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Journal Of A NWS – Part I

Journal Of A NWS – Part I

Kyrmina Giancola, a X grader from X school, was kind enough to share her journal entries from our recent tour of France and Spain. We have divided them into two parts, one below and one we will release on Tuesday, so stay tuned… Enjoy!

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July 1st, 2022: The long flight, the lost night 

Overnight flight to Barcelona.  The excitement amongst us was palpable. Some of us were phenomenal sleepers while sitting mostly upright on a gigantic 747. Most of us barely slept at all, too excited about what was to come.

July 2nd, 2022: Don’t waste a minute

We finally arrived in Europe at about 9am, the next day (3am in Ohio, ouch!).  After we dropped our suitcases off at the hotel in Barcelona, Spain, we met our tour guide, Anita, who escorted us to our luxurious touring bus. We learned that our bus had two drivers, as a safety precaution!  Drivers were limited by law, how many hours they could drive per day, even per week. After a short drive, we arrived at our first destination, Ramblas.  Barcelona had many opportunities for us to learn their culture and see popular tourist attractions. As we toured the streets of Barcelona and Ramblas, it was hard to keep our heads looking straight ahead. We were all very excited that we were in Europe, and were curious to explore what Barcelona had to offer. While we were touring, we saw the Santa María church, and the statue of Christopher Columbus. In Barcelona, Christopher Columbus is someone they look up to, which is different from what we were used to back home in Ohio. It was overall an amazing experience. I could tell that our group enjoyed the first day, despite the exhaustion from the long plane rides. It was overall an excellent day, and we were looking forward to what we were going to do next.

July 3, 2022 Culture and Architecture of Barcelona

After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, Anita introduced us to two other tour guides. They split us into two groups, and escorted us all to the bus. The first stop was a park, which was filled with interesting discoveries and stories to learn about. We split into two groups, and off we went to tour the park. While walking around, our tour guide taught us about Antoni Guadí, who was an architect, and a very creative and artistic man. In the park we were touring, he had a project that unfortunately had failed. The project was to build over 40 houses in the park. Only 3 were built when they finally gave up on the project. We then went into an area that was very echoey, where both groups met up together. It had the echoes of a small church, except it was outdoors. It was like a building with no walls. Jeanne decided to line us up and have us sing, though at that moment, no one was around us to hear it–we thought. We sang a song called “Walk Together Children”, and within minutes, many people there gathered around, clearly in awe of the beautiful music we produced. It was our first of many truly special experiences on this trip. We had not even officially performed yet at a concert nor competed anywhere but, we were still able to put on a great impromptu show.  Afterward, we went on the bus again and visited a church called “Sagrada Familia”, which was arguably Antoni Guadí’s best project, though it is still unfinished. From a first glance, we could see how wonderful it really was. Antoni Guadí designed the majority of it, but unfortunately passed away before getting to finish his beautiful design. In honor of him, the church is now being built by his design, and is still being built today more than 100 years later. What was in front of us, was a beautiful church with 9 towers. The final building of the church is going to have 16. When we went inside, the sight was beautiful. Guadi was a nature lover, and he believed that there is no greater beauty than nature.  He incorporated nature throughout the church. From the way it was built, it made it seem like we were in a forest. There were warm colors, cold colors, and many statues. On the ceiling, we were given the illusion that we were surrounded by trees. Our group loved it. Many of us had our heads focused on our phones trying to take many pictures of what we were seeing. The echoes of that church called to us, and walls of that church enticed us with the beautiful designs that surrounded us, and there was a sense of peace that was given to us between the walls of that church and the portrayals of nature within it. But there was more for us to see, which lay in the small building beside the church. It was a replica of a small school, which was used to educate the children of the workers who were building the church. It was sadly burnt down in war, but was rebuilt to replicate the original building. Today it is used as a small museum, to honor the history of the school that once was there. Sagrada Familia truly was a wonderful place to see. It filled our faces with wonderment, and opened our eyes to hidden stories which we loved to hear about. It was a captivating experience, and we were all very grateful for it.

