NYT ’17, Korea Day 3 : Concert with the Gunsan Civic Chorale

We left early after breakfast on January 5th for the city of Gunsan, a three hour drive south from Seoul. It’s a smaller, coastal town, right next to the US Air Force base. Our bus had a large, flatscreen TV, and during the first half of the drive, we watched K-Pop videos and a documentary about an isolated tribe that fished and hunted using bows and clubs, and roasted a monkey over a fire for food. We stopped to stretch our legs and use the bathroom after an hour-and-a-half, and people purchased a variety of snacks for the rest of the ride. I myself got a bag of walnut-shaped red bean cakes. They had a soft, golden brown exterior, and the filling had bits of walnut throughout.

The restaurant “Arirang” which we stopped at to eat delicious bibimbap

When we arrived in Gunsan, we had lunch at a restaurant named “Arirang,” which is also one of the pieces we were singing in Korea. It’s a popular folk tune about a mountain pass, and most everybody in Korea is familiar with it. After lunch, we drove to the meeting point for our housing. According to the best approximate translation, we were going to be staying in Korean guest houses, sort of like a bed and breakfast joint. There were mats on the floor for us to sleep on, a spartan bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower, and not much space for anything else. We just had time to say hi to our hosts and grab our music and tails before we were whisked off to the Gunsan Art Center.

The Gunsan Arts Center – quite a sight!

The Art Center is a surprisingly expansive public work for such a small town. It was constructed in 2013, so its sleek, angular design was a bit incongruous next to the rest of the town, which was a bit smaller and more traditional. The other peculiar thing about the stage was that there was a large thrust, which made the audience seem far away. When we entered, we met the Gunsan Civic Chorale, a professional chorus, and rehearsed our joint pieces with them.

Gleeks rehearse amid the members of the Gunsan Civic Chorale

After the joint rehearsal, we had a bit of time to ourselves on the stage, and we went through our own set.

We rehearse our repertoire for the concert

Next on the schedule was dinner, a buffet at a place known for their pork cutlets. All-you-can-eat is always a good choice for the Glee Club, and we filled up on all kinds of tasty food.

Two gleeks enjoying the amazing dinner buffet

The Gunsan Civic Chorale performed first during the concert, and it was then that we realized how good of a choir they were. During our rehearsal with them, our singing mixed in with their singing, making it hard to hear their group sound. When they were in performance mode, they were astounding. Dynamics, phrasing, tempo, pitch, and energy were just right. They got the most out of every piece, and their soloists were quite impressive.

The Gunsan Civic Chorale performed the second half of their set in tradition garb

When it was our turn to go on, we knew we had to rise to the occasion. On the whole, we did. It was our best concert on tour so far, and during the football songs, the audience got in on the performance by clapping, albeit off-tempo.

The Glee Club as it starts its concert
The Small group performs Glorious Apollo
We sing the football songs: “with crimson and triumph FLASHING”

Our finale, the joint performance of the Gunsan conductor’s arrangement of “Arirang,” was also received quite well.

The two choirs combine to sing both American and Korean traditional songs
The two conductors salute the crowd

After the performance, we attended a reception with the Chorus, during which time they gave us a plaque from the city of Gunsan, a framed commemorative poster from the concert, and food.

The mayor and Gunsan officials along with the two conductors cut the afterparty cake

We mingled with the other chorus, and even took a couple of photos with them (kimchi!). At the end, there was a raffle, and several of us won fun prizes, like fans and paper crafts, which they claimed by doing some dance moves.

We rejoince after the concert
Gleeks await tasty food at the reception after the concert
Quincy and others took the opportunity to take pictures with members of the Gunsan Civic Chorale

Afterward, we returned to our guest houses, where we were greeted by our hosts. Many of them had attended the concert, and they all praised our performance, which was a good way to end the day.

Author: Curtis Wu

NYT ’17, Korea Day 2 : Day of Activities at the Korean International School

Today we had very unique and special day of exchange with the students of the Korean International school (a K through 12 Anglophone school based in Seoul). We were all assigned to lead workshops that were attended by the students of the school; a golden opportunity for us to talk about our interests, learn from the Korean students, and try our hand at teaching kids – and indeed, it is not that easy! On their side, the students from KIS were able to learn about Harvard, new challenging or fun topics, and meet and interact with us all.

The morning we all rose from our bunk beds and congregated for an 8am breakfast in one of the Korean International School cafeterias. The place was already bustling with students from the school receiving their meal; but though the line was long, the service was extremely efficient: we received a hodge-podge of items including cereal, juice, mushroom soup, ham, toast, salad, and fruit, all in one tray with slots of various shapes in sizes. Made me realize I miss high school cafeteria!

