 hours in the air, we landed in Taipei on the evening of December 28th, around 6:30 PM, tired but excited to be in Asia!


After arriving at the Taipei Airport slightly behind schedule, at just past 7pm (Taiwan time), the Glee Club passed through customs and got our bags mostly without issue. We were greeted by Carol, from Management of New Arts, who guided us to two tour busses which transported us to our hotel, the Ambassador. The streets were awash with rain and scooters swarmed all around us, their drivers fighting to see while being blinded by rain. It was hard to believe that we were on the other side of the world and only at the start of our month-long adventure.

At the hotel, we dropped off our bags and then were led to a nearby ally, and through a side door of a building. Descending down a flight of stairs, we found ourselves in a beautiful underground bar / event space. Here, the Harvard Club of Taiwan generously hosted us and we had the chance to eat delicious tapas, including mini-cheeseburgers, sandwiches and ganache deserts. There was also an open bar, which many in the Glee Club enjoyed.

The fancy reception in the hotel basement

We then gradually returned to our hotel, which was a wonderful treat after nearly twenty-four hours of travel. Our rooms were each fitted with two single beds and have fully-equipped bathrooms which include toilets with heated seats and ornate controls. Suffice to say, we fell asleep quickly, our minds already looking ahead to the adventures which lay before us.

 

(Authors: Curtis Wu and Jasper Johnston)

Day 7 : A day in Steamboat

Skiing, hot springs, libraries, hikes, downtown shops and restaurants: there were many things we enjoyed doing in Steamboat Springs. Even better: it big yet light snowflakes fell all day, shrouding all our outdoor explorations in an eerie magic.

I got to see a moose for the first time!
I got to see a moose for the first time!

Almost half of the group went skiing that day, and with the help of our hosts this turned out to be completely free. What an incredible treat! For some people it was their first or second time skiing, and they bravely got up from many falls to get down those slopes. The skiing crew got back weary in the evening, but with a ton of fun memories.

Matthew prepares to go down a slope
Matthew prepares to go down a slope

Others (when they could get their hands on good shoes) went on short hikes to enjoy the majestic views of the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed a walk along the Yampa river and a hike to an abandoned uranium mine higher in the mountains.

But the most popular destination were the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a 30 minute drive from downtown. Three separate groups took the trip. First we took a shuttle that drove along the bumpy and snowy dirt road (quite an interesting ride), then we arrived at the beautiful picturesque springs.

Eduardo and John arrive at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Eduardo and John arrive at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Being in a 100 degree hot pool while snow falls on your shoulders is a surreal experience. John, Eduardo and I even got to sing some impromptu pieces to the tourists at the hot springs.

Our president enjoying the 98 degree waters
Our president enjoying the 98 degree waters

All gleeks had a festive St Patrick day’s evening, be it downtown or at home with their hosts.

Day 6 : The road to Steamboat Springs

A beautiful travel day to Steamboat Springs followed by a memorable concert in the Strings Pavilion was what awaited us on day six.

Unfortunately bad luck did strike: our fearless tour manager Quincy along with Bernie, Luran and yours truly all had a bad case of food poisoning (we had all made the mistake of eating at a Golden Coral two days earlier) Quincy was the last to become sick and did not take the bus with us, instead joining us two days later in Denver. In memorial our poet laureate John Griffin composed alternative lyrics for Quincy’s solo, “So fades the lovely, blooming flower”:

“So pukes the lovely, poisoned Q,
Sweet, fevered tour man oh so true,
So soon his nausea leaves him far,
Now we must sing these, first few bars”

During the beautiful drive out of New Mexico and through Colorado, John also appropriately launched the limerick contest. Winners would be announced on our way to Denver.

The ride was an occasion to watch the landscape slowly turn from red or yellow rock formations to white snowy mountains (and “Kill Bill volume 1”).

 

The road seems endless but is always changing
The road seems endless but is always changing

 

Finally after our arrival at the Strings Pavilion we had our rehearsal, followed by pizza for dinner and our 7:30 PM concert. The house was close to full and we had a lot of fun singing in that concert space.

The beautiful Strings Pavilion is world renowned
The beautiful Strings Pavilion is world renowned

When our hosts then snatched us and took us back home we discovered a closely-knit community at Steamboat Springs. We prepared excitedly for the next day where many would go skiing.