July 4, 2022 Our First Concert

After our normal morning routine with a great breakfast, we were treated to an experience where we got to cook a Spanish meal. We all sat down at the large table that was in the building, curious about  what was going to happen next. The chefs introduced themselves and informed us that we were going to make a Spanish omelet. Some of us were worried about the outcome though, because back at home it seemed that a bowl of cereal was complicated to make, and this seemed to be a lot more than that, having more than just two ingredients. After some chopping, cooking, and mixing, we finally finished up and the outcome was actually not bad. The omelet tasted really good, and even those with bad cooking skills did a pretty good job. We said our goodbyes and thanked the chefs, and made our way back to Barcelona, where we got the opportunity to go in and shop in a Spanish market. Our eyes widened as we walked in, for the market was very big and had a huge variety of things to buy. There were many different types of meats and pastries, but there was one particular section that caught our eyes, being the kids we are. It was none other than the dessert section, which was filled with candy and other sweets. It should be noted that some of us knew some Spanish, but were shy about speaking the Spanish to actual Spanish speaking people.  After a full stock of sugar, those same shy people seemed to become expert Spanish communicators!

Later on, we prepared for our first concert. It was going to be held in the Santa María church, which was right on the streets of Barcelona. Before performing, Jeanne decided that it was right to stop in early and to have us warm up a little bit. And just from singing a couple of notes, our eyes widened with glee. The echo of the church was beautiful! It was a great sign that our concert was going to be a good one. When it was time for us to perform, there were a lot of different emotional expressions that filled our group. Some of us looked excited and confident, while others looked a little nervous and fearful, which was understandable for it was our first concert in Europe. We went up there, and we sang our songs. The audience enjoyed our performance, and they were thankful that we sang for them. We were grateful for the opportunity to sing, for singing is our pride and joy. Singing in a church so beautiful and revered as the Santa Maria was a tremendous honor. We left that church feeling proud of ourselves. Jeanne and Anita (along with many others) were also very proud of us too. We sat on the bus and went to the hotel feeling happy that we had an amazing day.

July 5, 2022 The Appreciation of the French!

This day was overall easy, and it yet it ended with another truly special experience that would create memories to last a lifetime. We packed up our suitcases, and headed to the bus for a nice drive to Cavillon, France. We would be staying there for the next couple of days. It was about a 5 hour drive, with stops for bathroom and lunch breaks. Though 5 hours was fairly long, it was nothing to us. Nothing compared to the overnight flight we went on to get from Atlanta to Spain. When we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and took a short break. We then went out to have dinner, and finished up our day. It was at dinner, where something amazing happened. A little background first. As our massive tour bus rolled into a town near Cavillon, we could not help but notice the subtle looks of surprise from citizens in the area.  We were told they had never seen a tour bus like that.  When we exited the bus, they were met by a second site they had never seen before.  Feeling the polite, yet curious and inquisitive looks from bystanders, we went into a restaurant for dinner. Dinner was good, and the atmosphere was relaxing and rewarding after the pace we had set the previous days. Somehow, the idea was raised to thank the restaurant staff by standing up and performing a song for them!  Imagine this, we are at dinner, in normal clothes, looking like any random group of American high school kids. People outside had forgotten about us, with some people dining outside paying little attention.  But then, we stood up and sang “Walk Together Children” in not nearly perfect pitch nor harmony by Jeanne’s standards, yet quite effectively!  Suddenly, people dining outside were glued to the window to catch a glimpse and hear more of us! When we finished, the kitchen staff came out and clapped . When we went outside, those people clapped!  The people in this region of France were turning out to have a completely different level of choral music appreciation! It was a light and easy day and I could tell that we really enjoyed it. What a perfect way to end a restful catch up day!

July 6, 2022:  Why we sing. 

After another early start, Anita escorted us onto the bus, and taught us a little history about the Romans, which complemented what many of us had learned in school. She said that the Romans traveled to a lot of places in Europe, and were very advanced for their time. They were known for building many amazing and wondrous things which people still go and see today. One of the most well known things that they liked to build were arenas and amphitheaters, where they put on plays and skits. We were going to go and see one of the best preserved Amphitheaters in a town called Nimes. When we got to Nimes, we went outside and walked around for a while. As we walked, we saw a carousel, which drew the attention of a lot of us. We couldn’t keep our heads looking forward, because we were all so focused on the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. There was also this big fountain with many statues on it. If you went near it, you would be sprayed by the mist of the water that flowed down from the top. As we approached the amphitheater, our eyes became filled with excitement and anticipation. For in front of us was a huge building made of stone, that we knew was made centuries ago, yet it still stood in front of us that day. We walked inside, and waited for Anita to let us go and explore. When she gave us the “go ahead”, we immediately went and toured the area. As we walked, we saw an opening which would lead us to the sitting area and a modern day stage??? What? Yes! So well preserved and functional was this amphitheater that is still used today.  We walked there excitedly, and were greeted with the sun almost blinding our eyes, and a gentle breeze from the wind hitting our faces. The view was absolutely stunning and too wide to fit into any single photograph from our phones! There were many rows of added wooden seats, on top of concrete from the Romans, each row higher than the other. At the bottom, there was the stage with speakers that were spread on it. We turned around, and climbed to the very top. At the end of the climb, our legs were tired, but it was well worth it because of the view that we were greeted with. We could see the entire arena, and if we turned around, we could see the beautiful scenery of Nimes. The breeze hit our faces, and the sun brightened our smiles. We loved it. When it was time to go, we climbed down and we went to the bus.  Not before trying out our vocals within the acoustic hallways.  Later on, we would perform our first concert in Pertuis, France, and we strived to make a good impression.