Gleeks at breakfast

Immediately after breakfast we were shown around some the school premises by Javier, our liaison at the school. We were grateful for the tour: the campus was decently big (I myself managed to get hopelessly lost later on in the day, only to be saved by the personnel around). As we went along the tour we dispersed into the rooms in which we were to give our workshops. Half of the Glee Club was assigned to a morning session, while the other half was free to roam and prepare an afternoon session, and after lunch break the groups switched.

The leaders of a “Life at Harvard” workshop

The workshops included more musical activities such as singing, composing, sight-reading, but also a broad variety of other topics including Logic and Reasoning, Basics of Computer Science, Applying to an American College, Basketball, and explanations about Life at Harvard – the latter being by far the most attended.

One group taught a workshop on music composition, and had to improvise quickly when their pupils were much younger than expected. Thanks to the elementary school’s music facilities (xylophones and drums) they still had a fun time.

Students of varying age at the workshop

My group broached the topic of logic and reasoning. We gave them various puzzles, showed them the AND, OR and NOT tables, and even showed them some mathematical magic card tricks to make them work out the mechanism.

A final group including our conductor Harris Ipock gave a vocal performance workshop. It was fun and interactive for the kids, and a small impromptu performance was given.

Students feel their diaphragm in action during the voice workshop

After the workshops, we congregated for a rehearsal in the school auditorium. We prepared for a shorter evening recital, and then had our second dinner in South Korea: pizza!

The group in rehearsal

After the more intense experience of the first concert in Taipei, we felt rather relaxed about the second concert, and we had a lot of fun in the process.

A highlight: our president Quincy Cason, upon announcing his role, is hailed by a general “oooo!” from the audience, and is then immediately hit by a spotlight; President of the Harvard Glee Club has an impressive ring to it for sure.

The spotlight hits our president

A few minutes after we stepped off the stage, we were surprised by a person telling us: “the audience is still clapping, they are waiting for an encore!” Lite was frantically reassembled and performed one more song to the cheers of the crowd.

The Glee Club performing their recital

We mingled among the crowd as it left the hall, providing an occasion for many selfies and group photos. Finally we were greeted by the school officials including the founder of the school, for whom we sung our domine as a thanks for the fantastic exchange.

After the recital, a sizeable portion of gleeks went to the Gangnam district to hang out and try chicken feet stew and soju (for the adventurous).

A group celebrating the day at Gangnam

As a close to the evening, we retreated to dorms, played cards, did our laundry chatted, and prepared our suitcases for the early departure next morning. We were coming back to the dorms in a few days (and looking forward to it!) so we thankfully could pack lighter.

Author: Jeffery Durand

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, 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 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)

The Harvard Glee Club’s 2017 New Years Tour to East Asia

Hey, everyone! We’re so excited for our 2017 tour to Asia!

Over the course of three weeks, from just after Christmas (December 27) to the beginning of spring semester (January 21), we’ll be visiting Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan!

Here’s a couple of highlights that you can look forward to over those three weeks:

Taipei, Taiwan – We’ll be performing our first concert in the National Concert Hall in Taipei! Completed in 1987, the National Concert Hall was one of the first major modern performing venues established in Asia.

Can't wait to sing along with this amazing organ! (Source: Wikipedia)
Can’t wait to sing along with this amazing organ! (Source: Wikipedia)

Seoul, South Korea – We’ll be doing multiple workshops at the Korean International School, and later a concert with the Yonsei University Glee Club! Yonsei University has a history of working with international glee clubs like ours, and we can’t wait to make music with them!

Shout out to the ladies in Cliffenotes! (Source: Yonsei Glee Club’s YT Channel )

Gunsan, South Korea- We’ll be doing another concert with the Professional Gunsan Civic Chorale!

Osaka, Japan- We’ll be performing at the Izumi Hall, a concert hall modeled after the home of the Vienna Philharmonic!

The hall can fit almost 2,000 people!
The hall can fit almost 2,000 people! (Source: Osaka Tourism)

Kyoto, Japan – We’ll be holding a concert with one of our longtime friends, the Kyoto University Glee Club! Alumni from HGC and the Kyoto Glee Club get together quite often to sing together in the spirit of glee, and we’re honored to be continuing this friendship!

Here’s a video of alumni from the two clubs in 2009! (Source: William Cheng)

Tokyo, Japan – In Japan’s capital, we’ll be performing a concert in Kioi Hall! We’ll also be performing in Sakura Hall with the Waseda Glee Club!

Koriyama, Japan – Our final concert will be in cooperation with Japanese public TV company NHK, with HGC alum and Japanese TV personality Patrick Harlan MC’ing!

Look at this handsome man! (Source: Japan Times)
Look at this handsome man! (Source: Japan Times)

That’s a quick highlight of what we’re looking forward to bringing you as the tour goes on. Stay tuned for more information!