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)