When it was getting close to performance time, we got changed, and sat down in the audience chairs. It turns out, there was another choir who was going to perform before us. It also turns out, churches in Europe do not have air conditioning!  We sat down, and listened to the other choir sing, and found ourselves silently jamming along with them, sweating though. They sang some pretty fun songs, and their talent was pretty good as well. When the audience cheered for them, we lined up, for it was now our turn to perform. Fortunately, there were a lot less nervous faces among us this time.

As we were singing, the audience were gazing upon us with happiness written on their faces. It seemed like they were hearing the most beautiful sound in the world, and their hearts were touched with pure joy. When we finished our performance, we were given a standing ovation. They clapped, and they kept clapping. When we asked them if they wanted an encore. They happily agreed, and sat down, excitingly waiting for us to sing. We sang the song, “Why We Sing” as our encore, and they gave us ANOTHER standing ovation, and applauded. They kept applauding for us, as we exited, and headed onto the bus. Looking out the window, there were people who were standing outside of their houses and they were cheering for us as well. Some of us were exclaiming that they had tears in their eyes as they sang, which was not surprising at all. Jeanne looked at us, and told us that this concert was the best concert she has conducted with our group. That made us even more proud of ourselves. Our hearts had been touched, and our smiles were big and wide. We had completely forgotten about the heat. We love it when we make others happy, and when we can spread our joy around that comes from singing to those who listen. This is why we do what we do. This is why we sing.

July 7, 2022 These are NOT spectators

This morning, we checked out of the hotel, moving from Cavaillon to Provence so that we would be near the site of the competition. Once we arrived in Provence, we checked into the hotel and prepared to attend the opening ceremony of the competition. Once we got to the ceremony, we were welcomed in with a nice dinner. We ate and conversed, and overall it was a satisfying meal. After the meal, we took our seats in a packed audience of over 700 people and waited for the ceremony to start. The entire audience was competitors from other choirs! Spectators could only be seen crowding the fence surrounding the seating area. They opened the ceremony with the song, “Uptown Funk” which we all jammed and sang too. Looking around us, there were many different choirs that were from different countries. It was easy to tell where they were from, because of the many flags they were holding. Later on in the ceremony, the judges of the competition were being introduced. There was a slight gasp throughout the crowd, and there were many nervous faces and ominous sounding music was played during the intros. When they finished introducing the judges, they informed us that they would now be calling all of the choral directors up onto the stage. We all looked at each other and started planning, for we knew that Jeanne would eventually be called. As each director went up, we got into position. Finally, they called her name, and we jumped up, cheered and clapped and screamed to the top of our lungs. We may not have had a flag like everyone else, but we made sure we stood out and gave Jeanne all of the love we could. Jeanne is someone that we look up to, and is someone that we love. So we gave it our all. We had a lot of fun during that emotionally outpouring moment! At the end of the ceremony, they once again played the song, “Uptown Funk.” All of the other choirs were leaving, but our choir decided to be polite and leave last to reduce crowding. We sang our hearts out to that song, from beginning to end. We even got a couple of high fives from some people who watched us. It was overall a great day, even with all of the nervousness from the ceremony. But, that jam to “Uptown Funk” at the end, was the cherry on top of the sundae.

July 8, 2022: A boat ride through Calanques.

After going through our normal morning routine, Anita escorted us onto the bus. While riding, Anita explained that we would be treated to an hour boat ride throughout Calanques. When we got to our destination, to our surprise, we got to take a small train to get to the dock. As the train arrived, the overall mood of the group was pretty pleasant, for a nice small ride was a much better alternative than walking. When the train took us to the dock, we got off and slowly boarded the boat. We all took our seats, and off we went. As the water splashed the boat, we could smell the sea breeze as it hit our face. As the boat ride went on, we did not stop anywhere. But we did slow down in certain areas to sightsee. There was this one beach that we rode by. There were kids playing, people swimming, and the tide moving things back and forth. What made the beach stand out was the clearness of the water. You could see right to the bottom, including schools of colorful fish.  We saw several people dive off of nearby cliffs into the clear blue water below. Before we knew it, an hour had gone by and the boat took us back to the dock. We left, and again went on the train. Some of us hit our heads while walking in, which was a painful but hilarious experience, but overall the train ride was nice. Once we got off the train, we were escorted back onto the bus and we headed back to the hotel. Later that day, we would be performing another concert.

When it came around the time to perform, we ate dinner and put on our uniforms and lined up. We ended up having to sit in the audience first again, for another choir was going to perform before us. When they performed, they actually sounded amazing. The echoes of the church made them sound even better. They deservedly got a standing ovation from the audience. When it was our turn to perform, we got up and lined up, putting a confident look on our faces. We got up on the risers, and we performed our songs, and the audience loved our performance. We got a standing ovation, and we even got to sing our encore. It was overall an amazing concert.

When we left and went on the bus, we laughed and conversed about the concert. Jeanne went to the speaker on the bus and told us that she was proud of us, which made us smile. But, then told us something that made reality smack us in the face. She told us that the choir that went before us was competing in the same competition, but in a different age group. They already went and competed, but got second place. They were disappointed in themselves, but of course were good sports about it. When we heard them, they sounded amazing, but yet when competing they still got second place. We all knew that Jeanne would not personally be upset with us if we didn’t get first place. In fact, she would be proud of us no matter what because she knew that we worked hard. But when all is said and all is done, our group, along with Jeanne, are very competitive. Competition was going to take place the next day, and we yearned to win first place.

July 9, 2022: Competition Day–No, THIS is why we sing!

After a nice breakfast, we headed on the bus and rode to the area where we would be competing. We went inside, and got our uniforms on, and Jeanne warmed us up. Then, she gave us a pep talk before we went on to perform for the judges. She told us that she understood that we were tired, and sweaty from the heat. She encouraged us to put on a happy face anyway, for the judges don’t want to see a group of singers with misery written on their faces. She told us that she was very proud of our hard work, which made us smile. We knew she had our best interest at heart. We walked outside on stage, and we sang for the judges. They had their computers out, and were writing things down while we were singing. But overall, it seemed like they liked the performance, so that was a great sign. When we finished, the audience applauded, and we left content with the effort we had put forth. Jeanne came out, and she was very pleased with our performance. We laughed, we talked, we smiled. We were very proud of ourselves. Before leaving to go back to the hotel, we were given some free time and a nice lunch break. Soon, we would be hearing the results from the competition, and we were excited to know how we placed. When the lunch break was over, we went onto the bus. Jeanne had a big announcement, so she took the speaker and got our attention. She had the results from the competition. She looked us in the eyes, as we held our breath anxiously waiting for her to tell us what we got. She smiled slightly, and told us that we got second place. Our group looked at Jeanne, and clapped and cheered. But when Jeanne was done with the speaker, there were many different emotions being shown throughout our group. Some of us put on a happy face, and encouraged others to be proud of themselves. Others were disappointed, and sad. We had spent hours rehearsing before coming to Europe, and getting second place wasn’t easy for the majority of us to accept happily. We got off the bus once we got to the hotel. We were given some free time to rest before getting ready to continue with our day. So that is what we did.

Later that day, we would be putting on another concert. It would be the last concert of our trip, so we hoped for the best. Just like the previous concert, we would be having another choir perform before us. We were tired and feeling a little deflated, no longer having the competition to look forward to. It had been an exhausting day.  So after we got ready, we sat in the audience and watched them perform. The performance overall was pretty good, and we enjoyed watching it. When it was our turn to sing, we lined up and went on the risers. There was sweat running down our heads, for there was no air conditioning in the church we were performing in. While we performed, the audience was very engaged!  Once we finished performing, they gave us a standing ovation and we sang then an encore. Our encore once again was “Why We Sing”, and it was the last song we sang for the concert. The audience loved it. There were people asking for another encore, and some were asking where they could buy our music. We appreciated the love, and left feeling a little better about the second place we got. We couldn’t go home and tell everyone truthfully that we got first place. But we could go home and tell everyone that we did put smiles on people’s faces and light up their day. Second place wasn’t so bad anymore and to get first place was not why we sing.  We sing because of the love of our music, the love of performing, and the happiness we brought to those who attended. It was also very nice to feel so appreciated.

July 10, 2022: Appreciating the Journey

We woke up early as we normally did. This was the last day of the tour, for the next day, we would be heading back home. We went through our normal morning routine, and went on the bus where Anita explained to us what we would be doing that day. First, we would be touring in Marseille, and then we would attend the closing ceremony of the competition. The bus driver ended up having to go through some tricky paths in order to get to Marseille. We cheered for him once he got through it. As the bus took us to Marseille, we wondered what would be in store for us once we got there. Once we got there, we figured out the answer to that question pretty quickly. Stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. A couple of sighs were let out, and then we started climbing. Once we got to the top, we were so glad that we climbed, for in front of us was a fence on the edge which showed a beautiful view; and the church of Notre Dame that opened the doors to a world of peace and beauty. After enjoying the view, we went into the church and took many pictures. It was a nice experience. When it was time to leave, we headed into the bus and rested for a while until we got back into the hotel. When we got back, we had a little freetime to get ready for the ceremony. When our free time was up, we headed back on the bus and rode to the location of the ceremony, and were treated to a nice dinner, which honestly tasted great. After dinner, we had some time before the ceremony started. There was some music playing, and a couple of kids in our group went ahead and started dancing. Before we knew it, other people that were complete strangers joined them, and a dance circle was formed. We laughed, and we danced. After the dance party Jeanne looked at us and smiled, and told us she was going to buy us all ice cream because she was proud of how hard we have been working. . We cheered and thanked her. She took us to the ice cream stand and told the workers that we could get what we wanted. So we did, and we enjoyed our ice cream and were very thankful. Eventually, it became close to the time for the ceremony to start. We took our seats, and the ceremony started. It turned out that each winning group got to perform on stage, which made it all the much harder to accept that we got second place. When the group that beat us went up and performed, we were polite and professional.  When the ceremony was over, we went back on the bus, and we started talking about the ceremony. It was obvious that we were still upset that we got second place. The adults kept encouraging us to be proud of ourselves because we still did a good job. It didn’t help that we had to watch first place perform. But, what did help, was remembering all of the great moments that came from this trip. The times of laughter and happiness. The times when we cried tears of joy, from singing the songs that touched our hearts the most. The times when we touched other’s hearts as well, from our talent and passion in music.

As time went by, we accepted our placement and decided to be proud of ourselves, the way Jeanne was proud of us. Yes, we spent hours practicing, and we came all this way. But even if we were to get last place, it would still all be worth it. We all became closer as a group, and became a family because of this trip. We learned new cultures, and new lessons that we could use throughout our lives. That is more valuable than any first place.

July 11, 2022: To Home We Go

Today was the day we were going home. After waking up early and going through our normal morning routine, we grabbed our suitcases and headed on to the bus. When we got to the airport, we got off and went inside. We said goodbye to Anita and thanked her for her hard work, and checked into the airport. We had three flights to go on, one of them being 9 hours, and we did our best to make sure we got to the gates on time.

After the three flights, we headed to grab our suitcases. But, before we could get there, our parents were there with flowers and welcome home signs, and we rushed over to greet them. After we grabbed our suitcases, it was time to say our goodbyes. There was a lot of hugging, especially to the seniors because they wouldn’t be coming back for another season like the rest of us would. We said our goodbyes and left. One by one, we left until the airport lacked our presence.

This trip was life changing. We touched people’s hearts with our talent, and became stronger and more independent. When we wake up the next morning, we would find ourselves in our warm beds, wrapped in the softness of our blankets as the sun peeks through our windows. We would enthusiastically tell our many stories to our family and friends. Though as proven on the trip, you do not have to share the same blood to be considered a family. This trip has allowed us to take the good traits and qualities of ourselves and express them to others. It allowed us to accept the faults in ourselves too. We became synergistically united, where the whole group became so much more than the sum of its individual personalities. Our eyes were open to parts of ourselves we never knew were capable of being there. As a family, we accomplished so much. We have changed each other for the better, and the possibilities for the future are endless. Once stood a group of tired New World Singers who had practiced for hours before they traveled to Europe. But then, through the guidance of their conductor, they made a legacy. Which made all their hard work worth it.

Inspired by what you read today? Just $25 buys a full year’s worth of sheet music for our youngest singers. Make you gift today.